‘Positive about our future!’

by | Sep 23, 2015 | News


Léo Heller, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, talks to End Water Poverty and launches new report

Ahead of the adoption of the global goals at the end of this week, End Water Poverty and EWP member, WaterAid, were lucky enough recently to have a visit with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, Léo Heller. The Special Rapporteur is mandated to focus on the elimination of inequalities and the realisation of the human right to water and sanitation. This was a great opportunity to learn of the Special Rapporteur’s upcoming plans, and discuss how we can strengthen the WASH sector work and achievements, particularly given the new development framework for the next 15 years.

This is a critical time for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and for realising the human right to water and sanitation. There are a number of new windows of opportunities that are now becoming available to really push for the prioritisation of WASH; now is the time we have to work together if we are to see the change we want in the world.

Image taken from Twitter @EndWaterPoverty

“The setting of the 17 goals has been an incredible achievement, but particularly for our sector; really pushing the critical importance of water, sanitation and hygiene in development and improving the lives of so many around the world. Now it is time to move towards developing national level implementation plans, particularly with a strong monitoring focus, to ensure we see the change we want. Through the framing of inequalities and exploring the essential issue of affordability, we will be able to ensure no one is left behind.” – Léo Heller, 14 September 2015

Heller went on to state that statistics don’t always reflect the true reality on the ground. Yes, we achieved the Millennium Development Goals on access to water, but the reality of what that means is still very different, as statistics don’t look at water quality, quantity, gender inequalities and implications. He emphasised that we have to look further to ensure that we are not perpetuating the problems and reinforcing inequalities.

Heller felt development worked best when governments and citizens are empowered, so produces regular reports from the Special Rapporteur which aim to examine key cross-cutting issues and themes within the WASH sector, such as gender and inequalities. Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council, and the UN General Assembly, the most recent report by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation now available; this report focuses on the issues of affordability of water and sanitation services, an often overlooked issue. The report defines affordability from the perspective of human rights, as affordability is an essential element in providing WASH to all, especially in a sustainable, long term manner. The report to the General Assembly provides an overview of the human rights framework for water, sanitation and hygiene, describing the relevant human rights standards and principles that serve to assess different levels and types of services.

Download the Special rapportuer WATSAN report on affordability

“The global goals will give us a strong framework to achieve a high standard of access for all, and an effective commitment to implement and realise the human right to water and sanitation. We have to change the way we progress in the future. We have to close the gaps.” – Léo Heller

Heller was very positive about the new development framework, and reinforced EWP’s core belief; that now more than ever, it is essential that we all work together to achieve the change we want to see.

All other reports are available on the website of the Special Rapporteur.