The right to drinking water and sanitation is one of the Spanish priorities in human rights.
Spain’s priorities
Spain is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. Spain’s legal system offers extensive protection for fundamental rights and freedoms which are interpreted in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international treaties and agreements that Spain has ratified on the matter. These same human rights treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union form part of the domestic legal system and complement the list of rights and freedoms contained in the Spanish Constitution.

Liberty, justice and peace are founded on respect for dignity and the inalienable rights of all people. Spain wishes to contribute in its own right and as a member of the European Union to a freer, fairer world that lives in peace. The defence of human rights thus constitutes one of its foreign action priorities.

This policy is implemented through the following five priority areas: the fight against the death penalty; non-discrimination on grounds of gender or sexual orientation; the rights of people with disabilities; the human rights to drinking water and sanitation; companies and human rights, and the protection of human rights defenders.

Death penalty
Hundreds of people are executed in the world every year through the application of the death penalty, a punishment that Spain and the European Union support the abolition of, in all circumstances and regardless of the crime committed, considering it to be cruel, inhumane and degrading, and because it is not proven to be effective in preventing crime, and because the effects are irreparable in the case of judicial error, from which no legal system is immune.

In 2010, on a Spanish initiative, the International Commission against the Death Penalty was set up, headquartered in Madrid, made up of some 20 independent leading figures from all regions of the world, whose added value is their ability to engage in dialogue due to their extensive international experience.

Spain, together with the European Union and the International Commission, tries to convince other governments to reduce the number of crimes punishable with the death penalty, commute death sentences and reform their laws so that courts have the alternative of imposing imprisonment instead of the death penalty, thus moving in this way towards abolition. 100 years ago, only three nations were abolitionists: Costa Rica, San Marino and Venezuela. In 2017, executions were reported in 23 of the 193 Member States of the UN, while in 1997, executions were reported in 40 States. Hence, the international community is moving towards abolition.

Until such time as this goal is achieved, a universal moratorium is sought. Spain, together with the rest of the EU Member States and other abolitionist countries, performs persuasive actions to ensure that the resolutions voted on every two years at the United Nations General Assembly garner increasing support from the international community. The most recent resolution, voted on in December 2016, was backed by two thirds of the Member States of the United Nations.

Fight against discrimination on grounds of gender
The fight for equality between men and women is one of the priorities of our foreign policy. Spain is a very active participant, both as a member of the European Union and of the United Nations system, in designing policies, creating instruments and setting up institutions to fight discrimination on the grounds of gender and in defence of the rights of women and girls.


The principle of non-discrimination lies at the very heart of the fight for gender equality, the defence of rights and the empowerment of women, which are at the core of Spain’s human rights actions. The reduction in inequalities through the active participation of women at a social, political and economic level is another priority goal to help guarantee the eradication of all forms of violence against women.


Spain promotes the application of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in the firm conviction that the full participation of women as agents of peace at all stages of conflict is key to peacebuilding and fostering development.


At an institutional level, Spain decisively promoted the creation of UN Women and was the first donor to establish an Association Framework with the UN.
 

Fight against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity
Based on the idea that sexual orientation and gender identity form part of the most intimate aspect of human beings, we promote the decriminalisation of consensual relations between adults at a global level.


In recent years, Spain has backed many actions to defend the rights of LGBTI people through various multilateral forums: support for the mandate of the new United Nations Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, adhesion to the Fundamental Principles of the Coalition for Equal Rights, under the United Nations LGBT Core Group, the application of the European Union Guidelines on the rights of LGBTI persons, its participation in the LGBT Focal Points Network of the Council of Europe, etc.


Spain also actively participates in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council, raising issues and formulating recommendations relating to the protection of the rights of LGBTI persons in those countries in which human rights violations have been detected.

Furthermore, the question of the human rights of LGBTI persons is also habitually raised in bilateral dialogue with third countries.

Rights of people with disabilities
On the basis of a solid body of domestic laws and policies, as well as the growing importance that the rights of people with disabilities have in areas such as cooperation, Spain supports the approach of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of 2006, the adoption of which has meant a paradigm shift in this field, recognising people with disabilities as true holders of rights.

The work of Spain in this field was recognised in 2012 with the bestowal of the Franklin D. Roosevelt International Disability Award. The aim of this prestigious award is to give visibility to human rights and the inclusion of people with disabilities and to encourage Member States of the United Nations to work towards the full and equal participation of people with disabilities in all facets of society.

In the European arena, Spain welcomed the EU signing up to the CRPD in 2010, the first international human rights treaty which the EU has been party to since it acquired legal personality under the Treaty of Lisbon.


Human rights to drinking water and sanitation
The recognition of the human rights to drinking water and sanitation (HRWS) has become one of the top priorities of Spanish foreign policy in human rights and development cooperation.

In 2006, Spain and Germany undertook a joint initiative to promote the recognition of this human right in the United Nations, considering that the right to drinking water and sanitation is essential for the achievement of other human rights and that it is an essential component of the right to an adequate level of life as contained in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Since then, Spain and Germany have sought the adoption of resolutions in this field every year, alternating between the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. These resolutions, together with the creation of the figure of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, have contributed to the consolidation of these rights.

In this regard, it is worth highlighting, upon a Spanish-German initiative, Resolution 68/157, approved by consensus at the General Assembly, in December 2013, which enshrined recognition for the human right to drinking water and sanitation, and secondly, Resolution 70/169, of December 2015, again approved by consensus of the General Assembly, which recognised the human rights to drinking water and sanitation as two different, albeit interrelated human rights.

This recognition at a theoretical level is supplemented with a long-standing tradition of work in the water sector by the Spanish Development Cooperation Agency, for which the water sector is strategic and priority, as it contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and is key for achieving other human rights (health, education, food).



Companies and human rights
In relation to the question of the impact of business activity on human rights, the work carried out by the United Nations, based on the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework, developed in the “Guiding Principles of the United Nations on Business and Human Rights, has led to the creation of a significant institutional architecture. At this multilateral level, Spain supports the open channel of consensus, with the adoption of Resolution 17/4, whereby the Council, as well as endorsing the Guiding Principles, set up a Working Group on transnational and other companies, made up of five independent experts, and decided to establish a Forum on companies and human rights, open to all interested parties, to examine the trends and problems in applying the Guiding Principles and to promote dialogue and cooperation in the matter of companies and human rights.

At a domestic level, noteworthy among the initiatives designed to apply the Guiding Principles is the development and implementation of the National Action Plans. In our country, on 28 July 2017, the Council of Ministers approved, upon a proposal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the National Action Plan for Companies and Human Rights. This Plan sets out Spain’s commitment to protect human rights, including from any impact that business activity may have on them.

 
Defenders of human rights
Defenders of human rights are individuals, groups or institutions that protect and defend human rights and fundamental universally recognised freedoms. They often have to deal with threats and attacks by people, groups or authorities because of the activities they engage in to defend human rights.

In 1998, the United Nations General Assembly approved the “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”, which recognises that human rights defenders play an essential role in the application of international standards on human rights and in the consolidation of democratic systems.

The Human Rights Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation manages the Protection and Temporary Reception of Human Rights Defenders under Threat Programme.


This Programme, set up in 1998, is aimed at human rights defenders who are under threat or in a high-risk situation for the peaceful defence of human rights, and seeks to provide them with temporary shelter in Spain, guaranteeing the confidentiality of their identity. Through this mechanism, the Human Rights Office collaborates with other programmes to take in human rights defenders carried out by different independent institutions and NGOs. Since it came into operation, more than 300 human rights defenders have taken part in the Programme.

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