The right to sanitation

Clean water and sanitation are not only about hygiene and disease, they’re about dignity, too. … [E]veryone, and that means ALL the people in the world, has the right to a healthy life and a life with dignity. In other words: everyone has the right to sanitation.” Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands, Chair of the UN Secretary General Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

Sanitation is access to, and use of, excreta and wastewater facilities and services that ensure privacy and dignity, ensuring a clean and healthy living environment for all.

It is almost universally acknowledged that access to safe water is crucial in the prevention of disease. However, the importance of an accompanying wastewater disposal or drainage system is often not recognised. In areas where water is being delivered there needs to be a method of removing the wastewater to prevent stagnant water from gathering. In the absence of a sewerage system, low-cost drainage systems that prevent the accumulation of still-water are a solution to this problem. Solid waste management systems are also critical, as in their absence garbage is often deposited in drains, thus blocking them.

Addressing sanitation as a human right moves the focus from technical solutions to ensuring that the political and legislative frameworks are in place to ensure access to sanitation.

What is needed to meet the human rights requirements?
What are governments obligations to implement this right?
What is the legal basis to this right? International and national law and declarations.
How can this right be strengthened?
Actions for governments, civil society organisations and international groups.