Human Rights Committee

Providing basic sanitation in developing countries and in areas of war as a prerequisite for the future development of the respective areas.

by Valentin Conrad


"More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. These deaths are an affront to our common humanity, and undermine the efforts of many countries to achieve their development potential."

– Ban Ki-Moon

As target 10 of the Millennium Development Goals is to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation” this issue of providing sanitation in developing countries and in areas of war should be approached with great care and detail. Just less than 40% of the world population lives without basic sanitation services and a recent study shows, that in developing countries, more people have access to a cell phones than to basic sanitation. Most Europeans average from 200-300 liters of water usage a day, while around 884 million people who live more than 1 kilometer away from the nearest water source, have an average water usage of less than 5 liters a day. This crisis needs a solution as more people die from diarrhea than from AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Current situation

Seeing as about 1.6 million people die every year due to diarrheal diseases, developing countries being mostly affected, the situation is extremely current. Due to the direct link to diarrhea, poor sanitation accounts for almost 50% of underweight children. The right to water and sanitation as a human right was only adopted by the United Nations in July 2010 and it is not likely that the Millennium Development Goal, of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to basic sanitation, is met. Major initiatives need to be set up if this goal is to be achieved.

Sanitation Financing

Many studies have shown, that for every dollar spent on the improvement of sanitation in developing countries, about nine dollars are yielded. Now, the question is, why developing countries still do not fund sanitation as much as they do water, education and other health facilities, seeing as it would improve the standard of health, living; and result in savings in health care. In the past, the funding and financing of sanitation has mostly been supply-driven, so facilities are directly implemented. This results in mostly western donors to pay for sanitation equipment, which ends up not being used by the intended clients. What has shown to be much more sustainable is if the funding for the promotion of sanitation, so the education of the problem and the infrastructure needed. This would result in the population of these developing countries to demand the government to fund this part of the infrastructure more, and thus make the efforts a long-term effect.

Sustainable Sanitation

Every sanitation system needs to be perfected for the community or household it is used in. In order for the system to be long lasting many aspects need to be considered. The system should be healthy, so that the user is not exposed to any hazardous substances from the toilet through the collection of the wastewater to the reuse or disposal. It should also be optimized for the environment and the use of natural resources. The energy and water needed as well as other resources needed for the construction and maintenance of the system need to be considered as well as the reuse of any nutrients for energy or agriculture (Ecosan, a system that considers the different streams of wastewater as nutrients in order to get the most nutrients out of them, is a great way to do this). The system needs to be operable for any possible user and there should be a sort of instruction guide if anything may break. All finances should be worked out as in if the system requires small payments from the community or if it is free and where the money for the construction comes from. The last and very important part is that the culture and traditions of the community or household need to be a part of the planning of the sanitation system and all gender and dignity issues need to be worked out. If all these steps are a part of the system, then it will be sustainable and will actually be used by the people.

Urban Sanitation

One of the biggest problems of sanitation is the sanitation in urban areas. Especially in Developing countries the bigger cities have a huge problem with the amounts of waste. These enormous amounts of wastewater are often not collected and treated properly which leads to the pollution of ground water, which is often the source of drinking water.

UN Involvement

The United Nations has provided WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Guidelines.

Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/RES/18/1 –This Resolution from the Human Rights Council on September 28th 2011 calls for practical implementations of drinking water and sanitation and for states to provide the necessary financing for sanitation services.

World Health Assembly Resolution 64/24 – With this resolution in May 2011 the WHO called member states to actively contribute to the MDGs with their national health standards and simultaneously strengthen the new human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Appointment of an independent expert – In March 2008 the HRC appointed an expert for three years to report on States’ implementation of the right to water and any violations. In April 2011 this period was extended for another three years.

The WSSCC is an organization hosted by the UN that specializes in sanitation and hygiene. It was founded in 1990 after the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990).

“Through its work on various sanitation-related themes, WSSCC helps foster knowledge and understanding on ideas and methods which help to improve sanitation coverage.”

Possible Solutions

In order to successfully find a solution to the lack of sanitation in developing countries and areas of war, two main factors have to be considered. Before physical work can fully and productively be executed, the stigma around sanitation has to be reduced. Especially in developing countries, whenever sanitation is addressed, the majority of people are still ashamed to tackle this problem of excrements. In order to reduce the stigma one needs to educate the inhabitants about the importance of sanitation. Some sort of forum might need to be accessible, so that members of the community can openly address the problem without being discriminated. Once the stigma is reduced, the funding in many countries may rise.

The process for sustainable sanitation mentioned earlier in the report should be implemented globally. Part of the resolution should also contain a solution about the financing. It should be less supply-driven, but rather to inform citizens about the problem before just building up unnecessary toilets and other sanitation systems.

 The delegates should come up with resolutions to both these components of the conflict.

Definition of Key Terms

Sanitation: According to the WHO sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces as well as to the maintenance of hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal.

Developing countries: Countries are identified as a developing country judged on the following criteria: Adult literacy rate, Gross secondary school enrolment ratio, Gross national income (GNI) per capita, Instability of agricultural production, Instability of exports of goods and services, Merchandise export concentration, Percentage of population undernourished, Population, Remoteness, Share of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in GDP, Share of population in low elevated coastal zones, Under five mortality rate and Victims of natural disasters. For definitions see


Sufficient: The water supply for each person must be sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses. These uses ordinarily include drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, personal and household hygiene. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 50 and 100 liters of water per person per day are needed to ensure that most basic needs are met and few health concerns arise.

Safe: The water required for each personal or domestic use must be safe, therefore free from microorganisms, chemical substances and radiological hazards that constitute a threat to a person's health. Measures of drinking-water safety are usually defined by national and/or local standards for drinking-water quality. The World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for drinking-water quality provide a basis for the development of national standards that, if properly implemented, will ensure the safety of drinking water.

Acceptable: Water should be of an acceptable color, odor and taste for each personal or domestic use. [...] All water facilities and services must be culturally appropriate and sensitive to gender, lifecycle and privacy requirements.

Physically accessible: Everyone has the right to a water and sanitation service that is physically accessible within, or in the immediate vicinity of the household, educational institution, workplace or health institution. According to WHO, the water source has to be within 1,000 meters of the home and collection time should not exceed 30 minutes.

Affordable: Water, and water facilities and services, must be affordable for all. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) suggests that water costs should not exceed 3 per cent of household income.

Research Links

Securing basic human rights for refugees worldwide following the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

by Helena Klettke


Only a few days ago, on April 29th, Amnesty International published a report about refugees in Greece. Many of them were robbed by masked men and had to return to their native country without their papers or any money.

This act was a clear violation against the principle of non-refoulement which is part of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees ("No Contracting State shall expel or return ('refouler') a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social or political opinion", Article 33(1)).

Even though the Convention that defined the rights of refugees was already about half a century ago and there are clear definitions of who qualifies as a refugee and the rights as well as the duties coming along with it, the handling of refugees still seems like a current problem in most parts of the world.

The goal is to prevent further violation of the refugees' rights as well as remodeling outdated notions and definitions from the Convention and finding proper ways for countries of first asylum to handle greater numbers of refugees.

Research Links