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Welcome to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation

“’Solutions’ built on faulty foundations” – UN expert warns on the eve of World Water Forum

GENEVA (9 March 2012) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque today warned that the right to safe drinking water and sanitation will be sidelined at the 6th World Water Forum, a key global gathering of delegates from 140 governments, international organisations, civil society and the scientific community, representing more than 180 countries.

“It comes as an unwelcome surprise that the draft ministerial declaration of the 6th World Water Forum: Time for Solutions still does not recognize the human right to water and sanitation that has been explicitly recognized at the UN,” said the expert charged by the Human Rights Council with promoting, monitoring and reporting on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. “Governments are being inconsistent with their prior decisions on the recognition of the right to water and sanitation taken at the UN General Assembly.”

“If Governments spend one week discussing ‘solutions’ for water issues while failing to base them on the human right to water and sanitation, how could such solutions be for people who need water and sanitation most and are systematically neglected?,” asked Ms. de Albuquerque. “The outcome of the World Water Forum may become ‘solutions’ built on faulty foundations.”

In the final draft Ministerial Declaration of the 6th World Water Forum scheduled to take place in Marseille from 12 to 17 March 2012, governments – under a strong push by a very small minority of countries - have for the time being failed to explicitly affirm that the right to water and sanitation should be the basis for any solutions aimed at bringing sanitation and water for those still deprived of these essential services.

“The World Water Forum is not a gathering seen as a source for the creation of international law, but it is still unfortunate that this Forum’s Declaration does not respect the outcomes of long-standing thorough and comprehensive discussions at the UN,” Ms. de Albuquerque said. “I call upon the Governments participating at the World Water Forum to amend the text of the draft declaration. We still have time to do that.”

The independent expert further stressed that the international human rights standard on water and sanitation agreed at the UN must also guide the negotiations for upcoming Rio+20 and post-2015 development goals. “I am confident that UN Member States will integrate the human right to water and sanitation into future global agreements,” she said.

Catarina de Albuquerque is the first UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. She was appointed by the Human Rights Council in 2008. Ms. de Albuquerque is a Professor at the Law Faculties of the Universities of Braga and Coimbra and a Senior Legal Adviser at the Office for Documentation and Comparative Law, an independent institution under the Prosecutor General’s Office.

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