Realizing the right to water and sanitation

February 21, 2014

Access to water and sanitation is intrinsically linked to the right to health: without clean drinking water and hygienic human waste disposal, people are more likely to suffer from infectious diseases. Especially baby’s and young children are vulnerable to water-borne diseases. An e-discussion is currently taking place to assist the development of a UN handbook on realizing the right to water and sanitation.

The third phase of this e-discussion organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will start on 24 February and end on 10 March. It will focus on whether accountability and monitoring systems have improved access to water and sanitation for marginalized groups or individuals and what are effective awareness-raising and advocacy strategies.

The Handbook on Realizing the Right to Water and Sanitation is currently being finalized by the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque. The Special Rapporteur is pursuing a collaborative approach to the development of this handbook. Firstly in the identification of key barriers, challenges and opportunities that stakeholders encounter in realizing the rights to water and sanitation, and then further in the testing and verification of the checklists and recommendations to be featured in the book. This collaborative approach will also ensure that the handbook is relevant and helpful to practitioners working in the field and beyond the mandate of the current Special Rapporteur.

Non-discrimination and equality

Through the e-discussion and the interaction with UN practitioners from different agencies and country teams, scholars, representatives of governments, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and experts on water and sanitation, a broad diversity of contexts, experiences, good practices, lessons learned and perspectives will support the sections of the handbook that focus on ensuring non-discrimination and equality in access to water and sanitation services, especially to those groups that are excluded for a range of reasons.

Phase 1 of the e-discussion (29 January to 10 February) focused on general experiences including some of the main challenges and lessons learned in service delivery in realizing the rights to water and sanitation. Kindly note that the organizers are still welcoming contributions. Phase 2 (10 to 24 February) focused on how principles of non-discrimination and equality can be incorporated into legislative, policy and regulatory frameworks and financing.


If you wish to participate in the discussion send an email to: It will also be possible to contribute to the discussion on the online UN platform ‘Teamworks’ where you can post comments and access relevant resources related to the e-discussion: