ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON HAZARDOUS WASTES AND ON SAFE DRINKING WATER AND SANITATION

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON HAZARDOUS WASTES AND ON SAFE DRINKING WATER AND SANITATION
Foreign Minister of Georgia Addresses the Council
11 September 2013

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, and the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.  The Council also concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination and the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.

Maia Panjikidze, Foreign Minister of Georgia, addressed the Council, saying that the Government’s priorities included empowerment of women, the promotion of gender equality and the protection of the rights of the child.  Georgia had made a remarkable breakthrough in fighting corruption.  The Government was making significant efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law.  While Georgia remained committed to the instruments of the Council, such as the Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review, the behaviour of the Russian Federation had damaged the universality and impartiality of these processes.  Its continued occupation of parts of Georgia amounted to a violation of human rights which required the attention of the Council.

Marc Pallemaerts, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, said his report focused on a scoping exercise consisting of a broad analysis of relevant environmental and public health legislation and regulation in force at the global, regional and national level with respect to the management of hazardous substances and wastes all along their life-cycle.  The report identified some 15 different activities and life-cycle stages of chemicals which were subject to some form of regulation at the national and international level.  One of the challenges faced would be to ensure human rights considerations were duly taken into account in the future development of regulation in this field. 

Catarina de Albuquerque, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, said her thematic report addressed the issue of sustainability and non-retrogression in the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation.  Ms. de Albuquerque noted that the monitoring framework of the relevant Millennium Development Goal failed to stress sustainability in access to water and sanitation.  She urged this to be corrected in the post-2015 development agenda.  The Special Rapporteur also reported on her country visits to Tuvalu, Kiribati and Thailand.
 
In the clustered interactive dialogue, many States praised the work of Ms. de Albuquerque for deepening the understanding of the relationship between development, human rights and sustainability.  As she entered the last year of her mandate, speakers whose countries had benefitted from her previous work recalled its usefulness by mentioning reforms they had undertaken.  The importance of adjusting the means of realizing the right to safe drinking water and sanitation in the post-2015 development agenda was underlined by many States.

In responding to the progress report by Mr. Pallemaerts, some speakers expressed misgivings about the terms of his mandate, while others welcomed the rights-based approach to environmental dangers.  Many speakers recalled the measures that their own Governments had taken to reduce the dangers of hazardous substances and wastes. 

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Gabon, Paraguay, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, European Union, Brazil, Spain, Morocco, Malaysia, Pakistan, Germany, Angola, Sierra Leone, India, Latvia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, United States, Slovenia, China, Norway, Cuba on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, Nigeria, Romania, Togo, Djibouti, Egypt, Portugal, the Netherlands, United Nations Children's Fund, Switzerland, France, South Africa, Algeria, Indonesia, Palestine, Guatemala, Republic of Moldova, Uruguay, Venezuela, Maldives, Cuba, New Zealand, Kuwait, Benin, Saudi Arabia and Bolivia.

Franciscans International, Amnesty International, World Barua Organization, Human Rights Now, Südwind and UN Watch also spoke in the interactive dialogue.

Hungary and Thailand spoke as concerned countries.

Earlier this afternoon, in concluding the clustered interactive dialogue with the
the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination and the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, non-governmental organizations expressed support for the mandate of the Independent Expert, Alfred de Zayas, and welcomed his remarks about the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples in the furtherance of democracy.  

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were the Indian Council of South America, International Organization on the Right to Education and Freedom of Education, Sudwind and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.

In concluding remarks, Mr. de Zayas said that he was confident of the value of his mandate and that his recommendations were pragmatic.  For example, the great success of the Universal Periodic Review showed that a peer review process could be replicated with other institutions.  Many concerns expressed were not related to the report but the resolution establishing the mandate. 

Mr. de Zayas and Anton Katz, the Chairperson of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, presented their reports to the Council on 10 September, and a summary of their statements and the start of the interactive dialogue can be found here.

The Human Rights Council will meet on Thursday, 12 September at 10 a.m. to hold its annual discussion on gender integration.

Statement by the Foreign Minister of Georgia

MAIA PANJIKIDZE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, began her speech by paying tribute to all victims of the tragic events of 11 September 2001, and expressing sympathy towards their families, on the twelfth anniversary of the attacks in New York.  The Foreign Minister said that unfortunately the world was witnessing a dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian situations in many parts of the world, including in Syria.  Georgia condemned the violence against civilians in Syria and deplored the deaths of more than 100,000 people.  Georgia supported the readiness of the international community to play an active role in resolving the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and had responded to the urgent appeal by Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs by making a modest contribution to the humanitarian cause.

