Civil society statement on the UN General Assembly resolution ‘The Human Rights to Water and Sanitation’

6 min read
Image: WaterAid/ Oman Seth Ahouansou

On the occasion of the tabling of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolution ‘The Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation’ in the UN General Assembly 3rd Committee, we call on all states to reaffirm the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation and to accelerate efforts to implement their obligations under international law. As representatives of civil society, we are deeply concerned that almost ten years after the UN's recognition of these rights, more than one in ten people worldwide continue to lack basic drinking water services, including 144 million people who still collect water directly from surface water sources. Furthermore, more than one in four people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation services, including 673 million people who have no option but to practise open defecation.

We are pleased to see that the draft resolution gives prominence to the growing threat that climate change poses to the realisation of water and sanitation services for all, and the need for states to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability. A quarter of the world’s population is currently under extremely high water stress, a situation that will be exacerbated by growing climate change. Sudden-onset natural disasters (such as flooding, wildfires, heatwaves and hurricanes) as well as slow-onset events (such as desertification, loss of biodiversity, land and forest degradation, sea level rise and salinisation) can exacerbate water scarcity, the most severe effects of which are often felt by vulnerable communities. As the window to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5°C closes rapidly, we join our voices to those sounding the alarm on the disastrous future impacts of climate change on the realisation of human rights, including to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Additionally, we welcome the resolution’s new emphasis on addressing the widespread silence and stigma surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene. The exclusion and stigmatisation of those who experience menstruation compounds other associated challenges, including unmet needs for methods of menstrual management, such as a lack of information on menstruation, lack of access to menstrual products and adequate toilets or water supplies to manage menstrual bleeding hygienically and privately. We support the resolution’s call for states to take steps to address the widespread stigma and shame surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene that often deprive people who menstruate of full participation in education, work and community life.

While we acknowledge the progress made toward increasing the number of people with access to water and sanitation in the past two decades, more needs to be done. While numerous actors may be involved in helping to ensure the progressive realisation of human rights, states have the primary responsibility to ensure the full realisation of human rights. We urge all states to support this year’s resolution and thereby seize the opportunity to reiterate their commitment to leaving no one behind and to heighten their focus on the fundamental principles of non-discrimination and equality.



