News Archive

New resources: The three piece guide for ‘Making Rights Real’ now available in Hindi & Oriya

The three-piece guide for ‘Making Rights Real’ is now available in Hindi & Oriya.  The guide includes:
• The pocket Guide – Basic thoughts and principles
• The Manual – Each step explained
• The Journey – the process at a glance

For more information visit the ‘Making Rights Real’ page here

The pocket guide in Hindi is available here
The pocket guide in Oriya is available here

UN Special Rapporteur’s visit to India

Visiting India at the crucial juncture of the rapid progress towards eliminating open defecation through the Clean India Mission (Swachh Bharat Abhiyan), the UN Special Rapporteur called on all levels of the Government of India to incorporate a human rights perspective in its national programmes on water and sanitation. “Everywhere I went, I saw the logo of the Clean India Mission – Gandhi’s glasses. In its third year of implementation, now is a critical time to replace the lens of those glasses with the human rights lens,” said Léo Heller, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Read a short press release on the visit and the longer statement by Léo Heller at the end of the visit. The Special Rapporteur will submit a full report to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018.

New resource: Checklist on the rights to water and sanitation

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) created a checklist to assess the inclusion of the human rights to water and sanitation in development projects. Initially designed as a tool to enable fund managers to analyse the content of cooperation projects, it can also be useful for practitioners working in development projects. The checklist addresses human rights principles and the normative criteria of the human rights to water and sanitation.

The checklist is available here.


Service regulation and the human rights to water and sanitation

This report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, focuses on the role of service regulation in the progressive realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation. The Special Rapporteur report first outlines the human rights obligations of States, regulatory actors and service providers in the context of service regulation. He provides an overview of the role of regulation in water and sanitation services, identifies different types of regulatory frameworks and discusses how they relate to the human rights standards. He discusses the core functions of regulatory actors. Finally, he presents recommendations to States and regulatory actors regarding those issues.

The report and a summary leaflet are available here:

Understanding menstrual hygiene management and human rights

Most women and girls will menstruate every month between menarche and menopause, yet this normal bodily function is still met with silence, taboos, and stigma. Women and girls the world over face numerous challenges in managing their menstruation, which should be a straightforward issue of privacy and health. Pads and other supplies may be unavailable or unaffordable, they may lack access to safe toilet facilities with clean water where they can clean themselves in privacy, and they face discriminatory cultural norms or practices that make it difficult to maintain good menstrual hygiene. Together, these challenges may result in women and girls being denied basic human rights.The practitioner’s guide explains how women’s and girls’ ability to manage their menstruation hygienically, and with normalcy and dignity, enables women and girls to enjoy certain human rights. For example, it addresses the rights to education, health, and water and sanitation, and how they relate to menstrual hygiene management.

The guide is available here:

Realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation in development cooperation

This report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, complements the first report on the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation in development cooperation (A/71/302). In this report, the Special Rapporteur examines, through six case studies, how funders contribute to the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation and respond to related challenges and gaps. He proposes the concept of a “human rights development cycle” as a framework for funders to safeguard and implement the human rights to water and sanitation in their development cooperation activities. In accordance with that framework, he provides a critical assessment of how funders incorporate the normative contents of the human rights to water and sanitation and human rights principles in their policies, strategies and operational tools, as well as how those rights are implemented in the project selection, design, implementation, assessment and monitoring stages.

The report is available here:

New Human Rights Watch report on the right to sanitation

This HRW report provides a factual foundation for understanding the distinct nature of the right to sanitation and denigration of human dignity related to its violation by describing contexts in which women, men, and children struggle to realize their right to sanitation. It draws from more than a decade of Human Rights Watch research that highlights the wide variety of abuses and obstacles people encounter in trying to perform the simple act of safely relieving themselves with dignity, including deliberate acts of abuse or discrimination. Although not an exhaustive review of the right to sanitation, this research shows that the deprivation of the right to sanitation can exacerbate multiple human rights violations.

The report is available here:

Thirsting for justice: New report reveals depth of discrimination faced by Europe’s Roma in accessing water

Budapest, 22 March 2017: Today the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) released its report – Thirsting for Justice: Europe’s Roma Denied Access to Clean Water & Sanitation, highlighting the shocking disparities between Roma and non-Roma in their access to water.

The report summarises research carried out by the ERRC, between 2014 – 2016, covering 93 Romani neighbourhoods and settlements in Albania, France, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Slovakia.

