WSSCC’s Statement to the 42nd Session of the Human Rights Council, Item 3

Date: 11th September 2019

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This past Tuesday, on the first day of the 42nd Human Rights Council in Geneva, WSSCC presented the following statement (watch here):


Mr. Chair,


Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen.

WSSCC positively welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s report on the Human Rights to water and sanitation in spheres of life beyond the household with an emphasis on public spaces. We would like to express our appreciation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Human rights to water and sanitation as he brings up important issues to support the efforts of States to progressively realize the rights to water and sanitation. Indeed, despite its centrality for the achievement of multiple Sustainable Development Goals, notably goals 6, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10 and 11, the human right to sanitation remains neglected and often absent in countries’ national plans and budgets.

The report on water and sanitation beyond the household is timely as we are looking at the next series of the High Level Political Forum and preparing for the UN High Level Meetings on Water and Sanitation in 2021 and 2023. WSSCC understands and recognizes the importance of water and sanitation services everywhere. In our current Strategic Plan, we have included public places in the operations of our Global Sanitation Fund. As a result, our objective is to achieve entire administrative areas that are open defecation free, therewith extending sanitation coverage beyond households and ensuring full access to everyone whether at home, at school, at work or underway. So far, through our Global Sanitation Fund, we have managed to reach over 25 million people now living in Open Defecation Free communities. This is however a drop in the bucket.

WSSCC supports governments in making the human rights to water and sanitation a lived reality for all people, and supports people in vulnerable situations to confront barriers, stigma and taboo and have their voices heard. Whereas 2 billion people still lack access to basic sanitation facilities at home, billions more face a daily struggle to access public facilities. Many of them belong to marginalized communities.  They are informal workers, street vendors, rag pickers, factory workers, school children, or sexual and gender minorities. In Asia and Africa, we have met with women informal workers who often do not use toilets during their daily work because they are shared with men, unclean or just not available. In such situations, menstrual hygiene management at work or any sphere outside of the household, becomes a challenge.

As rightly noted in the Special Rapporteur’s report, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights has made clear that the right to decent work includes water and sanitation facilities that are available for all workers including for people working informally. The Special Rapporteur has also highlighted the Mandela rules which include provisions for the enjoyment of the human rights to water and sanitation in prisons and detention facilities.

Many hospitals and healthcare centers around the world do not have WASH facilities putting at risk their patients including pregnant and delivering women and newborn babies. Indeed, according to the recent report of the Joint Monitoring Programme, 21% of health care facilities globally had no sanitation service. The proportion of health care facilities without sanitation services ranged from 5% in East and South Eastern Asia to 40% in Central and Southern Asia.

We need to invest more if we want to achieve SDG 6 and the subsequent related SDGs. Sanitation and hygiene are critical for health, decent work, quality of life, a positive learning environment. We call upon Member States to prioritize water and sanitation, in particular sanitation, during the development and the implementation of their national development plans, to develop the right policies and programmes and to allocate sufficient funds so that all, everywhere, enjoy the human rights to water and sanitation.

Thank you for your attention.

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