Turning to its domestic situation, the Foreign Minister said Georgia was fully aware of its responsibility to its own citizens, and had launched various reforms, such as strengthening its independence of the Prosecution Service to ensure impartiality and objectivity.  The Government’s priorities included empowerment of women, the promotion of gender equality and the protection of the rights of the child.  Georgia had made a remarkable breakthrough in fighting corruption.  The Government was making significant efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law.  The Foreign Minister said that Georgia believed it had solid grounds to seek membership of the Human Rights Council for the 2016 to 2018 term.  Georgia continued its close cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  It attached high importance to the work of special procedures and cooperated with mandate holders.  A number of special representatives had visited Georgia. 

Georgia was strongly committed to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.  It shared concerns about recent developments during the course of Russia’s second review cycle, which had severely damaged the universal and objective principles of the process.  The Foreign Minister said that the situation in the two regions of Georgia currently under Russian occupation was critical.  Despite concerns raised by the relevant United Nations agencies, the local residents of Georgia’s occupied regions continued to be deprived of minimal safeguards for their basic rights and freedoms.  The only durable solution was to fully and unconditionally ensure the right of internally displaced persons to return to the places of their origin in safety and dignity.  The Government was seriously concerned about the increased tendency of illegal detentions for crossing the occupation line.  Local residents had found themselves completely deprived of their civil and economic rights.  Such alarming developments compelled the local population to flee their homes to join the ranks of several hundred internally displaced persons.  The ongoing violations in Georgia’s occupied regions and adjacent areas required the Council’s immediate attention and urgent measures.

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries and the Independent Expert on an Equitable International Order

Indian Council of South America called upon States and the Human Rights Council to support the important recommendations of the Independent Expert on a democratic and equitable international order in his report at the twenty-fourth session, and lodged a diplomatic protest against the violations of the right to self-determination of the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska, Hawaii and for other peoples vested with the right. 

International Organization on the Right to Education and Freedom of Education, speaking in a joint statement, highlighted the importance of the mandate of the Independent Expert on an Equitable International Order and congratulated him for the focus on participation in the report; without this it was not possible to have a veritable democracy.  Democracy was important for promoting concrete solutions to societies and freedom of conscience was a crucial part of a democratic order.  Democracy did not entail the imposition of the majority, but rather respect for all components of society.

Sudwind was pleased that the mandate of the Independent Expert had been created and hoped that it would contribute to holding fair elections around the world.  The political will of the authorities was fundamental to move towards democracy.  In some countries there was no accountability for the Head of the State.  Iran was one of the countries that did not accept international observers in elections.   

International Association of Democratic Lawyers thanked the Independent Expert for the report and expressed support for many of its conclusions and recommendations, in particular the recommendations for States to fulfil the obligations contained in Art. 2, paragraph 3, of the United Nations Charter.  It was important that States desisted from unilateral measures, which were by nature incompatible with a democratic international order.  Democratising media and guaranteeing access to plural and verifiable information was also important.

Concluding Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order

ALFRED DE ZAYAS, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, in concluding remarks, thanked States and civil society for their constructive criticism.  He was convinced of the mandate’s added value and perceived it as a challenge to persuade those that had doubts that it could and would contribute to a convergence of human rights.  Regarding concerns expressed on the issue of self-determination, this right was anchored in the United Nations Charter and in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The importance of the universality of the Universal Periodic Review process had been highlighted.  One of the great achievements of the Council was the acceptance of peer review by all States and the benefits that arose from this dialogue.  A democratic international order needed this dialogue.  It was proposed in the report that more space be given to civil society.  Calls for greater participation by women, minorities, indigenous and non-represented peoples were encouraged.  Reform was a condition of stability.  It was evident that when the Security Council found itself in a gridlock, the General Assembly should take on the challenge and help it bridge the impasse.  To achieve a more equitable international order, it appeared sensible to look into demanding better accountability and transparency from world financial and trade institutions.  The Council could look at the possibility of expanding the Universal Periodic Review process to include review of such bodies also.  Many concerns expressed were not related to the report but the resolution establishing the mandate.  This lack of consensus was understood, but if they all made efforts to look outside the box, it would be seen that recommendations made in the report had in one way or another been proposed by other mandate-holders.  The Independent Expert’s independence and commitment was assured of. 

