Statement by Ambassador Berger on the Human Right to Water & Sanitation in the General Assembly

Jul 27, 2011

(as delivered)

Mr. President of the General Assembly,

Mr. Secretary-General,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Germany fully aligns itself with the statement which will be made by the European Union.

Let me start by thanking the President of the General Assembly and Bolivia for convening this important plenary meeting on the human right to water and sanitation. We are particularly honored today by the presence of His Exellency,  Evo Morales, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Ms. Catharina de Albuquerque, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The debate today gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved and – more importantly – on the challenges ahead.

The last 12 months have witnessed the recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation that are derived from the right to an adequate standard of living at the United Nations, first in the General Assembly and then in the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This breakthrough is the result of years of engagement of interested national Governments, civil society organisations around the globe, National Human Rights Institutions and experts at international and national level.

Germany is proud to have been part and parcel of this process right from the beginning. In 2008 Germany and Spain launched an initiative in the Human Rights Council to create the mandate of the then ‘Independent Expert’ on this question. We have witnessed growing support for our initiative, which in 2011 led to the creation of the mandate of the ‘Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation by the Human Rights Council. This important step forward would not have been possible without the crucial support of the many like-minded member states from all regional groups.

The big challenge now is to implement the decisions which we collectively took. Talking about the human rights to water and sanitation, we cannot but reiterate the necessity to think in bigger terms than in simple technical feasibility questions. We must use a human rights approach if we want to create sustainable solutions. The questions of safety and quality, sufficiency and availability, of physical and economic accessibility and affordability of water and sanitation must receive adequate attention when we create solutions for those who are in need. Ignoring these parameters means ignoring the real needs of those that are the bearers of these human rights.

We should also take into account that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to implementation in individual country situations. But the common denominator remains the same – the realisation of the right to safe water and sanitation. It is in this regard that we look forward to discuss the compendium of best practices that will be presented by the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council in September. In this context - and taking into account the link between Human Rights and the Millennium Development Goals, highlighted today also by the Secretary-General - we are particularly pleased with the fact that the Joint Monitoring Programme of the WHO and UNICEF has adapted and aligned its criteria regarding access to water and sanitation to those defined by the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Mr. President,

Before I close, I would like to encourage like-minded member states in all regions of the world to engage in the promotion and the implementation of the human rights to water and sanitation and to to make sure that a human rights approach is maintained when discussing national solutions and designing national action plans.

Thank you.

© GermanyUN