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News Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation

The Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, has been mandated by the Human Rights Council in 2008 to:
· Further clarify the content of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation;
· Make recommendations that could help the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and particularly of the Goal 7;
· Prepare a compendium of good practices related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

While the work of human rights bodies has often focused on the violations of human rights, the Independent Expert welcomes the opportunity to identify good practices that address the question of how human rights obligations related to sanitation and water can be implemented.

In a first step, the Independent Expert undertook to determine criteria for identifying ‘good practices'. As ‘good' is a subjective notion, it seemed critical to first elaborate criteria against which to judge a practice from a human rights perspective, and then apply the same criteria to all practices under consideration. Such criteria for the identification of good practices were discussed with various stakeholders at a workshop convened by the Independent Expert in Lisbon in October 2009. The outcome was the definition of 10 criteria, 5 of which are normative criteria (availability, accessibility, quality/safety, affordability, acceptability), and 5 are cross-cutting ones (non-discrimination, participation, accountability, impact, sustainability,). The Independent Expert and the stakeholders started testing the criteria, but believe that the process of criteria testing is an ongoing one: the criteria should prove their relevance as stakeholders suggest examples of good practices.

After this consultation and the consolidation of the criteria, the Independent Expert wants to use these to identify good practices across all levels and sectors of society. To that end, she will organize stakeholder consultations with governments, civil society organisations, national human rights institutions, development cooperation agencies, the private sector, UN agencies, and perhaps others. By bringing people from the same sector together to talk about good practices related to human rights, water and sanitation, she hopes to facilitate exchange of these good practices. In order to prepare the consultations through the identification of potential good practices, a questionnaire has been elaborated. Based on the answers to the questionnaire, and the stakeholder consultations, the Independent Expert will prepare a report on good practices, to be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2011.

The questionnaire (English French | Spanish) is structured following the normative and cross-cutting criteria, mentioned above; hence the Independent Expert is looking for good practices in the fields of sanitation and water from a human rights perspective. Therefore, the proposed practices do not only have to be judged ‘good' in light of at least one normative criterion depending on their relevance to the practice in question (availability, accessibility, quality/safety, affordability, acceptability), but also in view of all the cross-cutting criteria (non-discrimination, participation, accountability, impact, sustainability). At a minimum, the practice should not undermine or contradict any of the criteria.


In order to enable the Independent Expert to consider submissions for discussion in the stakeholder consultations foreseen in 2010 and 2011, all stakeholders are encouraged to submit the answers to the questionnaire at their earliest convenience and no later than 30th of June 2010.

Questionnaires can be transmitted electronically to (encouraged) or be addressed to 
Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. 
ESCR Section 
Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division 
Palais des Nations 
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland 
Fax: +41 22 917 90 06

Please include in your submissions the name of the organization submitting the practice, as well as contact details in case follow up information is sought. 


Contact information ESCR Section, Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland (email:
Phone: Fax: +41 22 917 90 06
News type Vacancies
File link
Source of information Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division (OHCHR)
Keyword(s) human rights, access to drinking water and sanitation
Geographical coverage Switzerland
News date 07/06/2010
Working language(s) ENGLISH