The human rights to water and sanitation are recognised by the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, and require that States explicitly focus on the most disadvantaged and marginalized. However, our research reveals that large segments of Europe’s Roma continue to be denied or disadvantaged in their access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Even in states and regions where safe water supply and sanitation services were available to almost every non Roma household, we found that Roma populations are still often systemically discriminated against in their access to these essential services. In the sites we investigated, Roma living in legal settlements or neighbourhoods were no less likely to be deprived of water than those in unofficial sites.

In more than half of the places we visited (52.69%), the nearest water source was more than 150 m away. In some places, Roma were forced to walk several kilometres to access water. Distant water resources present a major risk to public health from insufficient sanitation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), when the water source is more than one kilometer away from the home, not only is the volume of water collected likely to be very low; but basic consumption and hygiene practices are compromised to an extent that the risk to public health from poor hygiene becomes very high. Distant public pumps or fire hydrants, which are the only source of water for many Roma, are often managed by reluctant and hostile authorities, who frequently cut them off as soon as they find that Roma are using them.

For more than 40% of the Roma we surveyed, obtaining water necessitated using a dangerous route. Roma often have to get over fences and walls, cross highways, trespass on private property or be confronted by stray dogs in order to get their daily water. The burden of collecting this water falls mainly on women and girls, thus compounding their discrimination.

A near universal lack of indoor toilets means that women and girls also have to cross hazardous terrain and risk harassment by day and night, just to use a toilet. We found only 12% of Roma that had a functioning mechanical toilet, with over 75% using outdoor pit latrines. Frequently the only water source or dry toilet is shared with tens of other people at best.

In the absence of a public water supply, Roma often have no other choice but to rely on untreated and unprotected water sources like self-made wells, natural springs, and rivers, all of which can be a breeding grounds for diseases. These sources are rarely tested to ensure safety and are exposed to a wide range of contaminants, including from the dry toilets (pit latrines), insects, and animals. In some cases even when public water is accessible to Roma, it is still unaffordable for many.

“In many of these countries, there are often Roma living in the exactly the same legal conditions as non Roma, yet they still do not have access to clean water. This is nothing less than direct discrimination against my people. There can be no dispute that many European states are badly failing to meet their long-established international commitments to ‘ensure freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment, and to guarantee equality and non-discrimination.’

To be forced to live without running water and toilet today in Europe is inhumane and degrading. States must adopt laws that explicitly recognise the human right to water and sanitation, and ensure that everyone enjoys equal access to water.” said Đorđe Jovanović, ERRC president.

The full report, including our recommendations for State authorities and the European Commission is available here.

For more information contact:

Jonathan Lee Communications Officer European Roma Rights Centre +36 30 500 2118

Links between the Human Rights to water and sanitation and Water Governance

UN Member States have recognized the human rights to water and sanitation as part of binding international human rights law. In 2015, the right to sanitation was acknowledged as a distinct right, placing priority on its universal realization.The human rights-based approach stresses the correspondence between rights and obligations. Responsibilities and accountability, non-discrimination and disadvantaged groups are put in focus.

In this Issue Sheet the Water Governance Facility (WGF) explores the links between the Human Rights to water and sanitation and water governance. It also outlines the WGF activities related to the topic.

Slovenia: Constitutional right to water “must flow down to” Roma communities

A constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to water for all must be fully implemented to benefit the lives of Slovenia’s Roma communities denied access to water, said Amnesty International.

Whilst the amendment passed today recognises that everyone has the right to drinking water, some Romani communities are still forced to fetch water from polluted streams or public taps and do not have access to adequate toilets.

“Enshrining access to drinking water as a constitutional human right is an important legal step forward for Slovenia, but Roma communities need more than legal changes. Action is now needed to ensure the changes flow down to all those without water and sanitation,” said Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s Deputy Europe Director.

“It is shocking that in a highly developed country like Slovenia, where almost 100 per cent of the population have access to safe water, some Roma communities struggle to collect even small amounts of water to drink, cook and bathe themselves and their families.”

Many Roma families in Slovenia live in informal settlements in inadequate and at times unsanitary housing conditions. Some do not have access to water close to their homes and have to travel long distances with jerry cans to get water from petrol stations, cemeteries or polluted streams. These conditions impact their lives and result in illnesses including water borne diseases.

In 2011 a government commission recommended that access to water should be provided to all Roma communities as matter of urgency, but no effective measures have so far been taken.

“The government must now ensure that the constitutional recognition that everyone has a right to drinking water leads to swift and concrete changes,” said Fotis Filippou.

“Failure to do so would not only be an abject dereliction of responsibility by the government but could also prove costly since the new amendment will strengthen the case of anyone challenging their lack of access to water in domestic courts.”

For more information please visit Amnesty International