8. How to articulate human rights and MDGs?

The international human rights framework is a baseline commitment on global efforts to meet all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as stated in the Millennium Declaration and reaffirmed in the 2010 High Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly.

The realization of all the MDGs is affected by the access or lack of access to water and sanitation, and states have specifically committed to “reduce by half by 2015 the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation “(MDG 7).

In light of the human rights principles described (See Section 4), the MDGs target limited progress and focus on outcomes, ignoring the importance of processes. Indeed, human rights standards attribute relevance to processes, compelling the participatory formulation of public policies and development plans and the institutionalization of democratic processes. Human rights also demand the establishment of accountability mechanisms that will enable individuals to hold governments answerable.

Furthermore the indicators used to measure progress towards the MDG targets on water and sanitation do not take into account the normative criteria of the human right to water and sanitation, as for example quality and affordability (which are not being assessed at the global level).

A human rights framework invites States to adapt and align the MDGs to their national context, state of development and available resources, being always guided by human rights, especially the principles of non-discrimination, participation and accountability. States and development partners must target the most vulnerable populations and identify groups that face discrimination. Hence a focus on non-discrimination and equality, eventually combined with the concept of equity (which is well-known to development practitioners) would change the way progress is made and measured globally.

In preparation of a post-2015 development agenda, the UNICEF’s and WHO’s Joint Monitoring Programme recently initiated a multi-stakeholders process to assess the feasibility of incorporating specific, rights-based indicators into the development of new development targets and indicators, so as to enable them to monitor whether access to water and sanitation services are safe, affordable and are delivered to all people without discrimination, concentrating first on those who are marginalised and vulnerable.

Turning from the MDG to the human rights paradigm, States and development partners will need guidance to integrate new targets and principles in water and sanitation governance aiming at universal access, while prioritizing the most neglected groups.