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International standards

Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation

Human rights treaties with explicit reference to safe drinking water and sanitation



Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Article 14 (2)

States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular shall ensure to women the right:

(h) To enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considered that this article obliges States parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure adequate living conditions in relation to water and sanitation, which are critical for the prevention of diseases and the promotion of good health care. ( Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, general recommendation No. 24 (1999) on article 12 of the Convention (women and health), para. 28)

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Article 24

1. States parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health …

2. States parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures:

(c) To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, (…) the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking water (…)

The United Nation Committee on the Rights of the Child underlined that under article 24 States have a responsibility to ensure access to clean drinking water and that such access is particularly essential for young children’s health. ( Committee on the Rights of the Child, general comment No. 7 (2006) on implementing child rights in early childhood, para. 27)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Article 28 - Adequate standard of living and social protection

2. States parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to social protection and to

the enjoyment of that right without discrimination on the basis of disability, and shall take

appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right, including measures:

(a) To ensure equal access by persons with disabilities to clean water services, and to

ensure access to appropriate and affordable services, devices and other assistance for

disability-related needs.

ILO Convention No. 161 of 1985 on Occupational Health Services

Article 5

Without prejudice to the responsibility of each employer for the health and safety of the

workers in his employment, … occupational health services shall have such of the following

functions …:

(b) Surveillance of the factors in the working environment and working practice which

may affect workers’ health, including sanitary installations, …

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Article 14

1. Every child shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable standard of physical, mental and spiritual health.

2. States parties to the present Charter shall undertake to pursue the full implementation of this right and in particular shall take measures: …

(c) To ensure the provision of adequate nutrition and safe drinking water.

Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

Article 15: Right to Food Security

States parties shall ensure that women have the right to nutritious and adequate food. In this regard, they shall take appropriate measures to:

(a) Provide women with access to clean drinking water, …

Human rights guidelines and principles with explicit reference to safe drinking water and sanitation (Ref. to Sub-Commission Guidelines for the realization of the Right to Drinking Water and Sanitation)



Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

15. Prisoners shall be required to keep their persons clean, and to this end they shall be provided with water and with such toilet articles as are necessary for health and cleanliness.


20. (2) Drinking water shall be available to every prisoner whenever he needs it.

United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty

Article 34

Sanitary installations should be so located and of a sufficient standard to enable every juvenile to comply, as required, with their physical needs in privacy and in a clean and decent manner.

Article 37

Every detention facility shall ensure that every juvenile receives food that is suitably prepared … Clean drinking water should be available to every juvenile at any time.

United Nations Principles for Older Persons


1. Older persons should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and health care through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help.

Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement

Principle 18

1. All internally displaced persons have the right to an adequate standard of living.

2. At the minimum, regardless of the circumstances, and without discrimination, competent authorities shall provide internally displaced persons with and ensure safe access to:

(a) Essential food and potable water;…

(d) Essential medical services and sanitation.

3. Special efforts should be made to ensure the full participation of women in the planning and distribution of these basic supplies.

ILO Recommendation No. 115 of 1961 on Workers’ Housing

Suggestions concerning methods of application …

7. The housing standards referred to in paragraph 19 of the General Principles should relate in particular to …

(b) The supply of safe water in the workers’ dwelling in such ample quantities as to provide for all personal and household uses;

(c) Adequate sewage and garbage disposal systems; …

8. Where housing and accommodation for single workers or workers separated from their families is collective, the competent authorities should establish housing standards providing, as a minimum, for: …

(c) Adequate supply of safe water;

(d) Adequate drainage and sanitary conveniences; …

Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national security (FAO)

3.6 In their poverty reduction strategies, States should also give priority to providing basic services for the poorest, and investing in human resources by ensuring access to … clean drinking water, adequate sanitation …

8.1 States should facilitate sustainable, non-discriminatory and secure access and utilization of resources consistent with their national law and with international law and protect the assets that are important for people’s livelihoods. States should respect and protect the rights of individuals with respect to resources such as land, water, …