"Too Dirty, Too Little, Too Much: The Global Water Crisis and Human Rights"
“There is simply no way to overstate the water crisis of the planet today.”
Maude Barlow, former senior advisor on water to the President of the UN General Assembly
A global agreement now exists that human rights norms apply to a broad spectrum of environmental issues, including water and sanitation.
The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Dr. David Boyd, is working to provide additional clarity regarding the substantive rights and obligations that are essential to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
He has submitted reports on clean air, a safe climate, a healthy biosphere, and good practices on the promotion and implementation of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. He is now preparing a thematic report focusing on human rights and associated obligations related to water pollution, water scarcity and floods. For that purpose, he is seeking inputs on the topic from States and stakeholders through responses to the brief questionnaire below.
Your replies will inform the Special Rapporteur’s analysis and contribute to his report, which will be presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2021.
Summary of the report
In this report,
A/HRC/46/28, the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, David R. Boyd, describes safe and sufficient water as one of the substantive components of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. He describes the causes and consequences of the global water crisis, focusing on the negative impacts of water pollution, water scarcity and water-related disasters on the enjoyment of many human rights, with disproportionate effects upon vulnerable and marginalized groups. He highlights procedural and substantive State obligations related to ensuring safe and sufficient water. He identifies good practices that have helped to reduce or prevent water pollution, alleviate water scarcity, reduce risks associated with water-related disasters and protect or restore aquatic ecosystems. The Special Rapporteur provides a seven-step process for States to employ a rights-based approach to water governance, as well as recommendations for actions. Finally, he urges businesses, in order to fulfil their rights-related responsibilities, to contribute to and support efforts to ensure safe and sufficient water for all.
Preparation of the report
The Special Rapporteur sought inputs on the topic through a call for contributions.
Key questions and types of input sought
- Please provide examples of ways in which water pollution, water scarcity and floods are having adverse impacts on human rights. Adversely affected rights could include, among others, the rights to life, health, water and sanitation, food, culture, livelihoods, non-discrimination, a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and indigenous peoples’ rights.
- How has climate change exacerbated water-related problems?
- To protect a wide range of human rights, what are the specific obligations of States and responsibilities of businesses in terms of addressing water pollution, water scarcity and floods? Please provide specific examples of constitutional provisions, legislation, institutions, regulations, standards, policies and programmes that apply a rights-based approach to preventing, reducing, or eliminating water pollution, water scarcity and floods. Please include, inter alia, any instruments that refer directly to the right to a healthy environment and/or the rights to clean water and adequate sanitation.
Find all submissions received from States, international organizations and other stakeholders in response to the call for inputs:
NGOs and Civil Society Organizations
Indigenous Peoples Organizations