UN Special Rapporteur Reports on Displaced Persons’ Access to Drinking Water and Sanitation
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Special Rapporteur Léo Heller presented the report to a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland, along with two country reports on India and Mongolia.

The report on access to safe drinking water and sanitation highlights the situation of forcibly displaced persons from a human rights perspective, based on the principles of participation, equality and non-discrimination, sustainability, progressive realization, and access to remedies.

Heller’s report on Mongolia notes the challenges of extreme weather for maintaining water and sewage pipes, and of rapid urbanization that has created high demand for water and sanitation services.

Special Rapporteur’s recommendations on India include promoting consistency of laws and policies across the country with regard to water and sanitation, clarifying the roles of institutional actors at all levels of government, and establishing an independent regulatory body to monitor implementation.

10 September 2018: Governments and humanitarian agencies should ensure the human rights of forcibly displaced persons in areas beyond refugee camps, and for protracted periods, according to a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. The report calls for enabling participation by the intended beneficiaries of projects, and for humanitarian aid to focus on achieving minimum levels of water and sanitation access by the most vulnerable.

Special Rapporteur Léo Heller presented the report to a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland, along with two country reports on India and Mongolia.

The report on access to safe drinking water and sanitation highlights the situation of forcibly displaced persons from a human rights perspective, based on the principles of participation, equality and non-discrimination, sustainability, progressive realization, and access to remedies. The report notes that, while humanitarian aid to displaced persons focuses on refugee camps, most live outside such camps, often in informal settlements that lack basic services. The Special Rapporteur expresses concern at the focus of humanitarian aid on “life-saving” measures that do not incorporate steps towards improvement from the minimum essential level. He defines the principle of “progressive realization” as taking deliberate, concrete, and targeted steps to the maximum extent of available resources. He also calls for prioritizing aid to realize the human rights to water and sanitation by forcibly displaced persons, developing a multi-year programming and financing plan for providing such access, placing greater emphasis on accountability, and providing funds for research into displaced persons’ access to water and sanitation.

SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2 for “safely managed” water and sanitation services have created a higher benchmark than the one set by the MDGs.

Heller visited Mongolia from 9-20 April 2018 to examine access issues for people in urban and rural areas, including the nomadic population. His report notes the challenges of extreme weather for maintaining water and sewage pipes, and of rapid urbanization that has created high demand for water and sanitation services. While commending efforts by the Government of Mongolia, donors, and international agencies, he notes that SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2 for “safely managed” water and sanitation services have created a higher benchmark than the one set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and greater efforts will be needed. Among his many recommendations, he calls for aligning Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Vision 2030 on water and sanitation with SDG targets 6.1 (safe drinking water) and 6.2 (sanitation), and increasing the proportion of grants as opposed to loans in development aid for water and sanitation, especially for the population living in traditional ger (tent) housing.

Heller visited India from 27 October to 10 November 2017. His report notes the complexity of assessing the national situation, and the diverging views presented by national government, local government, and civil society at various locations. He recommends promoting consistency of laws and policies across India with regard to water and sanitation, clarifying the roles of institutional actors at all levels of government, establishing an independent regulatory body to monitor implementation, and guaranteeing access to water and sanitation facilities in public places for those on the move, such as homeless persons, street vendors, rickshaw drivers, and seasonal migrant workers. He cautions that efforts to eliminate open defecation should avoid aggressive and abusive practices such as coercion, shaming, violence or punishment. He calls for making human rights impact assessments a requirement for all megaprojects, including the construction of hydropower dams.

The Special Rapporteur presented his reports at an interactive session in Geneva on 10 September. Member States affirmed the rights of all forcibly displaced persons to drinking water and sanitation, and urged all actors involved in providing such services to guarantee access, in accordance with SDG 6.

The Human Rights Council is holding its 39th session from 10-28 September 2018. Other issues being discussed at the session include the right to privacy, the rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of minorities, and children’s rights. [Special Rapporteur’s Report on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation] [Special Rapporteur’s Country Report on Mongolia] [Special Rapporteur’s Country Report on India] [OHCHR Press Release on Interactive Dialogue] [OHCHR Web Page on 39th Session of the Human Rights Council]

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