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Explanation of Position: The Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation
September 25, 2014

Explanation of Position:  The Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation Resolution
Statement of the Delegation of the United States of America
As Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council
UN Human Rights Council – 27th Session
September 25, 2014


The United States recognizes the importance and challenges of meeting basic needs for water and sanitation to support human rights, economic development, and peace and security.

The United States is committed to addressing the global challenges relating to water and sanitation and has made access to safe drinking water and sanitation a priority in our development assistance efforts.

In joining consensus on this resolution today we reaffirm the understandings in our explanations of position on the Council’s September 2012 and 2013 resolutions on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, available on the U.S. Mission’s website.

The United States joins consensus with the express understanding that it does not imply that States must implement obligations under human rights instruments to which they are not a party.

The United States is not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESR), and the rights contained therein are not justiciable in U.S. courts.

In addition, we also stress that we read preambular paragraph 20 of this year’s resolution to be consistent with the Council’s 2010, 2011, and 2013 resolutions on this topic, which noted that transboundary water issues fall outside the scope of the human right to drinking water and sanitation derived from the economic, social and cultural rights contained in the ICESCR.

We are pleased that preambular paragraph 8 of this resolution refers to the 2014 Sanitation and Water for All High-Level Meeting.  The United States participated actively in that meeting, at which participants made commitments concerning access to safe drinking water and sanitation.  Those commitments were made in support of achieving universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation and not explicitly to advance a human right to water.

In addition, while the United States agrees that safe water and sanitation are critically important, we do not accept all of the analyses and conclusions in the Special Rapporteur’s latest report.

Likewise, while the United States attaches high priority to agreeing on a meaningful and ambitious post-2015 development agenda by next September, we underscore that this resolution does not prejudge those continuing negotiations.

Our views on the outcome document of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals are elaborated in our statement on the resolution on technical cooperation and capacity resolution.

With respect to the resolution’s language concerning human rights education and training, we note that within the federal structure of the United States, higher education, including law school education, is primarily a state and local responsibility.

We therefore join consensus on the understanding that the United States will continue to address the resolution’s goals consistent with current U.S. law and the federal government’s authority.

Unfortunately, while we are pleased to join consensus on this year’s resolution, the United States must dissociate from consensus on preambular paragraph 21.

The language used to define the right to safe drinking water and sanitation in that paragraph is based on the views of the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which does not appear in an international agreement and does not represent a consensus position.