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Appeal to human rights defenders on World Toilet Day (19 November 2020)

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​As is known, adequate hygiene with soap and water, mask, distance and ventilation are the keys to the global prevention strategy against Covid-19 that we have for now, until effective vaccines arrive. In fact, having water and sanitation has saved and will continue to save hundreds of thousands of lives. However, in many countries and in many cities, water is cut off for impoverished families who cannot pay. Given this, on the World Toilet Day, I find it important to concentrate efforts on denouncing these practices and promoting their prohibition. I believe that at the moment the very harshness with which the pandemic hits us allows us to better understand the injustice and inhumane folly of cutting off water to impoverished people who have difficulties to pay.

For this reason, in addition to appealing to governments and municipalities to prohibit these water cuts, I am calling all of you, human rights defenders, to stand up for human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation and organize, starting today, a global action of gathering information, denunciation and monitoring of these practices; because cutting off water to those who are not able to pay is a violation of human rights under the current international legislation; although many, perhaps, are not yet aware of it.

As the UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, I ask for your involvement in the project that we are launching from 19 November 2020 during the full pandemic: "Prohibition of Water Disconnection: From a Social Shield to Safeguarding Human Rights". We need an active network of human rights defenders to identify where these water outages occur, report and follow up on them, through a global mailbox that we will manage from Geneva, Switzerland. On this basis, it will be up to the Special Rapporteur to draw attention to the responsible institutions and to collaborate in building solutions that respect human rights and at the same time allow fighting the virus.

In any case, beyond activating that social shield, which is so necessary and urgent against the Covid-19, we must transform the urgent need posed by the pandemic into a permanent virtue, ensuring access to at least a vital minimum to guarantee the human rights to water and sanitation, at all times and under any circumstance, whether there is a pandemic or not. In this way, while we fight in solidarity against the virus, we will promote legal and policy reforms that guarantee the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

I look forward to your active participation in this project.

Pedro Arrojo-Agudo

Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation