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Media Advisory - United Nations Human Rights - Office of the High Commissioner

UN rights expert to study USA's key role as a world leader in foreign aid to water and sanitation projects

WASHINGTON DC / GENEVA, 17 February 2011
(UN Information Service Washington, DC)

UN independent expert Catarina de Albuquerque will visit the United States of America from 22 February to 4 March 2011. During her first mission to the country, she will collect first hand information about the Government's efforts to ensure that the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation are guaranteed in its territory, and the extent to which these rights are promoted through official development aid.

"As a world leader in foreign aid to the water and sanitation sectors, the United States in a unique position to promote these human rights," noted the Independent Expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to examine the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

"I will also closely examine the domestic situation, including challenges in access to safe drinking water and sanitation for low income groups, minority groups, homeless people, and Native American communities," Ms. de Albuquerque said.

As human rights, all people, without discrimination, must have access to safe drinking water and sanitation, which is affordable, acceptable, available and safe. States must continually take steps to ensure that access to these fundamental rights is guaranteed.

"This mission will particularly consider the situation of the most vulnerable groups with a special emphasis on the human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation and accountability," she added.

The Independent Expert will take part in a hearing on the human right to water at the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, on 3 March 2011.

Ms. de Albuquerque will meet with Government officials, representatives of Congress, water and wastewater operators, and representatives from civil society and academia. Besides official Government meetings in the capital, Washington, DC, she will also visit Boston, California and Maryland. Her findings and recommendations will be presented in a report to the Human Rights Council.

A press conference will be held at the United Nations Information Center in Washington DC on 4 March at 12:00.

Catarina de Albuquerque is a Portuguese lawyer currently working as a senior legal adviser at the Office for Documentation and Comparative Law (an independent institution under the Portuguese Prosecutor General's Office) in the area of human rights. She holds a DES in international relations with a specialization in international law from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. She was appointed as Independent Expert in September 2008 and took up her functions in November 2008.

Learn more about the Independent Expert's mandate and work, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/water/iexpert/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page - USA: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Yoonie Kim (Tel.: 011 41 79 752 0483 / e-mail: ykim@ohchr.org) or write to iewater@ohchr.org

Read the Testimony of AEHR's Michele Roberts to The Independent Expert On the Human Right to Water and Sanitation Mission to the United States, February 23, 2011

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