Right to sanitation

The specific issue of access to sanitation long was considered to be a secondary concern compared to drinking water access.

Awareness on sanitation is slowly raising in developing countries

Guarantee of access to pure, safe water as a basic human right is part of the 2000 Millenium Declaration. Yet it is only 2 years late, during Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2002, that a new sanitation target appears.

Between 2002 and 2006, improvements remain very limited and slow – to the exception of North Africa. WHO 2006 report demonstrates that between 1990 and 2006, the number of individuals deprived of basic sanitation facilities only decreased by 98 million. The coverage level systematically progresses more slowly in rural areas than in urban areas. However, in most developing countries, rural-urban migrations coupled with the rate of national increase in urban populations (due to high demographic pressure) increases the share of city dwellers that do not have access to services.

2008 was a symbolic step as it was declared International Year of Sanitation by the United Nations. It put a spotlight on a number of countries putting a lot of efforts on improving their sanitation status, and allowed to launch a series of initiatives to try to tackling the global sanitation crisis, including the establishment of a working group UN-Water on sanitation issues.

The United Nations 2030 agenda adopted in 2015 acknowledges the key role of sanitation in pursuing sustainable development and adopted a dedicated goal. An integrated visiong of the new Program will lead to a better understanding of connections between the different components of development.


Access to sanitation: the urgent need to take action to develop access to essential services

« This is why the Call to Action on Sanitation was launched in 2013, and why we aim to end open defecation by 2025... »

Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary-General, November 2015


(Re)sources tirelessly supports the right to water and sanitation in developing countries

On July 28th 2010, the United Nations official recognized the right to water and sanitation as a basic human right. This recognition was completed in September 2010 by an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-HCR, Geneva) resolution defining the means to mobilize, the legal framework and the States’ duties facing this new right. It thereby complements Catarina Albuquerque’s (United Nations independent expert) conclusions on the necessity to make of the right to access sanitation not only a human rights imperative principle, but a distinct human right.

On November 21st 2013, the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly sent another strong political signal supporting the Right to Water. There now exists a legal act recognizing the Human Right to Water and Sanitation at the international level. It belongs to the Member States to ratify it at the national level

Since its inception, (Re)sources tirelessly supported and defended the issue of a right to water and sanitation and therefore warmly welcomes this recognition as a first milestone that builds more pressure on national governments.

(Re)sources' recommendations

  • Right to water and right to sanitation must be indivisible. The recognition of a right to water provides the means to replenish the resource. Therefore, it is deeply intertwined with long-term environmental and climate concerns.
  • Water and sanitation constitute a global right at the heart of the right to health, which entails a duty to improve simultaneously access, use and discharge of the resource.
  • The right to water has been defined and entitles everyone to “sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses" . What is entailed by a right to sanitation – and what “sanitation” even means – on the other hand, is still to be precisely defined in order to turn it into a tangible, real and effective right. A genuine political commitment must also support the provision and scaling up of sufficient funding and public participation, which have been far too limited so far.

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Right to sanitation