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The Right to Water


11 / 2009

In the United Nations Millennium Declaration of 2000, States made a commitment to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of people with no access to safe drinking water and to sanitation. (1) Access to safe drinking water and to sanitation should therefore be an absolute priority for the international community. However, with only a few years to go, we must face the fact that despite the efforts that have been made – which include declaring: the 22nd March ‘World Water Day’ (since 1993) (2); 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater; and 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation - there has been insufficient progress. If we continue in this way, the Millennium objectives will not be achieved by 2015. (3)

In an attempt to reverse this trend, Civil Society Organizations, supported by United Nations agencies and a number of States, have made the promotion and the protection of the right to water and the right to sanitation a priority. In the hope that this strategy will highlight the question of rights and make States accountable, these organizations are exerting pressure to obtain a greater recognition, a clearer definition and a more effective implementation of these fundamental rights.

The aim of this thematic series is to promote the protection of the right to water and the right to sanitation. In the first article, we describe the problems of access to water and to sanitation in the world today and identify the ways in which different uses of water compete with each other. In the second article, we look at how the right to water and to sanitation is recognized and defined at international, regional and national levels. In the third article, we outline the position taken by various organizations on the right to water and the right to sanitation and we describe the current state of discussions on these rights within the United Nations.

(1) General Assembly, Millennium Declaration, A/RES/55/2, Part III, 18 September 2000.
(2) General Assembly, Resolution A/RES/47/193, adopted 22 December 1992.
(3) General Assembly, International Year of Sanitation. 2008. Report of the Secretary-General, A/64/169, §3-4, 24 July 2009.

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