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Rio+20: Canada finally recognizes human right to water and sanitation

In the run-up to Rio+20, Canada became one of the last Western nations to drop its opposition to a reference to water and sanitation as a human right in the zero draft outcome document The Future We Want.This was achieved by an international lobby led by the likes of Maude Barlow’s Council of Canadians and UN Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque.


Until a month ago, Canada was the only country to publicly claim there was no legal basis for the right to water and call for deletion of paragraph 67, which referred to this right, from the Rio+20 document, said Anil Naidoo of the Council of Canadians’ Blue Planet Project. The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in July 2010 recognising water and sanitation as a basic human right and on 30 September 2010, the UN Human Rights Council recognised the right as legally binding in international law.

At the initial Rio+20 negotiations last year, several human rights and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) warned that the human right to water and sanitation was under threat. This started when the UK, working inside the European Union (EU), first proposed to delete paragraph 67 from the zero draft.

After pressure from several international NGOs and an appeal by Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque, the EU backed down and other governments pushed back against the UK, notably Spain, said Naidoo.

But still, Canada, later joined by the United States and Israel, continued to call for deletion of paragraph 67. Intense lobbying, supported by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay, who called for human rights to be protected in the Rio negotiations ,finally convinced Canada to drop its opposition to the recognition of water and sanitation as a human right.




Current Issue: Africa Water & Sanitation & Hygiene March-April 2017 Vol.12 No.2