Anton Katz, Chair of the Working Group on Mercenaries, was not able to make a closing statement as he had to leave Geneva on 10 September.  He and Mr.de Zayas presented their reports on 10 September, and a summary of the presentations and the first part of the interactive dialogue can be found here.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes (A/HRC/24/39); an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur concerning his mission to Hungary (4-11 October 2012) (A/HRC/24/39/Add.1); and an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur concerning the comments by Hungary on the report (A/HRC/24/39/Add.2).

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque (A/HRC/24/44); an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur concerning her mission to Kiribati (23-26 July 2012)(HRC/24/44/Add.1); an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur concerning her mission to Tuvalu (17-19 July 2012) (HRC/24/44/Add.2); and an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur concerning her mission to Thailand (1-8 February 2013)(HRC/24/44/Add.3).
   
Presentation of the Reports by the Special Rapporteurs on Hazardous Wastes and on Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

MARC PALLEMAERTS, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, said that the mandate was a wide-ranging and ambitious one, covering a large number of substances and growing numbers of wastes and addressing a diversity of human rights issues, some of which fell within the scope of other mandates or special procedures.  The Special Rapporteur did not yet feel to be in a position, in this first progress report, to come up with specific proposals, recommendations and solutions to existing problems requiring immediate intervention.  The report focused on a scoping exercise consisting of a broad analysis of relevant environmental and public health legislation and regulation in force at the global, regional and national level with respect to the management of hazardous substances and wastes all along their life-cycle.  The report identified some 15 different activities and life-cycle stages of chemicals -from development and testing to final disposal - which were subject to some form of regulation at the national and international level.  The protection of human rights was never identified as a deliberate objective of chemical and waste management regulation, though existing regulation may contribute to achieving human rights objectives.  One of the challenges faced would be to ensure human rights considerations were duly taken into account in the future development of regulation in this field. 

In the information-gathering part of the mandate, country visits and input from stakeholders would play a crucial role.  Proper geographical balance in the choice of destination countries for visits would be strived for.  Whenever visiting a particular city or country, in consultation with the host Government or organization, the Special Rapporteur would seek to provide opportunities for all interested stakeholders to submit information that fell within the scope of the mandate, especially people in vulnerable situations including women and children, by organizing a public hearing.  Gathering of evidence and suggestions for the recommendations on best practices which were to be included in the final report to the Council would start in earnest, but the actual process of drafting the recommendations would only be initiated during the final year of the mandate, taking into account all the experience and evidence gathered during the course of work pursuant to the mandate.

Mr. Pallemaerts said his predecessor’s report on his country visit to Hungary touched on several aspects dealing with the issue of sound management of hazardous substances and wastes in the country but most notable was the focus of the visit on the impact of industrial accidents involving these dangerous substances.  The Government’s response to the Ajka incident of October 2010 had been assessed.  The Special Rapporteur commended efforts of the Hungarian Government to restore the land and property of the affected populations as well as the remediation of the environment but called for continued engagement by the Government with the communities visited and recommended that continued health and environmental monitoring was necessary to ensure the safety of these communities. 

CATARINA DE ALBUQUERQUE, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, introducing her reports to the Council, said that equality was not an automatic outcome of conventional development practice and inequality remained the biggest gap of the current global development agenda.  Ms. de Albuquerque said she had devoted attention to how to integrate the elimination of inequalities into the new emerging development framework, and contributed to the work to develop a practical tool to monitor the progress made in progressively eliminating inequalities in the usage of water and sanitation.  The tool was also applicable to other development sectors and compared progress in reduction in inequality between a range of groups towards the future goals and targets.  Ms. De Albuquerque urged all Member States to coordinate with their representatives in New York in order to ensure that human rights and equality were integrated in the post-2015 development agenda.

The thematic report addressed the issue of sustainability and non-retrogression in the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation.  Ms. de Albuquerque noted that the Millennium Development Goals’ monitoring framework, while calling for sustainable access to water and sanitation, failed to capture this crucial dimension and the goals were therefore providing an incentive for adopting quick solutions that may be unsustainable.  While retrogression could not always be avoided, the human rights framework required that States acted with care and deliberation, exercise due diligence to assess the impacts of their actions and omissions on the realisation of human rights, and adjust their policies and measures as soon as they became aware.  Sustainability was a fundamental human rights principle essential for realising the human rights to water and sanitation, and should be considered and integrated in the ongoing discussions on the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals.

