Human Right 2 Water and End Water Poverty launched their new publication, National Human Rights Institutions and Water Governance; Compilation of Good Practices, with a set of webinars this 24th February. The manual itself seeks to build on innovative and positive experiences to contribute towards a community of practice of NHRIs wishing to enhance their role in water governance for the realisation of human rights.
NHRIs are independent bodies that hold an important role to protect all human rights. They more traditionally support civil and political rights, but with the advent of some of the socio-environmental rights in the last ten years, their basket of responsibilities has expanded. Importantly, they provide a welcome body for people to talk to if they have concerns over the protection, respect or fulfilment of their rights, and it is in this capacity that they can really help with the improvement of access to safe and sustainable water and sanitation.
Importantly, for NHRIs to do their job well, they need civil society to be cognisant of their role. One of the purposes of this publication, and this webinar, is for people to see the role that NHRIs can play. By sharing some of the NHRI good practices, these webinars intend to encourage other NHRIs to get more involved in the human rights to water and sanitation.
In an effort to target an audience on a global level, two webinars were held. The first, available in French and English, took place in the morning and concentrated widely on the scope of the African regions. Representatives from the National Human Rights Institutions in the Cote D’Ivoire and South Africa joined, alongside members of civil society from Nigeria and Niger, to share their expertise.
“The first step is to help women and men to understand what we mean by the human rights to water and sanitation”.
Human Right 2 Water’s CEO, Amanda Loeffen explained the path to fulfilment of the human rights to water and sanitation, as she opened the webinar. Her colleague Imanol Aguilera, lead researcher of the new publication, went on to provide an introduction of the publication, as well as highlight some of the case studies that made the approach interesting and helpful while End Water Poverty’s International Coordinator, Al-hassan Adam moderated the event.
“Water is a common currency which links nearly all the sustainable development goals, and the right to water is an enabler for a number of other human rights ”
Peacemore Mhodi from South Africa’s Human Rights Commission provided some context around the inequalities in South Africa based off race, class, gender and location, before explaining the role of their NHRI, and their successes in their efforts to achieve the human right to water.
“It is necessary to establish relations with the institutions in charge of water by organising information sessions on the new modes of public and democratic water management.”
Joining us from the Cote D’Ivoire, Wondio Christelle Yeo of Le Conseil National des Doits de l’Homme gave an overview of their responsibilities as an NHRI, the relationship between themselves and civil society organisations, and their progress regarding water governance.
The second webinar, held in Spanish, focused on case studies from the Latin American Regions, inviting the NHRIs from Mexico and Guatemala to share their good practices. It also included a representative from an NGO working in Honduras on water issues for local communities (ASOMAINCUPACO).
Maria Elena Lugo (CNHD, Mexico) described a specific mechanism (the “sexta visitaduría”) for complaints related to the human right to water and sanitation.
“In Mexico there is water, the problem is high contamination, so the human rights that have been detected as violated are the right to a healthy environment and the right to water sanitation, but also access to water, since at some point people are going to have to change their practices in order to have clean water.”
Zuleth Muñoz (PDH, Guatemala) explained that in Guatemala they are very committed to the human rights to water and sanitation and have ombudsmen offices for two disciplines (socio-environmental, and food and nutrition). She also recognises that Guatemala still has a legal gap with respect to these rights, especially in the municipalities.
“We have received complaints from people who are not receiving the water resource but are being charged for it anyway.”
It was interesting to hear from a member of civil society, and their perspective. Dennis Donaire, from Honduras described their experience in working with the ombudsman’s office. He recognized the importance of having this support, although he said that the procedures usually take a long time.
“For Everyone, For all Time”
Our next webinar, in celebration of International Women’s Day, will discuss ‘Women, Water and Human Rights’. The event will be held on the 8th March 2021 with further details to be announced shortly.