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Integrated into the constitution of Burkina Faso, what does the "right to water and sanitation" really mean?

Following a vigorous advocacy campaign leading up to the presidential elections in Burkina Faso in 2015, IRC managed to make the right to water and sanitation one of the main issues in the campaigns of all the candidates. As for the transition parliament, they did not hang around waiting for the elections to act and show their commitment to this issue, passing an amendment to the Constitution of Burkina Faso on 5 November 2015 introducing the right to water and sanitation. Article 18 of the Constitution now stipulates that "education, safe water and sanitation, education, training, social security, housing, energy, sport, leisure, health, maternity and child protection and artistic and scientific creation are recognised as social and cultural rights under the Constitution which shall aim to uphold them".

This was a first, and major, step towards fulfilment of the right to water and sanitation, however, without sustained follow-up, this clause runs the risk of becoming lost in the multitude of socio-economic and cultural rights recognised by the country in its constitution. This is why IRC Burkina Faso is maintaining the pressure and is now calling for four key elements to be integrated into the constitution to specify more clearly what is involved in fulfilling this right for all citizens and to provide a guide for sector stakeholders to develop and structure their strategies, policies and programmes.

Therefore, IRC is calling on the people of Burkina Faso, decision-makers and more widely the international community to support the inclusion of these four elements in the text of the new constitution of the 5th Republic of Burkina Faso to be voted upon in the coming weeks.

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 1) The constitution of Burkina Faso recognises and promotes the fundamental rights to water and sanitation as essential elements of the right to an adequate standard of living and as indispensable to the fulfilment of the right to life and of all human rights.

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 2) The human right to safe water must enable each person living in Burkina Faso to have actual and affordable access without discrimination to a sufficient supply of water that is safe and of an acceptable quality for personal and domestic uses.

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 3) The human right to sanitation must enable each person living in Burkina Faso to have actual and affordable access without discrimination and in all spheres of life to sanitation facilities that are safe, hygienic, socially and culturally acceptable and that protect everyone's privacy and dignity.

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4) The Government undertakes to gradually fulfil the fundamental human rights to safe water and to sanitation for all without discrimination while eliminating inequality of access, particularly for people who are marginalised or at risk.