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Thursday, 27 January 2011

EP human rights committee: Implementing the right to water

In September 2010, the United Nations established a universal human right to water. On January 24, 2011, the European Parliament debated how to include the right into its development cooperation. MEPs from the human rights and the development committees hosted Catarina De Albuquerque, UN expert on safe drinking water and sanitation, and Danielle Morley from the UK-based NGO Freshwater Action Network. Catarina De Albuquerque highlighted that all States must ensure sufficient structures to give all citizens access to affordable and safe drinking water and sanitation. She cited an example in Egypt where the state installed taps for the citizens – but the water coming out of the tap was black. De Albuquerque insisted that States be held to account by their citizens to provide drinking water, or to request international aid where they cannot meet the requirements. While she pointed to the difficulty of giving remote communities or excluded social groups access to water, De Albuquerque emphasized that this could not be an excuse for governments to refuse implementation. Danielle Morley reminded MEPs of the EU’s responsibility to promote the right to water in development cooperation. Where citizens were unable to invoke the right on their own, the EU should take a clear stance with a view to ensure universal provision of water. The Commission highlighted that the European policy on water already reflected many of the provisions established by the UN. However, the human rights dimension might be an additional asset that could facilitate the work with partner countries overseas. Chair Nirj Deva, European Conservatives and Reformists, reminded the audience that water conservation was one of the main challenges for the EU to tackle. While 80% of water in Europe is used for industrial production, 1.31 bn people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, meaning that 5000 children die every day.

Source: CTA