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Published on December 30, 2007

Author: Breezy

Source: authorstream.com

Equitable access to water: the French approach to achieving it:  Equitable access to water: the French approach to achieving it Elodie Carmona Ministry of Health, France Geneva, January 18th, 2007 We would like to thank Henri Smets, former OECD officer and member of the Water Academy, for his kind support and for providing us with many helpful documents Introduction: What does “right to water” exactly mean?:  Introduction: What does “right to water” exactly mean? Right to water= right to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation  access to both a good and a service: access, for each human being, to enough safe drinking water to live in dignity (circa 50L per person and per day) access to basic adequate sanitation The right to water: a new human right? (I):  The right to water: a new human right? (I) It can be considered as a 2nd generation human right (economic and social human right) Double aspect: a right derived from other human rights (e.g right to live in dignity, right to welfare…) and a obligatory preliminary to political human rights and economic and social human rights as well The right to water: a new human right? (II):  The right to water: a new human right? (II) The current situation is ambivalent: The right to water is directly or indirectly recognized as a fundamental right …but due to the lack of recognition in the positive law, it is currently impossible to characterize water as a fundamental right in Europe  As a consequence, the right to water is not explicitly mentioned as a fundamental right or an economic and social right in any normative text of international law in force in Europe nevertheless, constant progresses have been made, and some international treaties have already mentioned aspects of the right to water (at least as an objective), eg the Convention on Children Rights (1989), the Protocol of London on Water and Health (1999, art 4.2), the Protocol on Water and Health (1999) Who is concerned by the right to water in France?:  Who is concerned by the right to water in France? A minority of course: People living in most remote areas (isolated rural villages, a small percentage of the French population): some villages pose special problems because of the very high cost of connecting their inhabitants to the main water supply (since they live far apart) Territorial exclusion Marginal and poor populations (homeless people, squats, insalubrious housing, very poor families…) which cannot afford paying the necessary 1 euro per day for drinking water supply  Social exclusion (3% of the users) For all these categories, solutions already exist The implementation of the right to water in France: access to water and sanitation in most remote areas (1) (territorial cohesion):  The implementation of the right to water in France: access to water and sanitation in most remote areas (1) (territorial cohesion) Main problem: the cost of safe drinking water, which can be very higher in the isolated rural areas than in urban areas How to make water more affordable for people living in these areas, but without making them pay a too high price compared to people living in towns? Thanks to mechanisms of solidarity between rural and urban areas Some cities have borrowed money and obtained subsidies from regional and central government as well as grants and loans from water agencies Former FNDAE= a national fund (financed by tax on piped water) which provided grants covering the additional cost of water in sparsely populated rural areas Now it has been reorganized at the regional level, and the water agencies have been in charge with it since 2005 The 6 French water agencies organize solidarity between users by redistributing the water abstraction and pollution charge they collect The implementation of the right to water in France: access to water and sanitation in most remote areas (2) (territorial cohesion):  The implementation of the right to water in France: access to water and sanitation in most remote areas (2) (territorial cohesion) Good results of these mechanisms of solidarity: Circa 99% of the French population is now connected to water networks, with an affordable cost of water but progress must be made: in the most remote areas water is more likely to be of poorer quality than in urban areas, and there are still circa remote villages with no water networks still 200 000 people are not supplied with water (private wells, mineral springs…) Cost: 900 M euros per year The implementation of the right to water in France: access to water and sanitation in very low income housings (1) (social cohesion):  The implementation of the right to water in France: access to water and sanitation in very low income housings (1) (social cohesion) Main problem: the lack of money which prevents a minority of the population from access to water and sanitation (homeless people…) and makes very poor families unable to pay their water bill E.g, about 2% of the users pay late because of income constraints, and some of them cannot even pay their bill In case of repeated unpaid water bills, they risk legal procedures and cuts (circa 2000 impoverished households a year are thus deprived of drinking water for at least 24 hours) And social tariffs are considered as illegal by the existing law What are the current solutions? The implementation of the right to water in France: access to water and sanitation in very low income housings (2) (social cohesion):  The implementation of the right to water in France: access to water and sanitation in very low income housings (2) (social cohesion) Cut off have become relatively rare, because it has a “bad press”, and because the courts are realizing increasingly that cutting off water is an affront to dignity Moreover, a family with a young child or a dependent person can no longer have its water cut off (idem for any poor family in winter) The majority of poor households lives in apartment blocks where water is included in the charges, and the nationwide solidarity housing fund sometimes intervenes when bills of poor families are not paid Since 1992, very poor families have been entitled by law to request financial aid from the social services of their cities to enable them to pay their water arrears (water solidarity fund, cost: 2.5M euros per year, ie 0.04 euros/inh); but only 40 000 impoverished households are so helped each year Some cities have decided from their own to settle water solidarity: Introduction of water charge to finance a water solidarity fund No fixed fee in water tariffs Progressive tariffs ... Cost: 5 M euros per year Very recent progresses in implementing the right to water in France:  Very recent progresses in implementing the right to water in France For circa 6 years: important mobilisation of civil society and stakeholders to support the right to water  As a result, the right to water officially belongs to the French legislation since the water bill was enacted (on December 30th, 2006) (art 1: « Everybody has the right, for their alimentation and hygiene, to have access to drinking water, on the condition that it is economically affordable by everyone ») Legal texts must now completely enter into force, and sometimes be improved  Discussions, and sharing of good practices with many partners, will be necessary  France as a lead country on the theme « Equitable access » (draft programme of work 2007-2009, programme area III, point 3.1), with a first meeting planned in April 2007

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