Green Cross Australia applauds UN recognition of safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right; calls for Australian leadership

The United Nations' 3rd Commission of the 64th General Assembly made history yesterday by overwhelmingly adopting a resolution proclaiming the Human Right to Safe drinking Water and Sanitation. Presented by Bolivia and 33 other States, the resolution received 122 votes in favour, no votes against and 41 abstentions, including Australia, the US and UK.


"Australia is in the middle of a Federal Election where environmental concerns are at the top of the agenda," said Green Cross Australia CEO Mara Bun. "It's a telling sign that Brazil, Russia, India and China supported this important resolution among the 122 nations that voted in favour but that Australia, the US and the UK abstained."


"It's more obvious than ever that environmental and humanitarian issues are inextricably linked and that access to clean water is fast becoming a pressing security, health and sustainability challenge for our warming planet," Bun said. "Australia's leadership is now needed on this issue internationally."


At least 4,000 children die every day from water related diseases and access to clean water is becoming a greater problem in many countries around the world.


GCI, behind the leadership of Founding President Mikhail Gorbachev, has been advocating for the Right to water since the idea was first developed a decade ago. This campaign successfully raised awareness at the global and national levels. Green Cross national organisations including here in Australia contributed to sensitising elected officials to the Right in their respective countries. Civil society played a major role in these endeavours in France for instance, where the Right to water was recognised in 2006.


"The actions and voices of millions of citizens have brought the global movement for the right to water this far," Gorbachev of Green Cross International (GCI) said from New York. "I hope that more people will join us to help bring us closer to the ultimate goal - a world where everyone's right to safe water and sanitation is not just recognised but is also fulfilled."


"Recognising water as a human right is a critical step, but it is not an instant 'silver bullet' solution," said Gorbachev. "This right must be enshrined in national laws in countries around the world, and upholding it must be a top priority."


Yesterday's UN vote marks the first time a resolution entirely dedicated to the Right to water and sanitation has been adopted and by such an important number of countries. It also goes further than previous resolutions by proclaiming sanitation a human right and by clarifying the right to water. The abstainers to the vote were mainly developed countries but some developed and newly industrialised countries supported the resolution, including France, Germany, Spain, Russia, China and Brazil. This, coupled with the fact that no State opposed it, should be seen as a break through.


A resolution has no binding mechanisms attached to it like a Convention or a protocol would. However, it carries tremendous political weight, enough to provoke harsh negotiations between States, to help advance key issues on the international agenda and to trigger national endorsements. The 15th ordinary session of the Human Rights Council might provide a platform for further debate in September.


About Green Cross Australia

GCA is the newest member of Mikhail Gorbachev's global network with a mission to "foster a global values shift towards a sustainable and secure future".

About Green Cross International

Green Cross International (GCI) was founded by President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993. This non-profit and non-governmental organisation promotes a combination of high level advocacy with key international stakeholders, runs campaigns and manages local projects to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation. GCI is present in over 30 countries and has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

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