COVID Human Rights Evite

Ten years of the human rights to water and sanitation: A transformative pathway for the SDGs and COVID-19 response

  • Online Event
  • human rights
  • COVID-19

In 2020, the international community marks the ten-year anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s recognition of water and sanitation as universal human rights. As governments, donors and civil society gather virtually for the annual check-in on sustainable development progress at the UN High Level Political Forum, the global COVID-19 pandemic threatens catastrophic impacts on health systems and economies worldwide. Already before the virus started to spread, three billion people globally lacked soap and water at home, and almost half of healthcare facilities (43%) lacked basic hand hygiene facilities at points of care. COVID-19 is exacerbating existing inequalities and will likely increase disparities in access to basic services, particularly for people living in poverty or facing discrimination. Stopping the pandemic and minimizing its lethal impact will rely in part on delivering adequate support for the provision of vital water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, particularly through handwashing with soap, prioritising the poorest and most marginalised. International recognition of – and recommitment to – the human rights to water and sanitation is an urgent global priority.

Urgent collective action to finance and implement extension of WASH services in households, schools, healthcare facilities, and public spaces will serve as a ‘transformative pathway’ for the 2030 Agenda, and for global efforts to respond to and recover from COVID-19. Just ten years remain to achieve universal access to water and sanitation (SDG6), and ensuring access to water and sanitation to all – as a public service and a right – is fundamental to ‘leave no one behind’ in realising this vision by 2030. In the moment of reset offered by COVID-19 for both public health and the global economy, the international human rights to water and sanitation can be a powerful source of inspiration gravely needed to spur action towards sustainable development.

Tentative programme

Opening remarks

  • Permanent Mission of Spain to the UN
  • Pamela Chisanga, Country Director, WaterAid Zambia (moderator)

Framing the 10-year anniversary of the human rights to water and sanitation

  • Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation

The sanitation and hygiene crisis in times of COVID-19 – role and ambitions of the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund

  • Sue Coates, Executive Director a.i., WSSCC

Panel and discussion (confirmed)

3-5 minutes introductory remarks per speaker, followed by discussion

  • Nigeria

Temple Oraeki, WASH Advocate

  • El Salvador

Sandra Carolina Ascencio, Human Rights Defender

  • Zambia

TBC, Ministry of National Planning (lead ministry of Zambia’s VNR)

  • Palestine

Fuad Bateh, Water Advisor and International Consultant

  • The Sahel

Justin Koffi, Regional Coordinator, UNFPA-World Bank Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project

A human rights framework for COVID-19 with WASH at the centre

  • Joseph Whittal, Commissioner on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Ghana
  • Sanitation workers in India – claiming their rights in the time of COVID-19 (video)
  • Mihir Mankad, Center for Economic and Social Rights

Closing remarks

  • Al-hassan Adam, International Coordinator, End Water Poverty
  • EU DEVCO (invited)
  • Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN

Join governments, development agencies, international NGOs, civil society, faith-based organisations and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation to shape a collective vision for universal access to affordable and safe WASH services. The discussion will focus on both the Decade of Action for the SDGs and the COVID-19 crisis (both the immediate health response and a vision for a healthy, green and just economic recovery). Spotlighting rights-based advocacy in Zambia, Nigeria, and El Salvador, speakers will outline recommendations to ensure access to WASH for everyone, everywhere. Speakers will celebrate ten years of recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation and strategize around an action agenda for the next decade, and the subsequent mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Linking to official HLPF discussions on human wellbeing and leaving no one behind, the event will chart the course for WASH as a transformative pathway towards a decade of urgent, transformative action to achieve the SDGs.

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