The General Assembly of the UN approved on Wednesday a resolution sponsored by Bolivia recognizing clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right.
The text of the resolution was presented by Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solón, and it was ratified by 122 votes in favour and zero votes against. He said that 41 countries abstained from voting, among them the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Solón noted the significance of this measure because since 1984 the UN recognizes human rights in general, but without including water, education and employment.
Bolivian President Evo Morales warned the UN that its millenium declaration dedicated to Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation would not be fulfilled in 2015 without this resolution.
The new resolution ratifies the commitment of the 192 UN member countries to cooperate in making access to water easier for all the world's inhabitants.
Here is the full text of UN Resolution.
The Human Right to Water and Sanitation
Item 48 of the General Assembly: Integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Georgia, Haiti, madagascar, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen.
The General Assembly
PP1 Recalling its resolutions 54/175 of 17 December 1999, The Right to Development, 55/196 of 20 December 2000 proclaiming 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater, 58/217 of 23 December 2003, proclaiming the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life” (2005–2015), 59/228 of 22 December 2004 and 61/192 of 20 December 2006, proclaiming 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation, 64/198 of 21 December 2009 regarding the Midterm comprehensive review of the implementation of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life,” Agenda 21 of June 1992, the Habitat Agenda of 1996, the Mar del Plata Action Plan of 1977 adopted by the United Nations Water Conference, and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of June 1992,
PP2 Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War,
PP3 Recalling also all previous resolutions of the Human Rights Council on “human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation,” inter alia, resolutions 7/22 of 28 March 2008 and 12/8 of 1 October 2009 related to the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, General Comment 15 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on “The Right to Water,” the “Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the scope and content of the relevant human rights obligations related to equitable access to safe drinking water and sanitation under international human rights instruments,” as well as the “Report of the independent expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation,”
PP4 Deeply concerned that approximately 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and that over 2.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation, and alarmed that approximately 1.5 million children under 5 years of age die and 443 million school days are lost each year from water and sanitation related diseases,
PP5 Acknowledging the importance of equitable, safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as an integral component of the realization of all human rights,
PP6 Reaffirming the responsibility of States for the promotion and protection of all human rights, that are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and must be treated globally, in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis,
PP7 Bearing in mind the commitments made by the international community to achieve fully the Millennium Development Goals, and stressing, in that context, the resolve of Heads of State and Government, as expressed in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people unable to reach or afford safe drinking water, and to halve the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation, as agreed in the Johannesburg Plan of Action,
OP1 Declares the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights;
OP2 Calls upon states and international organizations to provide financial resources, capacity building and technology transfer, through international assistance and co-operation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all;
OP3 Welcomes the decision by the Human Rights Council to request that the independent expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation present an annual report to the General Assembly, and encourages her to continue working on all aspects of her mandate and in consultation with all relevant United Nations agencies, funds, and programs, to include in her report to the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly, the principal challenges related to the realization of the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation and their impact on achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Ambassador Pablo Solón, Permanent Representative of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations was the keynote speech presenting the resolution, which also has been transcribed below.
Intervention of the Permanent Representative of the Plurinational State of Bolivia
“The Human Right to Water and Sanitation”
Allow me to begin the presentation of this Resolution by recalling that human beings are essentially water. Around two thirds of our organism is comprised of water. Some 75 percent of our brain is made up of water, and water is the principal vehicle for the electrochemical transmissions of our body.
Our blood flows like a network of rivers in our body. Blood helps transport nutrients and energy to our organism. Water also carries from our cells waste products for excretion. Water helps to regulate the temperature of our body.
The loss of 20% of body water can cause death. It is possible to survive for various weeks without food, but it is not possible to survive more than a few days without water. Water is life.
That is why, today, we present this historic resolution for the consideration of the plenary of the General Assembly on behalf of the co-sponsoring countries of:
Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, The Plurinational State of Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Fiji, Georgia, Guinea, Haiti, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Paraguay, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, The Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu, The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Yemen.
The right to health was originally recognized in 1946 by the World Health Organization. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared, among others, “the right to life,” “the right to education,” and “the right to work.” In 1966 these were furthered in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights with the recognition of “the right to social security,” and “the right to an adequate standard of living,” including adequate food, clothing and adequate shelter.
However, the human right to water has continued to fail be fully recognized, despite clear references in various international legal instruments such as: the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This is why we, the co-sponsors, present this resolution in order that we now recognize the human right to water and sanitation, at a time when illness caused by lack of drinking water and sanitation causes more deaths than does war.
Every year, 3 and a half million people die of waterborne illness.
Diarrhea is the second largest cause of death among children under five. The lack of access to potable water kills more children than AIDS, malaria and smallpox combined.
Worldwide, approximately one in eight people lack potable water.
In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed by collecting and transporting water for domestic use.
The situation of lack of sanitation is far worse, for it affects 2.6 billion people, or 40% of the global population.
According to the report on sanitation by the Independent expert,
“Sanitation, more than many other human rights issue, evokes the concept of human dignity; consider the vulnerability and shame that so many people experience every day when, again, they are forced to defecate in the open, in a bucket or a plastic bag. It is the indignity of this situation that causes the embarrassment.”
The vast majority of illnesses around the world are caused by fecal matter. It is estimated that sanitation could reduce child death due to diarrhea by more than one third.
On any given day, half of the hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from illnesses associated with lack of access to safe water and lack of sanitation.
Human rights were not born as fully developed concepts, but are built on reality and experience. For example, the human rights to education and work included in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights were constructed and specified over time, with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other international legal instruments such as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The same will occur with the human right to water and sanitation.
That is why we emphasize and encourage in the third operative paragraph of this resolution that the independent expert continue working on all aspects of her mandate and present to the General Assembly “the principal challenges related to the realization of the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation and their impact on the achievement of Millennium Development Goals.”
The Summit on the Millennium Development Goals is approaching, and it is necessary to give a clear signal to the world that drinking-water and sanitation are a human right, and that we will do everything possible to reach this goal, which we have only 5 more years to achieve.
That is why we are convinced of the importance of the second operative paragraph of this resolution, which “Calls upon States and international organizations to provide financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer, through international assistance and cooperation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all;
All resolutions contain a passage that we can point to as the heart of the matter, and the heart of this resolution is in its first operative paragraph. Throughout many informal consultations, we have striven to accommodate the different concerns of the Member States, leaving aside issues that do not pertain to this resolution and always seeking balance, but without loosing the essence of the resolution.
The right to drinking water and sanitation is a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life.
Drinking water and sanitation are not only elements or principal components of other rights such as “the right to an adequate standard of living.” The right to drinking water and sanitation are independent rights that should be recognized as such. It is not sufficient to urge States to comply with their human rights obligations relative to access to drinking water and sanitation. Instead, it is necessary to call on states to promote and protect the human right to drinking water and sanitation.
In our effort to seek transparency and understanding without losing perspective on the essence of this resolution, in the name of the cosponsors we would like to propose an oral amendment to the first operative paragraph of the resolution that would replace the word “declares” with the word “recognizes.”
Before moving to the consideration of this resolution, I would like to ask all delegations to bear in mind the fact that, according to the 2009 report of the World Health Organization and UNICEF entitled “Diarrhoea: Why children are still dying and what can be done," 24,000 children die in developing countries every day from preventable causes like diarrhea contracted from unclean water. That is one child death every three and a half seconds.
One, two, three...
As my people say, “Now is the time.”
Thank you very much.