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UN to Consider Recognizing Clean Water as Human Rights Issue


In two weeks the Human Rights Council will make a decision on whether to legally recognize water and sanitation as a human rights issue. Civil society organizations warned Friday that the lives of billions of people are at risk if governments do not act now.

If the Council passes the resolution on water and sanitation activists say it would transform the lives of the world's poor.

According to the United Nations, over two billion people live without sanitation and over 800 million without access to safe water.

"The fact that water and sanitation are not considered human rights alongside others - such as the right to food, right to education - is a travesty," said Danielle Morley, Executive Secretary of the Freshwater Action Network.

She says if the resolution is passed the human rights system will help people hold their governments to account.

"If the resolution gets adopted by the Human Rights Council, then it means that the right to water and sanitation can be mainstreamed throughout the human rights system, through regional treaties as well as U.N. Conventions which then means that the ability of citizens - or all people, not only citizens - to hold their governments to account, is greatly strengthened," she said.

The decision is to be made on the 23rd of September. On Monday the negotiation process will begin with a draft resolution.

Activists are calling on all governments to support the resolution. So far some countries in Europe and across the developing world, including China and India, have shown support.

Marie-Laure Vercambre from Green Cross International says many African countries have also supported the resolution. She says they must use the coming weeks to argue their case.

"They are really really mobilized in trying to provide access to water and sanitation to their constituencies, to their people," she said. "And they really have to stand for it and to actually convey to the developed world that it is important that the North and the South work together."

According to the United Nations 1.5 million children under five years old die each year as a result of water- and sanitation-related diseases.

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