28/07/20Global Issues 

10 Years of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation

Celebrating 10 years of the Human Right To Water and Sanitation


Today is definitely a day to celebrate and to thank everyone who is involved in making these human rights a reality for people across the world. The collective efforts over many years has meant an increasing number of people have access to an affordable, safe, consistent and adequate supply of water, and more and more people have gained access to safe sanitation solutions.


The recognition of the rights to safe and clean drinking water as a fundamental right by the UN General Assembly was a fundamental step forward towards strong political commitment at international level.


Indeed, Aquafed was created in 2006 to be an active supporter of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, calling for its implementation, building on our members’ efforts since the late 1990s to help clarify this very important framework of human rights with insights from the operational side.


But of course, there is still so much more we all have to do, as billions still do not have these rights guaranteed nor implemented. This problem can only be solved with States taking responsibility and ownership, and tasking stakeholders to work far more collaboratively to share and combine expertise for the good of people and society.


Private water operators provide water and sanitation services to around 10% of the world’s population. We play our part, along with all other stakeholders to deliver these human rights. Aquafed’s members work across the world, under contract and instruction from local authorities, helping them to ensure the realization of these human rights every day. Our members propose practical, efficient, innovative and technical solutions to make access to water and sanitation possible for all.


In particular, we call for good local governance that promotes the inclusion of financial institutions, the private sector, civil society and the most water-intensive sectors, such as energy, agriculture and industry, in the development of local projects and policies.


Ensuring the rights to water and sanitation also means better conservation and protection of the resource. The situation is becoming more worrying every year: in terms of quality, water quality continues to deteriorate and pollutions multiply. Quantitatively, water shortages are developing as a result of climate change, intensifying conflicts of use. Finally, the Covid-19 crisis reminds the world about the essential importance of water to protect human health and of safe sanitation as well.


In general, these health, environmental and economic crises are accelerating awareness of the importance of continuity of water and sanitation services in their essential functions. Our members are committed to the continuity of service and their resilience and responsiveness allows them to anticipate the implementation of all the necessary provisions to ensure continuity of service. 


The bulk of expenditure in water and sanitation are via supplies such as pipes, construction and all sorts of services and consulting. Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are just one of many types of private sector participation, and a public-private interface brings transparency to improve the situation towards the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation, under close control by the public authorities.


We have set out various examples of how our members are fulfilling each of the criteria, in our response to the Special Rapporteur’s study on privatisation. These are experiences from international companies in big cities and small local businesses in peri-urban and rural areas. Overall, private water operators offer specific skills, for example cutting-edge technology and innovation capabilities, agility, customer centricity and experience in human resources and change management, thus enhancing the long-term sustainability of utilities.


Today is a day to celebrate and we join our Members, but also our many partners from civil society, but also from networks like UN-Water and the World Water Council (just to name but a few), in marking this anniversary.