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World Water Day, Friday 22 March 2013

Eight UN experts, one message: “Progress and equality must go hand-in-hand with cooperation for water”

GENEVA (22 March 2013) – A group of UN human rights experts on water and sanitation, food, extreme poverty, environment, health, discrimination against women, violence against women and the promotion of an equitable, democratic international order marks World Water Day, which this year is devoted to Water Cooperation.

“In all we do, whoever we are and however we live – water is central to our lives. We need water every single day to meet basic needs: for drinking and cooking, for our personal hygiene, to grow the food we eat, to keep us healthy. Water is essential for the health of ecosystems. And water is also needed for industry and for tourism, among others.

Increasingly, water is subject to allocation through market mechanisms, with the risk that the poor will be priced out. It is crucial to ensure cooperation between the competing users of water, to ensure that the human rights of all are realized and also that the most marginalized and vulnerable are not negatively affected by unequal resource allocation at every turn, by every decision on water resource allocation.

Human rights require that considerations of the needs of marginalized and vulnerable individuals and groups are prioritized, and that the necessary resources are affordable to those who need them.”

Water and sanitation
“On the missions that I undertake for the UN, I systematically witness the negative effects of climate change, increased water scarcity for the most vulnerable people and often a complete neglect of peoples’ right to water in face of other water uses, as agri-business, large-scale industry and tourism. It is clear that individual people’s rights must come first and to make this happen, different users must come together, cooperate and make sure that the available water reaches everyone in conditions of quality and affordability.” The UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque

Food
“Freshwater resources are essential for agriculture to sustain the world population with adequate and nutritious food. However, while 70% of all water resources are used for agriculture, all too often this precious and frequently limited resource is not equally shared between all those who need it, but is rather distributed according to who can afford to pay the most, or who owns the land under which it is located.” The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter

Extreme poverty
“Persons living in poverty are disproportionately affected by limited access to water and are often forced to inhabit areas in which access to water is restricted owing to cost, lack of infrastructure, denial of services to persons without secure tenure, poor resource management, contamination or climate change. Access to clean water is key to reducing many aspects of poverty and States must take measures to ensure that persons living in poverty are not charged higher rates for water services owing to consumption levels.” The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda

Environment
“Improved water resources and wastewater management are key to ensuring a safe and healthy environment. Overexploitation of many of the surface water resources and great aquifers upon which irrigated agriculture and domestic supplies depend has resulted in more and more countries facing water stress or scarcity. Within those countries, it will be those living in remote areas, the marginalized and vulnerable who are most negatively affected by this water scarcity.” The UN Independent Expert on human rights and the environment, John Knox

Health
“Safe water and adequate sanitation are key underlying determinants of health. We have seen too often when inadequate access to water and sanitation has undermined the realization of the right to health by threatening life, devastating health, eroding human dignity and causing deprivation. International cooperation is essential to improve water supply, manage water resources and treat waste-water. Better water management, including the protection of water ecosystems, through enhanced cooperation between all stakeholders is also crucial in preventing, controlling and reducing water-related diseases. These are indispensable steps to ensure the human right to health for everyone everywhere.” The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover

International order
“With the growth of the world population, the global climate change and the need for a greater healthy environment, access to water resources has become a crucial condition for the realization of an equitable international order, where the needs of the peoples are effectively addressed. In this regard, the need for international cooperation, including in joint effort with relevant non-state actors, is paramount to ensure water is made available to all without discrimination. Water is a human right, an enabling right, not a mere commodity.” The UN Independent Expert on the promotion of an equitable and democratic international order, Alfred de Zayas

Discrimination against women and violence against women
“States must pay attention to the gender dimensions of water supply and distribution since women are intrinsically linked to water resources because of their roles and responsibilities in using and managing water, in particular in rural areas. Since women and girls often cook, clean, farm, and provide health care and hygiene for their households, they are on the front lines of their communities’ water issues. They often have to travel considerable distances to collect water, facing an enhanced risk of sexual and other forms of violence. Women’s voices must be heard at local, national and international levels if global equity is to prevail in the water-scarce world we are living in.” The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, Ms. Kamala Chandrakirana, Chair-Rapporteur; and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms. Rashida Manjoo

“Let us celebrate this International Year of Water Cooperation by appreciating the services we have – and ensuring that those without access to this resource, to this incomparable service, gain access – without prejudice - through cooperation between the many different parties with a claim to this planet’s most precious elixir, in all we do, whoever we are and however we live.”

For more information log on to:
Water and sanitation: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/WaterAndSanitation/SRWater/Pages/SRWaterIndex.aspx
Food: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Food/Pages/FoodIndex.aspx
Extreme poverty: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspx
Environment: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/IEEnvironment/Pages/IEenvironmentIndex.aspx
Health: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx
International order: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IntOrder/Pages/IEInternationalorderIndex.aspx
Discrimination against women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WGWomen/Pages/WGWomenIndex.aspx
Violence against women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRWomenIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Ms. Madoka Saji (+41 22 917 9107 / msaji@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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