Right to sanitation, a distinct human right – Over 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation

Right to sanitation, a distinct human right – Over 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation
GENEVA (18 December 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, and the Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Waleed Sadi, today welcomed the explicit recognition of the ‘human right to sanitation’ as a distinct right, together with the ‘human right to safe drinking water’ by the UN General Assembly.

Over 2.5 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation – the sanitation target under Goal 7 has been missed by one of the widest margins of all the 18 targets under the Millennium Development Goals. One billion people practise open defecation, nine out of ten in rural areas across the world.

“The right to sanitation is an essential component of the right to an adequate standard of living, inextricably linked to the highest attainable standard of health, and integrally related to the human right to water,” Mr. Sadi said. “The explicit recognition of the human right to sanitation and the human right to water reaffirms that sanitation has distinct features which warrant its own separate recognition and treatment from water in some respects.”

The experts explained that while sanitation does not necessarily have to be water-borne, Governments tend to focus on this type, rather than on-site sanitation such as pit latrines and septic tanks which are still widely used. As a result, individual households which rely on on-site sanitation often have to operate the entire system themselves, including collection and disposal, without government support. “The right to sanitation also requires privacy and dignity,” the experts stressed.

“Sanitation and water issues need to be approached comprehensively at many levels,” Mr. Heller said. “I strongly believe that the clear definitions of the human right to sanitation and the human right to water provided in the resolution will help focus international attention on sanitation issues in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

In the UN General Assembly resolution, adopted by consensus on 17 December, Member States recognized that ‘the human right to sanitation entitles everyone, without discrimination, to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity.’…