Key global issues AquaFed is working on currently include the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; transparency and integrity; and climate change.
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1/ The Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation - Key contributions
Since its creation, AquaFed has been an active supporter of the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. This is reflected in its Code of Ethics and in public commitments made by Private Water Operators (link to video).
Private Water Operators’ core business is to contribute every day to the implementation of these rights.
When defining the content of these rights in international law in 2010, the United Nations have ruled that private operation of public water services is an option that responsible water authorities can use to meet their obligations.
In 2015, the United Nations explicitly recognized the human right to sanitation as a right in itself (OHCHR) pointing out that over 2,5 Billion people still lack access to improved sanitation and over 1 Billion people practice open defecation. (see also)
AquaFed fully endorses the recognition of these human rights and calls for their urgent implementation for all individuals. This requires appropriate organisation, allocation of means to relevant public bodies and pertinent instructions to their water operators.
“The core business of most private water operators is the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation to populations in accordance with the mandates are given by public authorities. The Federation encourages its members to engage with public authorities to help and enable them to promote, fulfil and protect the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation of their populations.”
Three steps are necessary for the right to water to be implemented locally:
Private operators have contributed to the definition of the Right to safe drinking water and sanitation. To be meaningful to people who need water, this Right must be more than an idealistic or ideological construct. It has to be clearly defined, the parties' obligations must be precise, and it must be practical so that it can be delivered on the ground.
Private water operators have played a constructive role in the work of the UN Human Rights Council over the last 10 years to ensure this outcome. In particular, they brought the attention of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights the lack of practical content of the Right to Sanitation in the General Comment 15 to the International Covenant on Economical, Social and Cultural Rights (url), the reference document that defines the normative content of the Right to Water and Sanitation. This resulted in a specific report on the Right to sanitation by the Independent Expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.
Since 2006, Aquafed has been an active supporter of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. calling for its implementation, building upon the efforts from member companies that have tried since the late nineties to help clarify this very important framework of human rights with insights from the operational side.
AquaFed and its members have pioneered the position of the Business & Industry “major group” in the UN debates. In 2005 this major group supported the Right to water in the 13th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. In 2008, the Business group continued on the same line in the 16th session of the UN-CSD making “suggestions that go in the direction of acceleration and ambition: strong and clear recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation”. Then the same group declared in the 5th World Water Forum in 2009 that “the right to water is important, but what is even more important is its practical implementation in the field.”
Key contributions from recent years (a full list is available at the bottom of the page) of AquaFed to the development and clarification of the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation include:
In 2016: Joint contribution to the Special Rapporteur’s enquiry on gender equality with the Women for Water Partnership (pdf)
in 2016 submission to the Special Rapporteur’s enquiry on development assistance (pdf)
In 2010: 2010 - contributions to the report on the role of Non-State Actors, including the private sector (PDF links: * Introduction; * Contribution of Private Water Operators to the Right to Water and Sanitation; * The Roles of Government; * Bibliography; * Avoiding Misconceptions; *Synthesis)
The advocacy work of AquaFed during the period 2005-2010 is presented in a long list with some important quotations highlighted. (pdf). See also section below that lists a chronological overview of the Federation's activities.
2/ Transparency & Integrity
AquaFed, on behalf of its members, commits to engage constructively with governments and public authorities to contribute to the delivery of good quality water and sanitation services and to solving local and global water challenges.
These commitments form part of the Federation Code of Ethics. “promoting integrity and ethical practices in every aspect of water services: in particular supporting and respecting international human rights and labour rights within their sphere of influence; and banning any kind of corrupt trading practices.”
Further commitments, made during the World Water Forum in Marseille in 2012, include:
AquaFed is a founding member of the Water Integrity Network (WIN). The Federation also encourages its members to meet the United Nations Global Compact standards of behaviour.
3/ Private Operators and Climate Change
Changes in climate and the continuous increase of global population have a great impact on fresh water resources. Whereas water resources are expected to become increasingly scarce in the future; cities and populations also face increasing risk of floods and extreme weather events. The United Nations stressed the importance to address challenges driven by climate changes in the 2030 Agenda. Water also became a high political priority in the COP21 discussions in Paris in 2015.
These challenges require education on water use and conservation; as well as more efficient management of resources.More robust degrees of resiliency need to be build in for the future-proofing of water infrastructure.
Whatever the nature and the speed of climate changes, these have a huge impact on the quality and the quantity of fresh water resources, which is crucial to human development and activities, in a context of a global rise of the world’s population from the present 6.5 billion to 8.9 billion by 2050.
Considering that approximately 98% of the water available on earth is salty and only 2% is fresh, changes in climate has a direct effect on these proportions, at the expense of available fresh water resources:
It is quite difficult to assess with precision these consequences for the future water supplies, as models are quite different and adapted for specific regions. However, experts estimate that around one billion people in dry regions, particularly in Africa, may face increasing water scarcity . On the other hand, climate changes increase the risk of unexpected and extreme weather events. For instance, experts said that frequency of flooding across Europe may double by 2050 .
In this context, AquaFed strongly supports recent positions of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, who both called for addressing climate change as priority within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Authorities and water operators are already proposing appropriate solutions to manage risks due to climate changes:
4/ AquaFed's work on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation - Chronological overview
To be meaningful to people who need water, the Human Rights to Safe Water and Sanitation must be more than an idealistic concept. Governments must ensure progressively that the Rights are effective for all individuals. AquaFed aims at bridging the gap between human rights’ specialists and water professionals, explaining the content of the Right and its consequences to water supply and sanitation activities to many constituencies. A few highlights from throughout the years:
Our case studies on