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Water

Access to water and sanitation are recognized by the United Nations as human rights, reflecting the fundamental nature of these basics in every person’s life. Lack of access to safe, sufficient and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities has a devastating effect on the health, dignity and prosperity of billions of people, and has significant consequences for the realization of other human rights.

People are rights-holders and States are duty-bearers of providing water and sanitation services. Rights-holders can claim their rights and duty-bearers must guarantee the rights to water and sanitation equally and without discrimination.

Challenges and opportunities

International human rights law demands a specific focus on those people who do not fully enjoy their rights, leading to explicitly ‘pro-poor’ development in many countries. It also requires a commitment to progressively reduce inequalities by tackling the discrimination and stigmatization that can lead to people being excluded from, or marginalized in relation to, water and sanitation access.The ‘human rights-based approach’ stresses the correspondence between rights and obligations, providing a framework for Member States and other organizations that aims to ensure that respect for human rights are integrated into development plans at all levels.

What are the rights and what do they mean?

  • The right to water entitles everyone to have access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.
  • The right to sanitation entitles everyone to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity.