By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
On the occasion of the 45th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, spoke on behalf of the Holy See on Wednesday regarding the “right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.”
Water: essential element for life
Citing Pope Francis, the Archbishop reminded those present that “water is the most essential element for life, and the future of humanity depends on our capacity to guard it and share it.” He also stated the Holy See’s position that “access to water and sanitation is not just a basic human need, but also a crucial element for the health of the Earth and of those who live [on] it.”
Archbishop Jurkovič acknowledged that the United Nations General Assembly of 17 December 2015 expressed a similar vision to that of the Holy See’s. However, he added that “the Holy See has continually emphasized that more still needs to be done to foster the universal affirmation of this fundamental right.”
He therefore drew attention to no. 75 of the Report of the Special Rapporteur written for the occasion that states that “the full realization of the human right to water and sanitation cannot be left to States alone.” Commenting on this statement, Archbishop Jurkovič said that everyone has the responsibility to contribute to the development of a “more integral and sustainable society.”
Right to water rooted in human dignity
The Archbishop affirmed the Special Rapporteur’s mention of the many “types of resources that contribute to achieving the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.” But, he added that all human rights, including the right to water, are founded on the dignity of the human person, and “not in any kind of merely quantitative assessment that considers water as a merely economic good."
Archbishop Jurkovič then noted that the international community needs to realize the need for a new type of “solidarity concerning natural resources.” Managing water sources is connected with “social responsibility, a mentality of ecological behavior” and global “solidarity among countries.” This, he said, is the only possible way “to strengthen the common good and preserve it for the future.”
The Holy See’s representative then concluded with a citation from Pope Francis taken from the special Urbi et orbi discourse of 27 March earlier this year.
“This is not a time for self-centeredness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all, without distinguishing between persons. […] Let us not lose the opportunity to give further proof of solidarity, also by turning to innovative solutions.”