Regarding her country missions, Ms. de Albuquerque said that despite the extremely challenging environment, Tuvalu had made progress in improving the situation of human rights to water and sanitation with assistance from the international community; however, the effects of climate change were increasing and would further increase its vulnerability.  Kiribati was facing enormous challenges in realising the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation due to its geographic and financial difficulties, aggravated by the adverse effects of climate change.  Kiribati had been working with the international community to improve its situation but it should take greater ownerships of efforts and support international donors.  Thailand had made enormous achievements in the last decades, particularly in the area of basic rural sanitation, but striking contrasts persisted across those who had benefitted from economic development and those left behind. 

Statements by Concerned Countries

Hungary, speaking as a concerned country, said that it had supplied the Special Rapporteur on environmentally sound management of hazardous substances and wastes with all the information he required to assess the country’s implementation of its obligations under international human rights law, with special focus on the “red sludge” disaster of October 2010.  Hungary committed itself to take heed of his recommendations and stood ready to share its expertise and best practices in safeguarding human rights while managing hazardous substances and responding to industrial accidents.  Hungary expressed strong support for the Special Rapporteur and wished him well in his mandate.

Thailand, speaking as a concerned country, said that it appreciated the visit of the Special Rapporteur for safe drinking water and sanitation, and agreed with her that the lack of clean water and sanitation was a threat to human rights.  Thailand took note of the findings of the report and would implement the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations.  Thailand was active in Asian water fora.  With regard to working with Special Rapporteurs, Thailand felt that country visits, while welcome, had to be more thoughtfully prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on Hazardous Wastes and on Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

Gabon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted with satisfaction the stress on sustainability in the report of the Special Rapporteur, which also highlighted the challenges faced by States, and hoped that the report would serve as the basis for further deliberation and a roadmap for States to keep to their commitments in this regard.  The African Group would have liked to hear references to objective constraints faced by a large number of countries, particularly in the African continent, such as bad weather.  The report on the human rights implications of the sound management of hazardous substances and wastes provided useful information about the approach of the Special Rapporteur and their capacity to undermine basic rights, such as those to water and health.  In the view of the African Group, a good practices guide would be a positive step forward.

Paraguay, noting the importance of sustainability in the delivery of water and sanitation services, said that often the lack of maintenance of infrastructure led to the destruction of facilities which caused reversals in the delivery of water and sanitation.  The concept of sustainability furthermore should consider the role of players affected by policies related to water and sanitation.  Paraguay called on countries to take into account elements mentioned by the Special Rapporteur so that investments in this field would be useful.  Access to safe drinking water and sanitation with a focus on affordability and equity should be an important component of the post-2015 development agenda.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, agreed with the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation on the importance of sustainability but could not negate the differences and development levels across the globe which required specific measures on the basis of available resources.  The links between development goals and human rights could not be overstressed.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation thanked Mr. Pallemaerts for presenting a preliminary report with regard to implications for human rights of environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes and looked forward to concrete recommendations in the future.

European Union said Mr. Pallemaerts had provided a useful overview but warned against overlap with other special procedures in his ongoing work.  Welcoming the work of Ms. de Albuquerque, the European Union said it agreed with her approach but asked about when the right to clean water and sanitation crossed over into the right to development in general, particularly in the run-up to the settlement of the post-2015 development agenda which was expected to enshrine the latter right.

Brazil welcomed Mr. Pallemaerts’ work and said that Brazil felt that he had presented a holistic understanding of the effects of the management of hazardous substances on human rights.  Brazil said that the work of Ms. de Albuquerque was highly relevant in the wake of the international financial crisis, adding that it was proud that it had been able to take measures such as reduced water tariffs for low-income households.  The Government of Brazil had not interrupted its investments in sanitation infrastructure.

Spain said Mr. Pallemaerts’ work was timely and thanked him for it but addressed most of its remarks toward the work of Ms. de Albuquerque.  The Special Rapporteur had provided vital leadership during the course of her mandate and she had invited interested parties to look anew at sustainability as a development concept and also a principle within human rights.  Spain welcomed her focus on the effect of austerity policies in Europe on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and addressed the policy and technological framework through which this right was pursued. 

Morocco welcomed Mr. Pallemaerts’ intention to organize consultations to produce a compilation of good practices with regard to hazardous waste management, which would require visits to countries with recognized experience in the area.  Morocco said that its Constitution recognized the right to water, and today 92 per cent of its population had access to safe drinking water.  The post-2015 development goals should include access to water and sanitation.  