Action Against Hunger
Action des Jeunes pour le Developpement Durable (ActJDD)
Action for Women and Children Concern (AWCC)
African Center for Advocacy
Amnesty International
Asociacion para el Desarrollo Integral de las Victimas de la Violnecia en las Verapaces, Maya Achi (ADIVIMA)
Asociación Regional Centroamericana para el Agua y el Ambiente (ARCA)
Association malienne pour la sauvegarde du bien être familial
Bangladesh Model Youth Parliament (Protiki Jubo Sangsad)
Byepa International Foundation Uganda (BIFU)
Cadre de concertation des ONG, associations du secteur de l’eau potable, l’hygiène et l’assainissement (CCEPA) (Burkina Faso)
Carbone Guinée
Centre for Community Health Research (CCHR-INDIA)
Center for Regulation Policy and Governance (CRPG)
Children and Young People Living for Peace
Christian Fellowship and Care Foundation
Coalition Eau
Commonwealth Medical Trust (Commat)
Developpement Pour Tous
Dullah Omar Institute
El Porvenir
E-mac Tanzania
Endorois Welfare Council
End Water Poverty
Enlaces por la Sustentabilidad
Environmental Initiative for Sustainable Development Organization (EnvI)
European Roma Rights Centre
FIAN Germany
Fondation des innovateurs de la nature
Foundation for Urban and Rural Development
Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE)
Fundación Suwo DI (Suwo DI Foundation, Costa Rica)
Governance Links
Guaravito - Costa Rica
Habilitation and Upliftment of Mankind Advocating Network (HUMAN)
Hawai'i Institute for Human Rights
Hope Spring Water Charity Foundation
IHC Global
Indian Institute of Youth And Development
Integrated Regional Support Programme
International Association for Health Policies in Europe
International Commission of Jurists
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance
International Secretariat for Water
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations (ISMUN)
Khairpur Rural Development Organization (KRDO)
Legal Resources Centre (South Africa)
LVIA Tanzania-Lay Volunteer International Association
Media for community empowerment (MACS)
Mission SanScar
Movimiento Unificado Franisco Sánchez 1932 *MUFRAS-32* de El Salvador
Neven Subotic Stiftung
Nigerian Women Agro Allied Farmers Association (NIWAAFA)
ONG Jeunesse Active de Guinée
Organização Guineense de Desenvolvimento
ONG Jeunesse Active de Guinée
Organização Guineense de Desenvolvimento
OSCEAH (Madagascar)
Phenix Center
PIVJET International
Plan International
Pronet North
Red de Jóvenes por el Agua Centroamérica (Central American Youth Network For Water)
Rujewa Integrated Efforts to Fight Poverty (RIEFP)
Sadaynodai Ilaignar Narpani Mandram (SINAM)
Saha Global
Sahmakum Teang Tnaut
San-Tech Solutions (Malawi)
Secours Islamique France
Secrétariat Permanent des Organisations Non Gouvernementales (Burkina Faso)
Setu Centre for Social Knowledge and Action
Siafu and Upendo Women Development Organization (SUWODE)
Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN)
Socio-Economic Rights Institute South Africa
Solidarités international
Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)
Takal Welfare Organization
Tanzania Association of Environmental Engineering (TAEEs)
Tanzania Water and Sanitation Network (TAWASANET)
The Hunger Project
Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development
Ugandan Water Project
United Care Foundation (Uganda)
Urgence Eau Côte d'Ivoire
Vision Africa Regional Network Zambia
Viva con Agua
Viva con Agua Stiftung
Voluntary Action for Integrated Global Awareness and Innovation
WASH-Net Sierra Leone
WASH United
Water for South Sudan
Water Witness
Women and Girl-Child Capabilities and Empowerment Organization (WGCCEO)
Women for Water Partnership
World Without Obstacles
Youth Thinkers Society
Youths Volunteering for Sustainable Development (YOVSUD)
Zakat Foundation of America
Zambia NGO WASH Forum
Zimbabwe United Nations Association

Alicia Gonzalez
Anjani Kapoor, SWA
Beth Llewellyn, Village Water
Bibian Ama, Society for Water and Sanitation Network
Catarina de Albuquerque, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation
Catherine Flowers, Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental 
Chika Nnadi
Claudia Schuftan, PHM
Clinton Ezeigwe, Christian Fellowship and Care Foundation
Daniel Ifegwu Iroegbu, Daniel Ioregbu Global Health Foundation
Diarra Mamadou Lamine, WaterAid Mali
F H Mughal
Geisel Sánchez M, Suwo Di Foundation
Getachew Mekuria, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Hamadi Kallali, Centre des Recherches et des Technologies des Eaux
Heloise Chicou, SWA
Hitesh BHATT
Ibrahim Abubakar Sani, Kano Leads
Inga Winkler, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University, USA
Jackie Dugard, associate professor, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
JoAnn Kamuf Ward, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School, USA
Julie Truelove, WaterAid Canada
Kartik Chandran, Columbia University, USA
Kenneth Alfaro Alvarado, Suwo Di Foundation
Laurin Liu, WaterAid
Mariana De La Roche, Menstrual Health Hub
Melek Korel
Nicolas Lorne
Paulo de Tarso Lugon Arantes
Pedi Obani
Pharozin Pheng, WaterAid Cambodia
Quamdeen Buhari, Human Rights Watch
Ramiro Iturry
Robyn Waite, Results Canada
Roland Hansen
Sara Ahrari, Simavi
Sofía Brocanelli, Fundeps
Temple Oraeki, Hope Spring Water Charity Foundation
Trine Sig, Real Relief
Wamba André Le Doux
Wilson Atumeyi, WaterWide
Winnie Kishara

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* Updated 19 November 2019.