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SDG6 and COP22 – Realising the human right to water and sanitation in a changing climate

17 November 2016

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) officially acknowledged the human right to water and sanitation in resolution 64/292 adopted on 28 July 2010.

The UNGA recognised the human right to water and sanitation as a right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights (such as the human right to health).

In the 2030 Agenda, building on the achievements of the MDGs, SDG6 focuses on “Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. SDG6 will have to be implemented universally by all countries and it is interlinked with the other 16 SDGs so that the achievement of one goal contributes to the attainment of the others. This will certainly contribute to realise the human right to water and sanitation worldwide.    

Indeed the legal content of the human right to water and sanitation embraces complementary aspects: to realise this right, water and sanitation must be available, accessible, affordable, acceptable, and safe [1].

In the context of the COP22 the availability dimension of the human right to water is particularly relevant and should be stressed. Water crisis is considered to be among the top three most impactful risks at a global level: we witness worldwide the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts, floods and storms due to climate change.

In order to ensure water services’ resilience to climate change, EurEau held a reflection in the framework of the COP22 and came up with recommendations for the water sector and for policymakers.    

Climate change mitigation and adaptation considerations should be mainstreamed into water policy taking the opportunity of the momentum created by the review of EU water legislation in the upcoming years.

Water resources protection, the implementation of the polluter-pays principle and water availability should be a priority if we want to realise the human right to water in Europe. In case of conflicts for water allocation between different uses, drinking water production should have priority over other uses.    

This will allow water services to continue to carry out the important tasks of providing high-quality drinking water to European citizens, protecting public health and the environment while fostering a sustainable economy.  


Water matters. EU matters.

[1] Realising the human rights to water and sanitation: a handbook, Introduction, p.33-36 (2014)

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