09/09/20Global Issues 

Our response to Heller's privatisation report

AquaFed's comments on the report on the privatization of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

download our report in EN/FR

September 7, 2020


AquaFed and its members were early promoters of the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation (HRtWS) and the Sustainable Development Goals 6.1 and 6.2 long before their formal adoption by the UN.

We are proud to be chosen by visionary Duty bearers and their Municipalities, as a means to enhance the delivery of services under their tight control. Our experience from all over the world is that strong governance and transparency are the fundamentals for achieving these human rights for all, regardless of whether the operator is public or private.


The report in itself provides nothing new, as the Special Rapporteur has a track record of strong opposition to any private sector involvement in water and sanitation.


There are nevertheless three good points related to this report and the responses to the Special Rapporteur’s study:


  • The chairman of the  OECD Water Governance Initiative’s (OECD-WGI) contribution to the report  clarifies that “the critical question underlying the achievement of the human right to water and sanitation is not whether service delivery should be publicly or privately managed, but “what to do to ensure universal coverage for all ?”, “who does what?”, “why?”, “at which level of government?” and “how?”.  These questions are founding elements to progress on the HRtWS.
  • This is also the key message from all the 18 States that responded to the study, some of whom added they intend to increase the private sector participation to contribute to the HRtWS.
  • Finally, the Municipalities who rely on private operators for some tasks (whose views are absent from the report) commonly practice the strategic analysis of progress of needs, the market awarding procedures, contract settings, and execution overview, that the Special Rapporteur calls for in his conclusion. 


If all Duty Bearers and all municipalities commit to debate publicly such foundational questions, to use the UN and OECD governance and public purchase principles, and to respect the freedom of organisation of States, the realisation of the human right to water and sanitation and the SDG obligations, in particular 6.1 and 6.2. are within reach.