Malaysia said that there was a need to reflect on the impact of hazardous substances on human beings in order to come up with a set of practical recommendations.  Malaysia shared the Special Rapporteur’s view that safe drinking water and sanitation must be available for present and future generations.  Comprehensive water management was becoming more and more complex due to the ever-increasing concentrations of population around urban areas.

Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said all States had to comply with their human rights commitments, including access to drinking water, which had been a long-standing problem for Palestinians.  The Arab Group emphasized that the inequality between access to water for Israelis and Palestinians was unacceptable.  All inhabitants of the occupied Palestinian territories were suffering from the shortage of drinking water.  The water infrastructures were not appropriate; measures to provide water and to protect the environment were needed in Palestine.

Germany said that if the international community did not significantly increase its efforts it would fall short of achieving the Millennium Goals.  Germany asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the notion that, in order to make the right to water sustainable, it was essential to ensure participation by the most vulnerable and marginalised.  What sort of participation would have a positive effect on sustainability? 

Angola said despite significant national reconstruction efforts since 2002, a considerable proportion of its population lacked access to safe water and sanitation, especially in rural areas.  Reforms had been undertaken and a programme had been designed to achieve an 80 per cent of water-supply coverage in rural areas by 2017.  Angola also supported the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur to include water and sanitation in the post-2015 development agenda. 

Sierra Leone said that the international community should continue to address the management of hazardous substances and waste, an issue which could significantly affect the enjoyment of basic human rights.  Sierra Leone supported proposals for the development of guidelines.  It was necessary to establish human rights-based minimum standards for access to water and sanitation.  Sierra Leone stressed the need for funding and innovation to find solutions.

India said in India the matter of safe drinking water and sanitation was a high Government priority, and they were working to meet the Millennium Development Goal 9.  India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change in part focused on conserving water, minimising wastage, and ensuring equal distribution and management of water resources.  India asked Special Rapporteur for hazardous substances and waste to shed more light on his observation that existing relevant treaties were inadequate.

Latvia said that the practical implementation of the concepts of progressive realization and non-retrogression was crucial to the sustainable realization of the human right to water and sanitation for everyone, including future generations.  Latvia asked what measures a Government could adopt to ensure access to drinking water and sanitation to the most vulnerable groups, at the same time as adopting austerity measures.

Côte d’Ivoire said that the complex issue of management of hazardous products and wastes deserved the attention and commitment of the Council, as they had an impact on fundamental human rights.  In the absence of legally binding international agreements, the Council’s commitment to ensure the safe management and disposal of those substances throughout their life cycle should back up the courageous initiatives already taken on the matter, such as expert meetings.  

Ecuador highlighted the importance of ensuring that victims of mishandling of toxic or hazardous substances were compensated.  The mandate of the Special Rapporteur required monitoring of the adverse impacts that may be created by the improper handling of toxic and hazardous substances.  The international community should also focus on the problem of non-state parties, and should step up communication among States to determine those responsible for the improper handling of such substances.

United States said it recognised that the right to safe drinking water and sanitation was important but said that it disagreed that sustainability was a fundamental human rights principle.  The United States welcomed Ms. de Albuquerque’s work but said her recommendations on how Governments allocated their funds had overstepped the purpose of her mandate.  Meanwhile Mr. Pallemaerts was right to note the danger that he may duplicate work being done elsewhere, and therefore he had to focus sharply on the rights implications of his mandate.

Slovenia said that Ms. de Albuquerque’s holistic take on the right to safe water was the correct and moral approach.  Slovenia supported her conclusion that sustainability was a key plank of the crosscutting human rights agenda.  The Special Rapporteur’s visit to Slovenia in 2010 had raised awareness of the issue in the country and it had subsequently joined many international water fora and adopted a number of progressive reforms.  In view of the financial crisis, what steps did she recommend that could be taken to avoid rising water prices?

China said that it prioritized the effective management of hazardous waste, for example in its twelfth Five Year Plan, and believed the work of the Special Rapporteur for hazardous waste could contribute greatly to the global regulation of those dangerous substances.  The Chinese Government was working hard to realise the goal of safe drinking water and sanitation for its people, especially in the countryside.  For example, 72 per cent of rural communities now had plumbed toilets, a figure set to rise to 85 per cent by 2020. 

