We have two important reports in front of us.
First, Norway welcomes the final draft report of the special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. We commend the extensive work done by the Special Rapporteur, the expert groups and the participants in the consultation rounds. Many have given insightful comments, resulting in this final draft presented to us today.
The fulfilment of human rights is a legal as well as moral obligation. Being an end in itself, implies that the fulfilment of human rights is not only instrumentally important to poverty eradication, rather an intrinsic part of the poverty eradication, and should be treated as such.
Gender equality and the rights of women may stand as an example of the importance of bridging the different approaches aiming at poverty reduction. Women’s equal access to economic opportunities and decision-making power is crucial for poverty eradication. From Norway’s own historical experience, women’s active participation in society has been of great importance for economic development and poverty eradication. Indeed, discrimination of half of a nation’s population is a serious obstacle for achieving poverty reduction.
In our view, the most important argument for gender equality is, however, the human rights perspective: States are obliged to eliminate discrimination against women and put in place measures to achieve gender equality.
We agree that positive measures should be taken to ensure de facto equality of persons living in poverty. The responsibility of states to fulfil human rights obligations is important. It is, however, equally important to stress that poverty eradication is a complex issue and should be addressed based on national solutions and nationally defined priorities. The ownership of states’ poverty reduction strategies should be respected. We fully agree that the successful implementation of the Guiding Principles relies on their translation into national poverty and human rights strategies.
The Guiding Principles could prove to be an important policy tool. We would, however, like to have the Special Rapporteur’s comment on ways and means of monitoring progress.
The report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation successfully makes the case of closely linking stigma to the realization of the human right to water and sanitation. Her message is clear and strong: The violation of the right to water and sanitation often perpetuates stigmatization and states cannot fully realize the human rights obligations to water and sanitation without addressing stigma as a root cause of discrimination and other human rights violations.
By bringing stigma related to sanitation into the human rights framework, she highlights the requirements for States to prioritize the most marginalized. This is in line with the attention Norway would like to give the challenge of improving access to basic services for these groups.
At the same time, it is regrettable that key terminology used in the report varies or is left undefined. Is the report talking about one combined single right to water and sanitation, or are these two different rights? Clear definitions are important not only when it comes to determining practical and context-specific measures, but also to ensure accountability. To strengthen the latter and link the rights debate to the wider development agenda, one suggestion would be to discuss these definitions in light of relevant MDGs targets.
The report alludes to the need for an all stakeholders approach through for instance the empowerment and participation of the stigmatized and awareness-raising of the public at large. However, in terms of accountability frameworks, there is a risk of focussing solely on the State as a duty-bearer. In an attempt to move from principles to practice at the country level, one might suggest to further explore the responsibility and accountability mechanism for everyone in order to ensure that violations of the right to water and sanitation no longer occur.