Water, is a vital resource for human beings, and, unlike many others, knows no borders: no less than 148 states share at least one transboundary river basin.
International cooperation to manage water resources is ancient: the Central Commission for Navigation on the river Rhine, created in 1815, is considered the world’s oldest extant international organization. Cooperation in this realm is key to peace and security, but also for the preservation of resources and the protection of environment. Water cooperation aims at a better management of water supplies and can generate economic benefits.
With rapid urbanization, accelerating climate change and growing food needs an ever-increasing pressure is put on freshwater resources; the objective of the Year of water cooperation is to draw attention to the benefits of cooperation in water management.
Lack of access to safe drinking water and to sanitation is the leading cause of mortality worldwide. In 2012, close to 800 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water and over 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.2 million people, mostly young children, die annually from the consequences of water-related diseases.and lack of sanitation. 443 million school days are lost as a result of water-related diseases or the absence of sanitation. Statistics aside, those who are deprived of safe water and sanitation are also subject to discrimination and stigmatisation.
Ranked as the third biggest bilateral donor of funds for water-related projects (€600 million in 2012), France is deeply committed to the recognition of the right to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, which access is essential to the full exercise of the right to health and to an adequate standard of living, as recognised in articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and, more generally, of the right to life and to dignity.
France’s commitment to the universal recognition of the right to water and sanitation is reflected throughout the UN system.
A/ Guaranteeing access for all to drinking water, a Millenium Development Goal
Ensuring access to drinking water is one of the Millennium Development Goals defined in 2000.
Target 7.C calls for :
""Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation." "
The world has met the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water, five years ahead of schedule, yet eleven per cent of the global population—783 million people—remains without access to an improved source of drinking water.
— In July 2010, France supported the adoption of resolution A/RES/64/292 at the UN General Assembly, recognizing for the first time within this organization the right to access to safe, clean drinking water as a human right.
— In 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 (in French), 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.
— France was involved in negotiations and co-sponsored the resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 20 September 2012 (A/RES/21/2) on the same issue. The HRC resolution recognises that the right to safe, clean drinking water and to sanitation is a fundamental human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and realisation of all human rights. It also reminds States of their obligation to guarantee full realisation of this right and calls upon them to prioritise the needs of the most marginalised, excluded and deprived.
B/ French and European involvement at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012
— From 12 to 17 March 2012, France hosted in Marseille the 6th World Water Forum.
Every three years since 1997, the World Water Forum mobilises creativity, innovation, competence and know-how in favour of water. The five Water Forums held between 1997 and 2009 helped raising water issues on the international agenda.
In Marseille, more than 20 000 people coming from more than 170 countries and representing governments, parliaments, cities, international organisations or the civil society participated to several thematic discussions and workshops.
Participation by local and regional authorities in a Forum had 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 French Prime Minister, Mr. François Fillon, announced France’s commitments, stressing the need to speed up the implementation of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. Twelve 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.
At the end of the Conference, France pledged to bring the Forum’s conclusions at the Rio+20 conference.
— French and European mobilisation at the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in June contributed to the rise of water as an overarching, key theme. The Rio+20 Final Declaration reaffirmed that access to drinking water and sanitation is a human right. It also reaffirms the commitments made to its gradual implementation.
The « Blue Group»
To reinforce the effectiveness of its actions and promote the right to water, France created in 2011 along with other States an informal group, called the “ Blue Group” which helps coordinate the positions of member States within the UN bodies in New York and Geneva.
The Blue Group’s primary goal is to promote the right to safe drinking water and sanitation on the international stage, in particular through an approach based on the integration of human rights into the formulation and implementation of development programmes. It also supports the work of Mrs Catarina de Albuquerque, UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
B/ Protection and management of transboundary watercourses
A United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses was adopted in 1997. France became the 22nd State Party to this Convention in January 2011. This commitment was 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. The stakes are high : while pressures on water resources increase, two-thirds of the world’s drainage basins are shared between several States and a significant proportion of the world population depends on transboundary water resources for its supply of water for drinking, agriculture, energy and industry. As an example, the Danube river drainage basin is shared by 18 different European states.
The Convention encourages the implementation, at the regional level, of mechanisms and organizations to ensure a concerted and responsible approach to sharing resources and benefits resulting from their exploitation. Its implementation will benefit the countries and regions that do not yet have such regional agreements. France encourages in particular 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, the President of the French Republic expressed the hope that the 6th World Water Forum, hosted in March 2012 in Marseille, would contribute to “making water a protected resource shared between Nations.” By ratifying the Convention, France endorsed its message: dialogue on transboundary waters is needed to promote the peaceful management of water resources in order to prevent conflicts, and encouraging regional integration and security.
France also aims at mobilizing its partner to ratify the Convention, both within and outside the European Union. A total of 35 States ratification is needed for the Convention to enter into force.
27 september 2012 - Human Rigths Council - Resolution A/HRC/RES/21/2 - The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation
28 July 2010 - Resolution A/RES/64/292