Over 100 organizations stand behind UN Special Rapporteur denouncing private water industry interference


WaterCommon Resources

October 21, 2020

Over 100 civil society organizations stand behind UN Special Rapporteur Léo Heller, denounce private water industry interference

We, the undersigned, express our strong support for the report on “The Privatisation of Water and Sanitation Services” of the United Nations (U.N.) Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr. Léo Heller. He will present the report to the U.N. General Assembly today. We also express deep concern about the attempts by a group of private water operators to undermine the independence of the Special Rapporteur and his work.

This new report is an important contribution to a debate that is crucial in current times. The role of private actors in the delivery of public services, including water and sanitation services, has been increasing in the last decades. In recent years, at least four other U.N. Special Procedures ( extreme poverty and human rights , education , housing , and debt ) have written on this topic in their respective reports. Just this week, eight current and former U.N. Special Rapporteurs and independent experts met at a major event on privatisation gathering hundreds of people online, and five of them released an op-ed published worldwide on the importance of the issue of privatisation and human rights.

Mr. Heller’s report is balanced and acknowledges the diversity of context. His report is the result of his work over the last six years and, remarkably, it was prepared through several consultations that go far beyond what is expected or what is the usual practice under U.N. Special Procedures.

The consultations included a wide range of stakeholders, including States and the private sector, and were transparently shared on the mandate’s website . Yet, despite the importance of this issue and the measured and constructive solutions offered, the Special Rapporteur has faced considerable pushback from Aquafed, a lobby group for private water companies such as Veolia and Suez . We are aware that Aquafed wrote to the President of the Human Rights Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to States. These letters personalised the issue, questioning Mr. Heller’s impartiality and respect of the applicable rules. The concerns they raise are however unfounded; they aim at silencing and discrediting him, rather than debating substance.

This interference is a transparent and unacceptable attempt to protect the industry’s profits from exposure to the reality of the lived experience of far too many who have had their human rights violated under privatisation.

We would like to express our thorough support to Mr. Heller’s rigour and professionalism.

Despite limited resources, he has consulted widely for this report, and for his previous reports. Throughout his six-year mandate, he paid attention to affected communities and families who do not enjoy the rights to water and sanitation. In strict adherence to the rules of conduct and the mandate of the Human Rights Council, he has conducted quality, evidence-based, thoughtful research. He has taken into consideration the views he received through consultations, but acted independently from States, the private sector, and other stakeholders, which is the pillar of the United Nations special procedures mechanism. There is no doubting his integrity, professionalism, or commitment to human rights.

The signatories would like to express our recognition for the work that the Special Rapporteur has undertaken in the last six years and in particular, we underline the importance of his work on privatisation. Mr. Heller makes recommendations for States, private actors and international financial institutions, which we believe merit due attention and action.

We urge States, as duty-bearers, to continue placing their obligation to fulfill the human rights of all people above the financial interests of any private actor.


Convening partners:

Corporate Accountability

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Public Services International

The Transnational Institute



African American Center for Global Politics and Human Rights

Aigua és Vida


Alliance of Government Workers in the Water Sector (AGWWAS)


Amnesty International Australia

Amnistía Internacional Mexico


AöW – Allianz der öffentlichen Wasserwirtschaft e.V.

Asociación Ecos El Salvador

Asociación Naturalista de Aragón

Associação Água Pública

Association for Culture and Art Crvena

Associació de Municipis i Entitats per l’Aigua Pública (Assotiation of Municipalities for Public



Blue Planet Project

Brazilian Campaign for the Right to Education

BUND / Friends of Germany

Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice

CeVI – Centro di Volontariato Internazionale

Closing the Water Gap Working Group

Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Comisión Multisectorial de Uruguay

Comisión Nacional en Defensa del Agua y la Vida

Comitato Italiano Contratto Mondiale sull’acqua (Italian Commettee for Global Water Contract )

Coordination EAU Île-de-France

Corporación Ecológica y Cultural Penca de Sabila

Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA)


Earth Ethics, Inc

Ecumenical Water Network

Educar Consumidores

End Water Poverty

Enginyeria Sense Fronteres Catalunya

ENVJUSTICE Project, at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona


European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU)

European Services Strategy Unit

EYATH’s Trade Union

Federación de Organizaciones de la Sociedad civil del Guayas


Flint Rising

Food & Water Action Europe

Food & Water Watch

For Love of Water (FLOW)

Franciscans International

Fresh Eyes

Fundación Abril

Fundacja Zielone Światło


German NGO Forum Environment & Development

Global Social Justice

Griechenland Solidaritätskomitee Kön

Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights

Hope Spring Water

Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic, City University of New York School of Law


IHE Delft

IHE Delft Institute for Water Education – Water Governance Department

IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education

Indian Institute of Youth And Development

Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ)

Initiative for Social and Economic Rights

Institute of Management Sciences

Integrated Regional Support Programme

Koalisi Rakyat untuk Hak atas Air (KRuHA)/People’s Coalition for the Right to Water

Koordination Blue Community Deutschland

Life Health Education Development Foundation


Media for Community Empowerment

Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation


Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens

Mujeres en Reistencia Chile

Muslim Family Counselling Services

National Welfare Rights Union

National Association of Youth Organizations (NAYO)

Newark Water Coalition

Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Inc

OBCCD (Observatorio Boliviano de Cambio Climático y Desarrollo)

Observatorio Ciudadano de Servicios Públicos

Observatorio DDHH de los Pueblos

Observatório Nacional dos Direitos Humanos à Água e ao Saneamento – ONDAS



Pantau Foundation

Parable of the Sower Intentional Community Cooperative

Partners for Dignity and Rights (formerly NESRI)

Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance

PIVJET International

Plataforma contra la privatización del Canal de Isabel II

Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU)

Public Water Now

Real Food Generation

Red Agua Publica

Red Naciona de Acueductos Comunitarios de Colombia

Red Regional No Más Mineras en la Patagonia

Red Vigilancia Interamericana para la Defensa y Derecho al Agua, Red VIDA

Right to Education Initiative

Río Santa Cruz Libre

Rural Area Development Programme (RAPD)

Scottish Water

Seke Rural Development Platform (SERDP)

Small Planet Institute

Social Eco Education (SEE-LA)

Society for International Development

Socio Economic Rights Institute South Africa

Solidaritas Perempuan

Stichting Wireless Leiden



Taula de l’Aigua de Terrassa

The Truth Telling Project

Thomas Merton Center

Union of Kenya Civil Servants


UNISON Southern Counties Water Branch

UNISON United Utilities Branch

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sussex County

United Utilities

Water Grabbing Observatory

We the People of Detroit

Women Empowerment Against Poverty of Nepal