Courtesy of UNifeed
The world’s most important natural resource, water is an essential component of all living things. Even so, it remains out of reach for many around the world – especially for those in stigmatized ethnic and cultural groups, according to a statement issued by the United Nations.
Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, announced on Thursday that discriminatory policies and practices in water management were barring certain groups from access to water; sometimes with dangerous consequences.
"Stigmatisation has such an effect on certain groups on certain populations, that these people do not manage to get access to water and to sanitation because they are marginalised they are excluded,” she said, “and this marginalisation and exclusion is something deliberate that comes from other members of society, sometimes it even comes from the authorities.”
Albuquerque’s remarks, which were delivered before the Human Rights Council in Geneva, came after a fact-finding mission in which worked in and met representatives of marginalized populations, and heard firsthand how they had suffered.
Specifically mentioning the Roma populations of Eastern Europe and the Dalits of India and Southern Asia, Albuquerque claimed that a lack of access to water can lead to poor health and, due to a lack of sanitation, further discrimination based on maintenance assumptions. She made the case that more must be done to ensure that water management is fair across the board, no matter who is involved.
“This situation of exclusion of people is seen as natural, as acceptable, even as necessary, as legal, even very often by authorities and this makes the problem much deeper and much more entrenched in societies and more difficult to combat," she noted.
While Albuquerque’s findings present challenges, she was glad that they were beginning a conversation on the state of water equity around the world.
"Just by having this discussion is already a victory for me because we are putting the issues on the table, we are addressing them, we are talking about them and this is a first step.”