UNHRC: Oral statement on the Right to Water and Public Participation

Article 19 delivered the following oral statement to the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Thank you Mr. President,

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the annual report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, in particular its finding that realisation of this right and the prevention of violations requires meaningful participation of all people – especially marginalised groups – in decision-making processes.

The right to freedom of expression and information is a right that empowers people. It gives people and communities the knowledge and voice to demand their other rights, in particular social and economic rights.

Importantly, as your report identifies, the free flow of information is crucial for ensuring accountability in the realisation of the right to water and sanitation. The High Commissioner for Human Rights rightly identified in his opening address to this Council yesterday, “development is more than free markets and economic growth”, and necessitates that people have “an equal voice and right to participate in public affairs.”

On the eve of World Water Day this year, ARTICLE 19 launched “The Free Flow Principles” to guide States, policy makers and activists on how freedom of expression and information are critical to secure the rights to water and sanitation.

Building upon the work of the Special Rapporteur, the Free Flow Principles urge States to:

  1. Adopt comprehensive access to information laws to require governments and other duty bearers to proactively inform the public about issues relating to water and sanitation, water-related resources and management;
  2. Ensure legal policy measures guarantee the freedom of the media and individuals and groups to openly and critically discuss and share information on matters relating to the right to water and sanitation;
  3. Create an enabling environment for all people, including civil society and human rights defenders, to participate in decision-making related to water and sanitation without fear of discrimination or reprisals. There must be targeted measures to ensure all marginalised groups, especially women and persons with disabilities, are given an equal voice in these processes.

We encourage the Special Rapporteur and this Council to consider the Free Flow Principles in their work, and integrate them to their decision-making processes on the right to water and sanitation.

Thank you.