“Our bodies, our cities and our industries, our agriculture and our ecosystems all depend on it. Water is a human right. Nobody should be denied access.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Water is an essential building block of life. It is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health; water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development.
The theme for World Water Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind,’ which is the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. By definition, this means leaving no one behind.
Today, billions of people are still living without safe water, which means ‘safely managed drinking water service’: water that is accessible on the premises, available when needed, and free from contamination. Their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories struggling to survive and thrive.
Marginalized groups – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others – are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination, as they try to access and manage the safe water they need.
In 2010, the UN recognized “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”
The human right to water entitles everyone, without discrimination, to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use; which includes water for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene.
People are left behind without safe water for many different reasons. The following are some of the ‘grounds for discrimination’ that cause certain people to be particularly disadvantaged when it comes to accessing water:
To ‘leave no one behind’, we must focus our efforts towards including people who have been marginalized or ignored. Water services must meet the needs of marginalized groups and their voices must be heard in decision-making processes. Regulatory and legal frameworks must recognise the right to water for all people, and sufficient funding must be fairly and effectively targeted at those who need it most.