Joint Statement of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and His Deputies on the World Day of Sanitation
Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Dr. Ákos Kozma, Deputy Commissioner, Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay, and Deputy Commissioner, Ombudsman for Future Generations Dr. Gyula Bándi call attention to the multiple significance of the World Day of Sanitation, and its interconnectedness with life and human dignity, sustainability and climate change.
In 2010, the UN declared the right to access to water and sanitation a fundamental human right. Moreover, in 2013, it designated 19 November as the World Day of Sanitation, urging states to solve public health issues deriving from sanitation deficiencies. In 2020, the UN organized the World Day of Sanitation in the spirit of the close connection between the sustainability of sewage systems and climate change.
The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputies stress that besides the state and municipal governments, creating sanitation conditions suitable for preserving human dignity is the obligation of the head of each and every institution, organization, and workplace under the Fundamental Law of Hungary. The Covid-19 pandemic has made the fundamental importance of ensuring these conditions even more emphatic.
The safe collection and treatment of waste water is indispensable for the protection of human life and health. The unpredictable weather conditions due to climate change, flashfloods caused by heavy raining pose a serious challenge for the maintainers of sewage systems and waste water treatment installations. The Ombudsman and his Deputies advise the officials of municipalities, residents, and local social and economic actors that in order to reduce the negative effects of climate change, they give priority to these considerations when elaborating and implementing – among others – their settlement development agendas.
The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputies call special attention to the grave housing problems of disadvantaged persons living in regions affected by economic depression, among them especially those of Roma nationality, that are tightly correlated with the lack of proper sanitary conditions.
In many cases, citizens living in deep poverty, often in ghetto-like settlements, still struggle with problems related to access to healthy drinking water, the deficiencies of sewerage, and the comfort level and quality of their homes on a day-to-day basis. The lack of basic infrastructure may have devastating consequences at a time of pandemics. In consideration of the above, the Ombudsman and his Deputies underline the necessity of state- and municipality-level special programmes and subsidies dedicated to the improvement of sanitary conditions and the prevention of public health issues, with a special focus on preserving the human dignity and health of those living in disadvantaged regions, especially in segregated settlements.
Ensuring access to water and sanitation is inseparable from sustainable water management. This is the core message of the UN when handling these issues among the Sustainable Development Goals to be attained by 2030 within the same group. The finality of our natural resources demands that we do our utmost to re-use used water and waste water, and recover valuable materials from them. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputies remind that in accordance with the National Avowal of the Fundamental Law of Hungary, commitment to the preservation of the natural treasures of the Carpathian Basin, as well as to the protection of our natural resources forming the common heritage of the nation for future generations is the obligation of each and every Hungarian citizen. Thus, the World Day of Sanitation urges us to protect human dignity and the conditions of human life at the same time.