Norway said that the world contained sufficient clean freshwater for everyone’s basic personal and domestic needs.  However, water was not equally distributed, leading to insufficient access.  Lack of distribution networks and working systems to extract groundwater or harvest rainwater limited the extent of people’s access to sufficient drinking water.  Norway would have liked a brief analysis on how a human rights framework would be beneficial to women and girls, those that carried the heaviest burdens in the lack of access to safe water.

Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, emphasized the link between human rights and the environment, as recognized by the final declaration at Rio+20.  Access to water had a significant impact on the right to health.  The failure to respect the basic human right to safe drinking water was a major cause of the death of children under five years of age.  Progress had been made in achieving Millennium Development Goal 9, which aimed to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.  Substantial and regular budgetary allocation was needed to improve water infrastructures and ensure that everyone had access to drinking water.

Nigeria said that its Government had taken bold steps to meet the challenge of providing water to all Nigerians.  A major constraint was funding: an estimated annual sum of $2 billion was needed over the next three years to meet the target of 75 per cent access by 2015.  Resolving the problems associated with the management of hazardous substances and waste required the collaboration of all stakeholders at various levels.  Recently, waste increasingly came in the form of used and discarded electronic equipment exported from developed countries, which gravely violated the rights of citizens to health and to life.

Romania said it shared the view that integrating sustainability was key to achieving the right to safe drinking water and sanitation.  The water law in Romania contained the principles that were to be applied to water resources and referred, among others, to sustainability.  Water management was based on the principle of solidarity and human interest.  Water management authorities had obligations in the field of public information.  Transparency was vital in terms of achieving the best results possible.

Togo said that access to water and sanitation was a fundamental right and was thus a significant concern for the country, where a lot had been done in this area.  Togo had adopted different legislative and regulatory texts to ensure, guarantee and promote access to drinking water and sanitation.   Togo was seeking to ensure access to water in sufficient quality and quantity, and improve health and living conditions, especially for women and children.  There were now 2,734 works and infrastructure projects in Togo.

Djibouti said that financial difficulties considerably threatened the access to the fundamental right to safe drinking water and sanitation, including the current economic and financial crisis.  Djibouti had gone through a long period of drought.  It had a project with partners to establish a plant to supply drinking water at a reasonable cost.  The import of any product that was hazardous for the health and safety of the public at large was forbidden. The Special Rapporteur was encouraged to help develop relevant guidelines.  

Egypt said that it was necessary to ensure the sustainability of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation.  Sustainability of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation should encompass dimensions of availability, accessibility, affordability, sufficiency and quality.  It was also needed to ensure the non-retrogression from established principles of equity and non-discrimination.  The impact of austerity measures on the sustainability of the realization of that human right was worth a thorough discussion.

Portugal strongly believed that sustainability was a fundamental human rights principle, essential for realizing the human right to water and sanitation.  Sustainability should be considered as the counterpart to retrogression, a prospect that a vast number of countries were currently facing due to the economic and financial crisis.  Water must be made available for present and future generations. 

Netherlands supported the concrete recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on monitoring and accountability to guarantee sustainability of interventions.  The Netherlands spoke about an annual sustainability check carried out by an independent third party to monitor the proper provision of water and sanitation services and ways of ensuring accountability at the national and local level.  Would it be possible to agree on a key-performance indicator to monitor sustainability in the post-2015 development framework?

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it worked with Governments and other stakeholders to ensure that the right to safe drinking water and sanitation was realised, especially for the poorest and most marginalized children.  The recent economic crisis should not be a reason to cut back on funding for water and sanitation.  UNICEF welcomed the recent involvement of the Special Rapporteur in the post-2015 consultations for drinking water and sanitation, by the World Health Organization and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme. 

Switzerland said that it was strongly committed to implementing the right to safe drinking water and sanitation and shared concern regarding sustainability of the system.  The right to safe drinking water and sanitation was an inherent element in the right of all to a sufficient standard of living.  What steps could be taken in regions suffering from very high levels of water stress, and what could be done to guarantee the right to safe drinking water and sanitation for their populations?

France said that it was committed to reinforcing the right to safe drinking water and sanitation and wished to give greater visibility to the social and economic elements of access to water.  The Special Rapporteur had referred to the post-2015 development agenda.  What development goal should be established for the right to safe drinking water and sanitation?  Regarding hazardous substances, what would the main outline for the proposed guide on best practice in the environmentally sound management of those substances?

