The United Nations General Assembly Declares Access to Clean Water and Sanitation is a Human Right


"Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights," the General Assembly declared on July 28 2010. The declaration expresses deep concern that almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water.



Child carrying water in Burkino Faso Photo from Horizon International TV program "Burkina-be: People with a Future" available at

"Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights," the General Assembly declared on July 28 2010. The declaration expresses deep concern that almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water.


The 192-member Assembly also called on United Nations Member States and international organizations to offer funding, technology and other resources to help poorer countries scale up their efforts to provide clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone.

The Assembly resolution received 122 votes in favor and zero votes against, while 41 countries abstained from voting.

The text of the resolution expresses deep concern that an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and a total of more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Studies also indicate about 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year and 443 million school days are lost because of water- and sanitation-related diseases.

The resolution also welcomed the UN Human Rights Council’s request that Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, report annually to the General Assembly as well.

Ms. de Albuquerque’s report will focus on the principal challenges to achieving the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, as well as on progress towards the relevant Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs, a series of targets for reducing social and economic ills, all by 2015, includes the goals of halving the proportion of people who cannot reach or afford safe drinking water and halving the number who do not have basic sanitation.

In a related development, Ms. de Albuquerque issued a statement today after wrapping up a nine-day official visit to Japan in which she praised the country for its nearly universal access to water and sanitation and for its use of innovative technologies to promote hygiene and treat wastewater.

But the Independent Expert said she was shocked that some members of the Utoro community near Kyoto, where Koreans have been living for several generations, still do not have access to water from the public network.

“People are also not connected to the sewage network, despite the fact that the surrounding area is largely covered by sewage service,” she said. “When floods occur, as happened one year ago, the lack of sewage and proper evacuation of grey water result in contamination of the environment, including with human faeces, posing serious health concerns.

“I am also worried that water and sanitation are extremely expensive for some people living in Utoro, who reportedly do not have a right to receive a pension.”

This news is from UN News, 28 July 2010 

See related articles on the Horizon Solutions Site under the categories "Water" and "Sanitation."


Note: Forthcoming Publication

“Water and Sanitation Related Diseases and the Environment: Challenges, Interventions and Preventive Measures,” a John Wiley & Sons, Inc. - Horizon International Co-Branded Project, will soon be available.  The print copy of the book will be accompanied by a multimedia DVD.

Special Web sites established by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and by the Horizon Solutions Site at will present the electronic version of the book, the DVD and other Supplementary Material.  

Written by authorities from the fields of public health, medicine, epidemiology, environmental health, climate change, environmental engineering, and population research, this book presents an interdisciplinary picture of the conditions responsible for water and sanitation-related diseases, the pathogens and their biology, morbidity and mortality resulting from lack of safe water and sanitation, distribution of these diseases and the conditions that must be met to reduce or eradicate them.

The publication covers access to and maintenance of clean water, and guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater and examples of solutions, but with an emphasis on what is achievable considering that 2.6 billion individuals have no toilet and 1.2 billion people are exposed to water-related illness from their drinking water.

Meeting water and sanitation needs coupled with protection of the environment and prevention of pollutants is essential to every effort to improve the health and living conditions of billions of people.  Meeting these needs is fundamental not only to effectively diminish incidence of diseases that afflict a third or more of the people of the world, but also to improve education and economic well-being and elevate billions of individuals out of vicious cycles of poverty.

Preventive measures and solutions provide guidance for possible action on the local, national and international levels.

 Watch for announcements of the

publication date and availability.

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