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World observes 10th anniversary of UN Resolution on Human Right to Water and Sanitation

World observes 10th anniversary of UN Resolution on Human Right to Water and Sanitation

Photo: Sean Hawkey

28 July 2020

People across the world are marking the 10th anniversary of the UN General Assembly Resolution on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, a landmark in the struggle for water justice.

“The World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Water Network joyously celebrates with them the promise made by the governments of the world to assure every human being has access to safe, affordable, and acceptable water and adequate sanitation,” said Methodist Bishop Arnold Temple, from Sierra Leone, chairperson of the WCC Ecumenical Water Network (WCC-EWN).

The United Nations first recognized the human right to water in a little-known document, General Comment 15, adopted by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2002.  On 28 July 2010, the human right to water burst into global prominence when the UN General Assembly, the highest body of the United Nations, adopted a resolution recognizing the human right to water and sanitation, without any dissenting votes.

Two months later, the UN Human Rights Council underscored the significance of the human right to water and sanitation. The council, which monitors national compliance with human rights treaties, adopted a similar resolution by consensus. Since that time, the UN again unanimously adopted Sustainable Development Goal 6 that aims to provide universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation by 2030.

“The Ecumenical Water Network vociferously urged adoption of the 2010 resolutions and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” said Dinesh Suna, WCC-EWN coordinator. “We continue to seek implementation of the human right to water and sanitation by national governments”, he added.

Both the 2019 & 2020 World Water Development Reports indicate that the progress towards universal access has been uneven. “In implementing access to safe drinking water, governments have left behind the marginalized people of their societies, whether they are indigenous people, other ethnic minorities, women and girls, migrants, refugees, or the poor,” said Prof. Dr Susan Smith, from the United Church of Christ. “We urge the faithful of every nation to hold their government accountable and insist on universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation”, added Smith, who is a member of the WCC-EWN International Reference Group.

Learn more about the Ecumenical Water Network

"WCC plans to deepen regional communication on water justice" - WCC news release 23 July 2020