South Africa said the existing inequitable access to safe water and sanitation was the product of disparities in fresh water resources, income, power and institutional capacity between and within countries.  Today, 88 per cent of the South African population had access to clean and safe drinking water.  Turning to the report of Mr. Pallemarts, South Africa said a legally binding instrument was required to complement weak national legislation in dealing with violations as a result of the activities of transnational companies.

Algeria said that the problems and international legal gaps were highlighted by the report of the Special Rapporteur on hazardous waste.  Algeria encouraged the Special Rapporteur to cooperate with other mandate holders, especially with the Special Rapporteur on the right to health.  With regard to Ms. de Albuquerque’s report and in the context of the financial crisis, international cooperation was necessary to manage the water resources. 

Indonesia said that the report was timely during this period of financial and economic crisis; water needs had to be met for present and future generations.  The sustainability of access to water was fundamental.  Indonesia commended the Special Rapporteur’s intention to hold wide consultations on good practices in environmentally sound management of hazardous waste.  Taking into account the resources gaps among countries, how could technology help the sound management of hazardous waste?

Palestine said it had to ensure that the principle of non-discrimination was upheld in relation to the right to safe drinking water and sanitation.  Israeli policies and practices in the occupied Palestine territories did not uphold that principle.  Water resources were channelled, mostly for Israeli use, leaving an inadequate supply for Palestinians.  The Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes was invited to visit the occupied Palestine territories.  The illegal transport and dumping of toxic waste produced in Israel into the occupied Palestine territories was a concern.

Guatemala said that it agreed on the need for proposals, recommendations and lasting solutions to current problems in the area of hazardous substances and wastes.  National and international standards should apply to the different chemical life cycles.  Guatemala also hoped that something could be done to improve access to and exchange of information, in order to ensure that better decisions were taken and to reduce the negative impact of those wastes. 

Republic of Moldova said that regarding the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the authorities were working on the drafting of general water and sanitation plans at the regional level.  The Republic of Moldova noted with interest the attention paid by the Special Rapporteur to the water and sanitation question, regarding the post-2015 development agenda.  Currently marking the International Year for Water Cooperation, the Republic of Moldova said it was open for further cooperation on the issue. 

Uruguay said it continued to work with Ms. de Albuquerque after her visit to the country last year.  It had instituted a number of measures, particularly in the provision of low-cost water to rural settlements and schools.  Subsidised prices had also been made available to vulnerable social groups, including unsettled rural communities.  Advisory bodies ensured that the Government and civil society organizations had equitable access to water, and the Government of Uruguay now had a good record in water management matters. 

Venezuela said that Ms. de Albuquerque had expressed concern that future generations would be deprived of access to safe drinking water and sanitation due to, among other factors, population growth and climate change.  Venezuela agreed with the conclusions of the Special Rapporteur’s report and provided its own people with fair access to clean drinking water, which was now available to 96 per cent of the population.  Socialist Government policies ensured that Venezuela had met its Millennium Development Goals in that respect.

Maldives said that it was surrounded by water but access to safe drinking water remained a big issue for its population, which traditionally relied on groundwater.  After various catastrophes, such as the 2004 tsunami, those stocks had become contaminated.  The Maldives Government, under great financial strain, strove to provide clean water to its people.  The conclusions of the report with regard to the island States of Tuvalu and Kiribati were valued by the Maldives.  Meanwhile, the disposal of hazardous substances, such as asbestos historically used in roofing, was a priority for the Maldives.

Cuba, in relation to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the management of hazardous waste, believed that an integral view was necessary for the development of guidelines.  The various levels of development among different countries and the costs of activities to that should also be taken into account; international cooperation and the transfer of technology were also important.  The report on water and sanitation highlighted States’ responsibility to that end and encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue to address global problems of water supply.

New Zealand said that the report of the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation made an important connection between the situation of access to water and the effects of climate change.  New Zealand’s investments in the Pacific region aimed to help communities better manage their water resources and become more resilient.  Last week the Prime Minister announced a further $5 million initiative to help five low lying Pacific countries vulnerable to water shortages, including Tuvalu and Kiribati.  The international community should ensure that its assistance supported sustainable and affordable outcomes, and provided ‘software’ not only ‘hardware’.

Kuwait reiterated the importance of the principle of sustainability, a fundamental principle of human rights, and the close links to other basic rights and development.  A commitment from the international community was necessary to ensure sustainability.  Kuwait was characterised by a harsh climate but progress had been made to ensure access to water for all without discrimination.  The access to water and sanitation attested to development and efforts to improve the wellbeing of its inhabitants.

