HLPF 2023: Access to water and sanitation is a human right

“Our vision as sanitation workers is based on the consideration of access to clean water and sanitation as an essential human right.” J.L. Lingeri SGBASTOS / CGT RA Argentina

Billions of people around the world suffer from poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene. This is a global crisis that is expanding and must be solved urgently to achieve Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation for all.

Trade unions are calling for public investment in sustainable water management and to create the climate-friendly jobs that will enable workers to address this crisis effectively. Trade unions are also supporting a global treaty on plastic pollution to end plastic waste and protect marine ecosystems.

However, many governments are not getting the urgency of acting now. Instead, they continue to support businesses that profit from unsustainable exploitation of water systems and unregulated plastic waste.

Workers put people’s health and access to water and sanitation over profit.


  • Recognise the universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right. Water and sanitation are basic needs for survival and are essential to the fulfilment of many other human rights and core labour standards, including health, food, education, occupational health and safety and freedom from discrimination.
  • Ensure that the planning, development and management of public infrastructure and services provides for workers, including mobile transport workers and those in informal employment, and users to have regular access to safe drinking water and safe, secure, decent sanitation, with appropriate safeguards.
  • Recognise the provision of adequate, accessible, safe and secure sanitation for workers as a gender-sensitive issue that affects men, women and workers of different sexual orientation and gender identities in different ways, which must be accommodated through an inclusive gender-responsive approach following consultation with union representatives.
  • Recognise that the right to sanitation is meaningless without workers having the right to paid rest breaks and regular toilet breaks to enable access to sanitation facilities during working hours when they need them, without delay, loss of income or any other detriment.
  • Manage water as a common good and invest in public safe drinking water and sanitation services. Water and sanitation are essential services that should be led by the public sector, as experiences of privatisation of these services have proved to put at risk the exercise of human rights and the sustainability of aquatic ecosystems.
  • Invest in decent and climate-friendly jobs in water resources management, sanitation services and related infrastructure, based on gender-responsive just transition measures.
  • Extend social protection coverage, including income security and healthcare services, to those exposed to water insecurity (often women and girls).
  • Establish social dialogue mechanisms on water and sanitation management  to achieve an integrated management of water resources at all levels, in order to improve water quality , increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and restore water-related ecosystems.
  • Support a global treaty on plastic pollution as a key element to improve water quality, which must include just transition measures for all workers in the life cycle of plastics, from fossil fuel fracking to production to waste and include just transition measures.
  • Counteract drought, desertification and famine through strengthened adaptation and mitigation actions to climate change, respecting the commitments to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1,5°C.
  • Improve public water management, limiting the use of groundwater extracted through electricity and promote innovative practices and incentives to save water.

💦Water & sanitation
are human rights!
Billions suffer poor access to it.
Trade unions call for public investment
in sustainable water management
& climate-friendly jobs✊


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