08 Nov 2016 Story Disasters & conflicts

The Human Right to Water

Geneva – Water is essential to human health, livelihoods and sustainable poverty alleviation. For conflict-affected countries, safe access to water and sanitation plays a critical role in meeting basic human needs, upholding human rights and supporting peaceful and prosperous livelihoods at all levels.

As part of the third annual Geneva Peace Week, UN Environment co-hosted a panel discussion on "Fresh Water Agreements and the Human Right to Water" in collaboration with Geneva Water Hub, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Green Cross International, Global Waters Partnership (GWP), WaterLex, and World Wildlife Fund on 8 November 2016. Approximately 60 people attended the event.  

The first panel session focused on the right to water in freshwater agreements, and was moderated by François Münger, Swiss Envoy for Water. Chantal Demilecamps at UNECE presented the UNECE-WHO Protocol on Water and Health as a tool for implementing the human rights to water and sanitation. Tobias Schmitz provided an introduction to the work of the African Commission and their upcoming Draft Guidelines on the right to water, while Lesha Witmer of the Women for Water Partnership underlined the importance of gender awareness in water management.

The second session of the event focused on transboundary water cooperation and human rights, and was moderated by Amanda Kron of UN Environment. Mara Tignino (Geneva Water Hub) analysed transboundary water cooperation as an instrument of peace. Amanda Loeffen, Director of WaterLex, outlined how applying a human rights based approach to integrated water resources management could support mapping and monitoring of human rights, and exemplified with successful case studies from New Zealand and Argentina. Angela Klauschen at the GWP spoke about linkages between transboundary water cooperation and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Overall, the event featured rich discussions on potential entry points for combining integrated water resources management and human rights-based approaches. It also looked at ways of ensuring inclusive participation for all relevant actors in programming and implementation.