KATHMANDU: Dignitaries have pointed out that communities discriminated by work and descent have been experiencing exclusion from the right to access to water and sanitation due to prevailing cultural and social practices which has not been sufficiently addressed by the UN including the SDG 2030 goals.
Such issues were raised during the virtual Round Table on Access to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation for All held on June 4 by the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Germany and Spain along with the Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent.
“Communities discriminated by work and Descent have been experiencing exclusion from their right to access water and sanitation due to prevailing cultural and social practices which have not been sufficiently addressed by the UN including the SDG 2030 goals,” said Paul Divakar Namala, convenor of the Global forum of communities Discriminated on Work and Descent who had moderated the panel.
Against the backdrop of the forthcoming biennial Resolution on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation put forward by Germany and Spain in the Third Committee of the United Nations the event focussed on the importance of ensuring access to water and sanitation for all with a special focus on communities discriminated on work and descent (CDWD) and highlighted the relevance of the contribution of sanitation workers to Sustainable Development Goal 6, ensuring all persons have access to sanitation services.
Discrimination based on work and descent (DWD) is defined by the Draft UN Principles and Guidelines on Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent by Prof. Yakota and Prof. Chung as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on inherited statuses such as caste, including present or ancestral occupation, family, community or social origin, name, birthplace, place of residence, dialect and accent that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life”. Being subjected to preconditioned stigmas, CDWD in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America are often segregated from the rest of the population. In many cases, they are restricted to use common water sources and forced to use alternative sources, which are often dirty or polluted.
Also, in some countries, sanitation workers often belong to CDWD and are involved in operating and maintaining sanitation systems such as pit latrines, septic tanks, sewers and treatment facilities. These persons often work in conditions that expose them to infections, injuries, social stigma and even death, jeopardizing inter alia their human rights to decent work and health. At the same time they are denied access to clean drinking water and access to sanitation systems.
The event was inaugurated by ambassador Christoph Heusgen, Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN.
“The right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a universal human right,” Heusgen said in his opening remarks.
He added that even there was progress over the past 10 years, there are only ten more years to achieve universal access to water and sanitation, and ensuring access to water and sanitation – as a right and a public service for all, including women and girls and the most marginalized groups and communities, including communities discriminated on work and descent.
With regard to the aim of the round table, Ambassador Heusgen stated that both Spain and Germany will work to promote discussion and to seek the inclusion of new language against discrimination based on work and descent in the Biennial Resolution of the Third Committee.
Prof. Chin Sung Chung, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was the keynote speaker of the event. He has worked closely on the issues of CDWD, having co-authored the Draft UN Principles and Guidelines on Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent.
‘When it comes to access to water and sanitation, scarcity is an issue, however, marginalization of populations is a crucial issue that needs to addressed and it is the responsibility of the State to do so,” said Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, UN Special Rapporteur for Water and Sanitation.
The Special Rapporteur was followed by three illustrious panelists, all experts on the field with the issues that face CDWD – Mary James Gill, Executive Director, Centre for Law & Justice, Pakistan, Brahim Rhamdane, founder of the Sahel Foundation & African Network against Discrimination based on Work and Descent, Mauritania and Dr. Givania Silva, Executive Director, Coordenação Nacional de Articulação das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas (CONAQ), Brazil.
They highlighted the clear discrimination in access to water and sanitation as well as in other areas across Asia, Africa and Latin America and urged for an urgent need to be addressed also in view of added difficulty posed by the Pandemic.
In his closing remarks the Deputy Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, Ambassador María Bassols reiterated the comments made by Ambassador Heusgen. “The Agenda 2030 motto is to Leave No One Behind and the human right to water and sanitation is an important component to this,” said Bassols. Speaking of the need for progress towards the commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals, she added “I hope that in 2022 we can tell you about the advances made in this landscape. We are going to be working on this issue in the coming weeks and months.”
This Roundtable was co-hosted by the ANDS – Africa Network on Discrimination on Work and Descent, Asia Dalit Rights Forum, CONAQ – National confederation of Quilombola Communities, Brazil, European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network – ERGO, TrustAfrica, The Inclusivity Project, Dalit Solidarity in Germany, International Dalit Solidarity Network and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty.