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‘All eyes on post-2015 to reduce the inequality gap in access to water and sanitation’ – UN expert

World Water Day – Sunday 22 March

GENEVA (19 March 2015) – The new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Léo Heller, today called for the new UN Sustainable Development Goals to allow the world to keep a close eye on progress in reducing inequalities in access to water and sanitation.

The human rights expert’s appeal comes ahead of World Water Day, Sunday 22 March, which this year is focusing on sustainable development.

“Economic growth, social development and environmental protection must benefit all without distinction of any kind such as age, sex, disability, culture, race, ethnicity, origin, migratory status, religion, economic or other status, as emphasized in the UN post-2015 development agenda.

This is in line with the underlying principle of ‘leaving no one behind’, a concept now firmly anchored in the post-2015 negotiations.

But how can this concept be applied in practice? How can the world keep track of whether undocumented populations living in informal settlements, migrants or indigenous people have access to basic water and sanitation? And how can the world keep an eye on ending open-defecation in remote areas as a priority or monitor whether women and girls have access to toilets and soap within the four walls of a home?

Another way to say ‘leave no one behind’ is to have ‘everyone on board’ and to be able to keep track of how the Sustainable Development goals and targets are met for ‘everyone in all contexts’, especially for people who are non-existent in national polls and fall off the radar, and are all too often forgotten and ignored.

The Millennium Development Goals have played a role as a driving force for development. However, their focus on average progress at the country level gave no incentives to governments, providers and donors to outreach those who are hard to reach.

Having a goal in the post-2015 agenda on ensuring access to water, sanitation and hygiene is just one step. To make it tangible, we need to aim for a higher rate of progress for disadvantaged groups, otherwise we will not achieve access for all in the foreseeable future.

The world will see real achievement and ‘leave no one behind’ only when the efforts of the post-2015 agenda reach and impact the lives of the most disadvantaged groups.”

Léo Heller is the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, appointed in November 2014. He is a researcher in the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil and was previously Professor of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil from 1990 to 2014. Learn more:

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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