Aqua Publica Europea supports UN report on Human rights & the privatisation of water and sanitation services
Today, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr. Léo Heller, presents his report on Human rights and the privatisation of water and sanitation services to the United Nations General Assembly.
Brussels, 21 October 2020 – Today, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr. Léo Heller, presents his report on Human rights and the privatisation of water and sanitation services to the United Nations General Assembly.
Aqua Publica Europea, the European Association of Public Water Operators, would like to express its support for the Special Rapporteur’s commitment to study the factors that could hamper the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation, as recognised ten years ago by the UN General Assembly (Resolution 64/292, July 2010).
Water is essential to life and we acknowledge that rigorous and independent scrutiny is critical to public interest and to the good governance of a limited public good. Therefore, we welcome the Special Rapporteur’s initiative. The report represents an important step forward to take a deeper look at some of the hurdles to the realisation of the right to water worldwide and an opportunity to start a conversation on challenging topics.
Based on his robust academic experience and complemented with thorough consultations and a wide case study review, Mr. Heller’s report addresses the different aspects for consideration when authorities select their water management models and how private management could affect people’s human rights but also proposes safeguards.
The report notably highlights that risks can stem from the combination of three factors:
- Water service provision is subject to a naturally-imposed monopoly;
- The drive to maximise profits from service provision (cost reduction and/or higher revenues)
- Power imbalances between authorities and services providers.
Possible related risks include: distribution of surplus revenues to shareholders as profits and dividends and the related impact on investments; affordability concerns, especially for vulnerable groups; lack of improvement or deterioration of services; challenges on sustainability due to time-bound concession contracts; access to information, participation and accountability; and consequences on the provision of services to all populations.
In order to ensure fair access to essential water and sanitation services to all, it is paramount for governments and municipalities to consider the aspects identified in the report so as to avoid situations where, “rights holders are transformed into the clients of private companies dedicated to profit maximisation and accountable not to the public but to shareholders”, as highlighted by several UN Special Rapporteurs in their joint op-ed also published this week in several major international newspapers.
The members of Aqua Publica Europea believe that transparency and accountability to citizens are critical, in addition to highly performing services for drinking water and sanitation, to serve the general interest. They further underline that the public water management model, through which service is provided by operators that are 100% publicly-owned and do not distribute profit to private shareholders, provides a strong and proven alternative.
- UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation : report on Human rights and the privatization of water and sanitation services
- Friendly version of the report
- The Guardian, Covid-19 has exposed the catastrophic impact of privatising vital services, Leilani Farha, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Koumbou Boly Barry, Léo Heller, Olivier De Schutter, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona