SALIL SHETTY Amnesty International

Secretary General

Amnesty International’s recently released report, Insecurity and indignity: Women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya (July 2010) documents how women and girls living in informal settlements are particularly affected by lack of adequate access to sanitation facilities for toilets and bathing. Many of the women told Amnesty International that they have experienced different forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence, and live under the ever-present threat of violence. The lack of effective policing and due diligence by the government to prevent, investigate or punish gender- based violence and provide an effective remedy to women and girls results in a situation where violence goes largely unpunished.

We also recorded testimonies from a high number of women and girls who have experienced rape and other forms of violence directly as a result of their attempt to find or walk to a toilet or latrine some distance away from their houses. Women’s experiences show that lack of adequate access to sanitation facilities and the lack of public security services significantly contribute to the incidence and persistence of gender-based violence.

Yet, Kenya has committed to the international Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on sanitation to reduce by half, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to basic sanitation. The country adopted water and sanitation policies that aim to fulfill MDG targets and also the rights to water and sanitation. These policies do reflect many human rights principles. But our research shows that there are still key gaps between Kenya’s MDG policies and ensuring consistency with Kenya’s international human rights obligations. It also starkly illustrates how the MDG policies of governments cannot ignore gender-based violence or the specific barriers faced by women and girls living in informal settlements in accessing even basic levels of sanitation.

This is why the discussion in this issue of Sur – International Journal on Human Rights is so important and timely.These concerns are not unique to Kenya and around the world there are examples illustrating how MDG efforts are most effective when they address underlying human rights issues and are truly targeted at groups facing discrimination and marginalization.

In September 2010, UN Member States will meet to agree an action plan to ensure the realization of the MDGs by 2015. With only five years left to go, it is more important now than ever that human rights are put at the centre of this action plan, in order to make the MDG framework effective for the billions striving to free themselves from poverty and to claim their rights.

The articles in this issue focus on a range of issues related to the MDGs. They illustrate the gap between the current MDG targets and existing requirements under international human rights law. They also briefly outline some of the essential elements that must be incorporated into any revised or new global framework to address poverty after 2015. I hope it will contribute to discussions on the relationship between human rights and the MDGs and be a useful resource for human rights practitioners and others who are concerned with these issues.

Another great challenge facing governments across the world is human rights abuses committed by or in complicity with corporations. Two articles in this issue address some of the challenges as well as opportunities related to human rights in the context of corporate activities.

The issue also includes two general articles, which examine the role of the Inter-American System of Human Rights and the Commonwealth of Nations in the promotion and protection of human rights.

I had the privilege of speaking at the International Human Rights Colloquium, organized by Conectas, in 2004 and of contributing to the second issue of the SUR journal. I am extremely pleased to have the chance to collaborate again with Conectas and that they agreed to produce this edition of SUR jointly with Amnesty International.

We would like to thank them for giving us this opportunity and also thank all the authors who have contributed to this issue.

I hope you enjoy reading it.