Human Right to Water and Sanitation

By Sr. Jean Stoner, SND, NGO UN Representative

More than 300 Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), including the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, recently sent a statement to the General Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to explicitly affirm its commitment to protect and promote the human right to water and sanitation within the SDG framework and implementation. Our statement emphasizes the following points:

We join the repeated and insistent calls from civil society around the world to ensure that the SDGs are explicitly aligned to the human rights framework. For the post-2015 development agenda to reach its objective of being just, people-centered, and sustainable, the goals must prioritize—for present and future generations—the human right to water for health, life, food, and culture over other demands on water resources. This is even more critical given the key role of water for achieving other sustainable development objectives such as sustainable energy and food production, gender equality, and climate change mitigation.

SDGs must be designed to catalyze increased capacity and political will for States to fulfill their legally binding obligations to respect, protect, and promote the human right to water and sanitation. Our organizations fear that the human right to water and sanitation continues to be contested within the context of a global competition for scarce water resources. We are concerned that a development agenda that is not explicitly committed to upholding this vital human right may end up undermining it.