In the run-up to France’s municipal elections, Coalition Eau and numerous partners are launching a campaign titled “Water is a right” to mobilise the government and elected representatives to address persisting challenges related to water and sanitation access in France and worldwide.
In 2015, France committed internationally to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations to “ensure universal access to water and effective management of water resources” (SDG 6). Yet, 10 years after the United Nations recognised the human right to drinking water and sanitation, and 5 years after the adoption of the SDGs, huge challenges remain.
Today, 2.2 billion people around the world still have no access to safe water and 4.2 billion people have no safe sanitation facilities. Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and lack of hygiene have substantial consequences on health, education, gender equality, the economy and the environment. Every day, almost 800 children under five die from diarrhoea due to inadequate access to sanitation.
FRANCE IS LAGGING BEHIND
In mainland France 1.4 million people still have no access to safe water and 7.5 million people do not have safe sanitation facilities (according to WHO/UNICEF’s 2019 JMP report). In French overseas departments and territories, the figures are even more alarming with rates of access sometimes similar to those in in some developing countries.
The price of water is also an issue: almost one million French households have difficulty paying their water bills. Bills must not be an obstacle for access to water and sanitation. To be affordable, the bill should not exceed 3% of a household’s income. Excessive prices can push people into poverty or extreme precariousness.
CHANGE IS URGENTLY NEEDED
We have 10 years left to achieve the extremely ambitious yet vital goal of universal sustainable access to drinking water. Without a rapid change of political direction and increased funding for the sector, this goal will remain unachievable.
Given this alarming observation, Coalition Eau (a network of French NGOs committed to access to water and sanitation for all) and its partner associations are launching a collective mobilisation campaign that will appeal to public authorities and local elected representatives to make 2020 a landmark year for the human right to water and sanitation in France and internationally.
FRANCE HAS AN ESSENTIAL ROLE TO PLAY
France can play a defining role in ensuring this essential service will be universally accessible and affordable, including for the most disadvantaged people, in its entire territory (mainland and overseas). The French state must:
- recognise and effectively implement the human right to water and sanitation
- adopt measures at national level to ensure fair pricing of water
- support local authorities to build water and sanitation infrastructure in all parts of France
- better equip state services to support local stakeholders in overseas territories with a view to increasing their skills for water and sanitation service management
France also has a role to play internationally by:
- returning to its position as a country that champions international solidarity for water through stronger political determination and Official Development Assistance (ODA)
- increasing budgetary credits so that 0.55% of Gross National Income (GNI) is allocated to the Official Development Assistance mission by 2022
- rebalancing the breakdown of donations/loans for drinking water and sanitation
- improving the effectiveness of development assistance and priority targeting of the most marginalised groups
- strong political leadership and transparent monitoring of France’s new international strategy for water and sanitation
STRENGTHENING LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Local authorities are key stakeholders as they are responsible for their constituents’ water and sanitation services (supply will be transferred to groupings of communes and urban communities under the French NOTRe law). Local authority action is conducive to developing strong measures for universal, sustainable, permanent, physical and affordable access to water and sanitation, both in their territory and as part of decentralised cooperation.
Local authorities also have a capacity to mobilise and initiate dialogue with all stakeholders – people, associations, companies/engineering consultants, universities, etc. – in their territory for appropriate sustainable solutions.
PROPOSALS FOR AMBITIOUS COMMITMENTS AT TERRITORIAL LEVEL
“Water is a right” campaign partners call on candidates in the French 2020 municipal elections to commit to:
- A permanent and affordable right to drinking water and sanitation for all people in their territory, guaranteeing affordable water and sanitation prices, public water and sanitation infrastructure for marginalised groups and populations not connected to the network, and strengthening mechanisms for participation.
- Decentralised cooperation in the water and sanitation sector with local authorities in low-income countries, strengthening local authority funding for decentralised water and sanitation solidarity, civic participation and a partnership approach.
For more information on the campaign and the full messages, visit the campaign website: www.leauestundroit.fr