In November, The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) initiated an eight-month project entitled “Thematic Study on the Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation in ASEAN”. In South East Asia, the population has relatively good access to safe water and adequate sanitation, but only a few countries report access levels of over 85%. Lower levels of access are experienced particularly in rural communities and the region is facing additional threats to water sources due to climate change and environmental degradation.

The objective of the Thematic Study is to support efforts to increase access to drinking water and sanitation by producing a comprehensive regional report of national water governance frameworks, along with regional and international commitments. The results will also provide essential baseline information to support the ASEAN member states in achieving the targets set out by Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), especially SDG 6.

Senior Legal Officer Rakia Turner presented the WaterLex methodology for mapping country legal systems as they relate to Human Rights to Water and Sanitation at the coordination meeting for the thematic study in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  The project is follow-up from a Regional Consultation on the Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation in ASEAN held in October 2017 where Director General Amanda Loeffen presented this approach. This guidance on the research methodology will be used as the basis of the Study for all ten ASEAN Member States. The results will inform each State on how to think about integrating laws and policies that support the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation, and hence provide a structured approach to achieving SDG 6.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Leo Heller, was present as a part of an official country visit to Malaysia. He spoke to the group on his mandate, the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation and the SDGs.