UN rights council strengthens right to water resolution

Media Release
September 29, 2011

The United Nations Human Rights Council has just taken an earlier recognition of water as a human right a significant step further by outlining the responsibilities in a new resolution which passed by consensus on September 28.

The Council of Canadians commends the Human Rights Council for a strong resolution that places the primary responsibility on States to ensure that all people enjoy the human right to water.

“This emphasis on the responsibility of the States, means governments cannot pass the buck to private sector operators who have denied access to lower income communities around the world,” says Maude Barlow, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and former senior advisor on water to the 63rd president of the UN General Assembly.

Furthermore, the Council of Canadians argues that the resolution’s emphasis on universal service provision, giving priority to realizing a basic level of service for everyone before improving service levels for those already served will make water and sanitation services less attractive to private sector operators that seek maximum profit from more lucrative markets.

The resolution is based on ongoing efforts by the UN Special Rapporteur on Water, Catarina de Albuquerque who has called on states to go beyond Millenium Development Goals and focus their efforts on those who need services most.

In order to comply with the resolution, the Council of Canadians calls on the Canadian government to:

  1. Adopt a national water policy that recognizes water as a human right in domestic law and puts in place a regulatory framework to address violations of the human right to water and sanitation.

  2. Work with Indigenous communities to address the drinking water and sanitation crisis in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities

  3. A national public water infrastructure fund of $30 billion to finance public water and wastewater treatment services over the next 10 years.

Canada has historically opposed the human right to water, however, the September 28 resolution references the World Health Assembly resolution on the human right to water, which was endorsed by Canada.

“The Canadian government’s trend of cutting funding to essential services, promoting privatization and reneging in its obligations to First Nations communities, means Canada is moving backwards and a time when the rest of the world has decided to take a giant step forward,” says Meera Karunananthan, water campaigner at the Council of Canadians.

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