Benin underlined the importance of dealing with hazardous substances and wastes and guaranteeing access to drinking water, as well as improving overall sanitation.  These days, the risks to people created by hazardous substances and wastes in rural and urban areas were huge because of the development of economic and social activity, as well as due to the growth of the world’s population.  Courageous measures and actions needed to be taken to ensure the environmentally sound handling and disposal of these wastes were adopted and implemented.

Saudi Arabia, with regards to both reports, said that Saudi Arabia participated in all related international efforts and the international principles that had been adopted as well as conventions, and had a special fund for energy and the environment.  Saudi Arabia saw a need for countries to exchange best practices among themselves.  The right to water was an essential human right and this resource could not be used for political reasons or as a means to bring pressure to bear.  

Bolivia said that as long as water continued to be thought of as a merchandise, there would be arbitrary decisions taken regarding to pricing, which would work against the poor and the most marginalized people.  Bolivia had achieved substantial and profound changes in the recent years, in all areas, and had adopted measures, including the creation of a My Water programme, to provide drinking water to all municipalities, including the most remote ones. 

Franciscan International drew attention to the alleged dangers of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to drinking water supplies, and said that several States had not upheld the right to consultation of communities affected by fracking.  This process threatened vital ecosystems as well as water, soil and air quality.

Amnesty International spoke about a Greenpeace report on a toxic disaster off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire that had drawn on a previous report from the Special Rapporteur for hazardous waste.  Amnesty International called for action from the relevant Governments in Côte d’Ivoire, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

World Barua Organization appealed for the right to clean water in India on the basis of the water-borne diseases that plagued the country.  These included typhus and malaria, while chemical pollution was also a large problem that the Indian Government had failed to address.
 
Human Rights Now said that the Japanese authorities admitted recently the fresh and ongoing leak of hundreds of tons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant and declared the situation as a “serious incident”.  The Government had failed to protect the right to health and many people including children still lived in highly contaminated areas without any protection.  Japan should take appropriate measures without further delay.

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that the Iranian authorities mismanaged their water resources.  Irrigation had not been modernized, 163 rivers were polluted of which 60 had dried up.  The population in some areas of the country had to use and drink unsafe water.  Given the international dimension of the tragedy, the Special Rapporteur should encourage the Iranian authorities to take the appropriate measures to prevent irreversible consequences.

United Nations Watch said that close to half of the Syrian population had no access to safe drinking water and sanitation and children were at risk of various water-related diseases.  Were there specific reasons why Syria was not included in the present report?  Why had the Special Rapporteur focused on Kiribati and Tuvalu, which only had a few thousand inhabitants?

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteurs on Hazardous Wastes and on Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

MARC PALLEMAERTS, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, responding to some of the questions raised, said he had been encouraged by the expressions of support for the approach he had taken and the interest in the development of a guide on best practices as one of the main outputs of the mandate, and he had taken note of the comments.  Essential obligations of State and non-State actors to ensure that human rights were not affected, including key precautionary measures to protect fundamental rights, included adequate risk assessments, the provision of information to persons likely to be affected, opportunities for participation and consultation, and remedies for victims.  Several delegations had reiterated the importance of this issue and the mandate had been expanded to address all aspects of waste management; the illegal transfer as well as the treatment of electronic waste would continue to be considered as part of further work under the mandate.  Further work would not duplicate work carried out by other technical fora but would ensure that human rights aspects were taken into account.

CATARINA DE ALBUQUERQUE, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, thanked delegations for the expressions of support and encouragement and said she would respond to specific questions in writing.  Ms. De Albuquerque said she wished to go in depth regarding some issues raised.  She welcomed the interest in the post-2015 agenda and urged delegations to participate in the side event.  Denouncing the inequalities was not enough, it had been done before and concrete actions should be taken, for example the normative content from human rights to water and sanitation, including issues of safety, accessibility, and human dignity.  A target regarding sustainability should also be included.  Many achievements had been mentioned regarding progress made, but were delegations aware of how much of this progress had been lost.  Retrogression was not being systematically measured and this should change in the post-2015 period.  Perhaps investments had been made in the wrong technologies and the effort had focused on ticking boxes.  Sustainability should be looked at from a human rights stand point, including when addressing key dilemmas, with consideration for all relevant human rights.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC13/100E