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“It is possible,” UN expert Léo Heller says on the human right to water & sanitation

The human right to water and sanitation - Fifth anniversary of a UN General Assembly key resolution
Tuesday 28 July 2015

GENEVA (27 July 2015) – The right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights, the United Nations General Assembly stated resoundingly in a landmark resolution* adopted on 28 July 2010.

Ahead of the fifth anniversary of the GA resolution, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Léo Heller, says that despite great challenges, making this right a reality is possible.

“Five years ago today, the United Nations Member States explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation at the General Assembly. And that means that as a human right, all people, without discrimination, must have access to safe drinking water and sanitation, which is affordable, acceptable, available and safe.”

There is still a long way to go to make this right a reality for all, to have a world where universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene is attained by everyone living in informal settlements, who today have no choice but to buy expensive water, all the old women who have to walk to the bush every day to defecate in the open, and all the girls who miss school days during their menstruation.

The proposed Sustainable Development Goals will provide an opportunity to reach this reality in the coming 15 years through the strong commitment of all countries.

With a strong political will, this is possible.”

(*) Check the UN General Assembly resolution: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/68/157

Léo Heller is the second UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. He was appointed by the Human Rights Council in November 2014, having started his mandate on 1 December that year. Heller is currently a researcher in the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil. Previously, Heller was Professor of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil from 1990 to 2014. During his career in the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Heller held several positions including the Head of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering, Associate Provost of Graduate Studies, Dean of the School of Engineering and coordinator of the Graduate Program in Basic Sanitation, the Environment and Water Resources. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/WaterAndSanitation/SRWater/Pages/SRWaterIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to monitor and promote the rights to adequate housing and to water and sanitation worldwide. The Rapporteurs are not United Nations staff, do not represent any government or institution, and receive no remuneration for their work. For more information check: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For more information about the visit, please contact Ms. Madoka Saji (+41 22 917 9107 / msaji@ohchr.org) or write to srwatsan@ohchr.org

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

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