Privatization and the human rights to water and sanitation


Although, traditionally, the provision of water and sanitation services to populations was a responsibility primarily undertaken by governments, and the public bodies under their control, in the late 20th century the role of private entities expanded around the world. Through various legal arrangements, private companies have been afforded a greater presence in the sector, and, resultantly, their operations have come to affect the outcomes of service provision of a significant amount of the global population.

The role of the private sector in substantive provision of water and sanitation engenders a need to consider the impact of these entities in particular, although risks to human rights also exist within models that are wholly publicly operated, or where the role of the private sector is more subsidiary such as the supply of materials, or the maintenance of infrastructure.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, will focus his report to the 75th session of the General Assembly on privatization and the human rights to water and sanitation.

Timeline of the consultation process

For the preparation of this report, the Special Rapporteur plans to consult as many stakeholders as possible and lays out his plans for consultation below.

13 September 2019: Expert consultation in Geneva

The Special Rapporteur invited selected experts to discuss risks to human rights arising from private sector participation. See concept note.

18 September – 30 October 2019: Online bilateral consultation

Sign-up for the online bilateral consultation is now closed.
See Concept note and guiding questions for the online bilateral consultation.
See also working in progress background paper for further information.

17 October 2019: Consultation with private service providers in New York

In cooperation with AquaFed, the International Federation of Private Water Operators, the Special Rapporteur held a half-day consultation with private service providers in New York. For more information, please contact: Mr. Thomas Van Waeyenberge <>

21 October 2019: Public consultation in New York

Together with Franciscans International, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation held a public consultation on his next thematic report to the General Assembly in 2020 on the privatization and the human rights to water and sanitation.


See flyer.

December 2019: Call for input

In line with previous practice, the Special Rapporteur sought input from States and non-State actors by distributing a questionnaire.

All concerned stakeholders were invited to submit their contributions by responding to the questionnaire no later than 31 January 2020. The Special Rapporteur considered late submissions received by 2 March 2020.

Questionnaire to States: English | French | Spanish

Questionnaire to civil society organizations: English | French | Spanish



* Late submissions received after 2 March 2020