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22 March 2007

On the occasion of World Water Day, which is commemorated on 22 March, Jean Ziegler, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the right to food and Miloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, issued the following statement:

“On the occasion of the World Water Day we remind the international community of the importance of access to water as an essential prerequisite for the realization of human rights. According to the World Health Organisation an estimated 1.1 billion persons do not have access to basic water supplies and thus cannot benefit from the full enjoyment of human rights. The lack of a sufficient supply of safe water can adversely affect numerous human rights including the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health and an adequate standard of living including adequate food and housing.

Inadequate sanitation facilities and the proliferation of pollution resulting from toxic wastes, pesticides and other dangerous products results in the contamination of water supplies, further exacerbating the problem of scarcity of adequate water resources. Scarcity of water can also affect the availability of the resource for irrigation of food crops which forms a key part of the right to food.

The right to water entails that water must be available in sufficient quantity for personal and domestic uses. Water must also be free of elements that could constitute a threat to human health. Furthermore, water must be accessible, both physically and economically. Finally, access to adequate water services and facilities must be granted to all including the most vulnerable or marginalized sections of the population on the basis of the principle of non-discrimination.

We would like to reiterate that, in order to ensure access to adequate water supplies, the resource must be respected at all times and in all places. This involves refraining to adopt measures that could deny or limit access to water or conduct activities that could pollute water. Appropriate legislative measures should be adopted to protect water resources from adverse intervention by public or private actors, such as for example industrial pollution. In this respect, we call on all actors, including private corporations, to re-affirm on this day their commitment to ensure access to adequate water resources for all.

In addition, access to adequate water is ensured if the resource is affordable for all, made accessible to all through appropriate infrastructure, and managed in a manner that guarantees access for future generations.

In a world where more than 6 million children die every year before their fifth birthday, including of illnesses related to the lack of safe drinking water, we call on all States to act now to stop this silent tragedy and to uphold their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to water at the national level and to cooperate at the regional and international levels in realizing this right for all.”


For use of the information media; not an official record