A/ Access to drinking water and sanitation
Approximately 884 million people do not have access to drinking water and more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation services.
Ensuring access to drinking water is one of the Millennium Development Goals. Target 7.C calls for :
“Reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.”
On 28 July 2010, the General Assembly passed a resolution recognizing access to safe, clean drinking water as a human right. Resolution A/RES/64/292 was adopted by a vote of 122 in favor (France included), with 41 abstentions. This resolution recognizes access to drinking water and sanitation as a human right essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.
It calls on the States to guarantee this right and stresses the need for cooperation and international assistance.
Lastly, the resolution pays tribute to the Human Rights Council’s decision which makes provision for an annual report to be presented to the General Assembly by the Human Rights Council’s independent expert.
France welcomes the adoption of resolution 64/292. The implementation of this right to have access to drinking water and sanitation will be a key issue at the World Water Forum in Marseille in March 2012.
The 6th World Water Forum ended in Marseille on March 17 after a week of action in support of “water solutions” at the invitation of the French government, the city of Marseille and the World Water Council. South Korea and the city of Daegu will host the next Forum – the 7th Forum - in 2015.
More than 20,000 people from more than 170 countries, representing governments, parliaments, regional and local authorities, international organizations, companies and public and private research centers and civil society, participated in numerous thematic and regional workshops. Participation by local and regional authorities in a Forum has never been so high: almost 500 local elected representatives endorsed a joint political message. The strong involvement of young people, women and non-governmental organizations gave a new face to this forum which was especially appreciated and which helped to link these debates on water to major social and international challenges.
Alongside several Heads of State and Government, the Prime Minister, Mr. François Fillon, announced, at the opening of the Forum on March 12, France’s commitments. Under the chairmanship of the Minister responsible for Cooperation, Mr. Henri de Raincourt, the ministerial conference brought together more than 100 ministers and made it possible to adopt by consensus an ambitious ministerial statement, notably stressing the need to speed up the implementation of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. 12 ministerial round tables led to recommendations on important topics such as transboundary water management, water and green growth, waste water management, and the links between water, energy and food.
These results will make a significant contribution to upcoming events on the international political agenda, first and foremost the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June. The first round of negotiations on the Rio outcome document will take place this week in New York.
The Human Rights Council in Geneva also adopted a resolution on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation on 30 September 2010. The adoption of this resolution led to the following statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs’ Spokesperson:
"France welcomes the adoption by consensus on 30 September of a resolution on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation which it co-sponsored. This represents a successful outcome which falls in line with resolution 64/292 adopted by the UNGA on 28 July. It gives a strong impetus to the work that has been carried out over the last few years by the HRC and the independent expert, Mrs. de Albuquerque, on this issue that is critical to the lives of billions of individuals deprived of access to safe drinking water and decent sanitation.
The right to safe drinking water and sanitation was recognized as a human right by the United Nations. The HRC resolution supplements this and clarifies the main parameters of this right. It affirms in particular that the right to safe drinking water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living. It also emphasizes the primary responsibility of the States: the public authority of each State is responsible for implementing and managing an appropriate system to provide services in line with the effective implementation of this right, regardless of the status of the service providers (public, private, non-profit).
The emergence of a consensus on the need to move from theory to practice is very positive: France intends to continue working towards achieving the full support of all stakeholders responsible for ensuring the right to drinking water and sanitation.
France, which will host the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille in March 2012, would like this event to enable further progress to be made on the realization of this universal right to drinking water and sanitation, a critical factor with regard to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and in particular those related to maternal and child health."
On 27 July 2011, on the initiative of Bolivia, the General Assembly held a meeting on the right to water and sanitation "a year after the resolution recognizing the Human Right to drinking water and sanitation". In his statement, the Representative of France stressed the need to implement Resolutions 64/292 of the General Assembly and 15/9 of the Human Rights Council and to transcribe into reality the right of all to drinking water and sanitation.
B/ Protection and management of transboundary watercourses
A United Nations Convention was adopted in 1997 on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. France became the 22nd State Party to this Convention in January 2011. This was a commitment made by France at the World Water Forum in Istanbul in 2009.
This text is the only universal instrument that defines the international principles relating to the protection and management of transboundary watercourses. There is a great deal at stake: while there is growing pressure on water resources, two thirds of the world’s drainage basins are shared between several States and a major proportion of the global population depends on transboundary water resources for its supply of water for drinking, agriculture, energy and industry.
The Convention encourages the implementation, at the regional level, of the mechanisms and organizations necessary for a concerted and responsible approach to sharing resources and the benefits resulting from their development. Its implementation will benefit the countries and regions that do not yet benefit from such regional agreements. France encourages in particular the regional dialogue between the States that share the major African rivers (the Senegal, Niger, Congo, and Nile Rivers) and between Afghanistan and Central Asia.
In June 2010, President Sarkozy expressed the hope that the 6th World Water Forum, which France will host in March 2012 in Marseille, will contribute to “making water a protected resource shared between Nations.” By acceding to the Convention, France endorsed its message with respect to the need for dialogue on transboundary waters in order to promote the peaceful management of water resources with a view towards preventing conflicts, and encouraging regional integration and security.
France also intends to increase its mobilization efforts with respect to this text in order to convince other States to accede to the Convention, both within the European Union and outside of it. A total of 35 States must become States Parties to the Convention in order for it to enter into force. This will help to improve governance and international cooperation with regard to water.
28 July 2010 - Resolution A/RES/64/292
UN Water website
Water section of the website of the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (In French)