Access to water and right to health

Between 2018 and 2020, FORUM implemented a litigation and advocacy project entitled “Social Determinants of Roma Health in Slovakia – Access to Water and Waste Management.” The project addressed the issue of lack of access to drinking water in marginalised Roma communities in Slovakia and violations of the right to health in locations with environmental burdens. The project mapped the situation and collect evidence for strategic litigation of the systematic violations of the right to health and the right to housing in marginalised communities.

We closely cooperated with the Centre for Civil and Human Rights seated in Košice. 

The key acticities included strategic litigation and advocacy, notably before the UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and sociological research in localities with environmental polution. 

As part of the project, FORUM published a study mapping social determinants of health in marginalized Roma communities. The author of the study is Miriam Kanioková.

People in marginalised Roma communities have limited access to a quality living environment compared to the rest of the population in Slovakia, and public policies are currently not set up in such a way as to redress these inequalities.

In the course of the project, FORUM launched several cases of strategic litigation in selected localities, among others, we have filed a public lawsuit (actio popularis) under the Anti-Discrimination Act against the municipality of Lipany at the District Court in Prešov. Several municipalities, after filing lawsuits, started taking steps to improve access to water for Roma communities.

Other key activities of the project included advocacy. At the international level, FORUM has prepared an Alternative Report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2019) together with the Centre for Civil and Human Rights:

On 14 November 2019, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted Concluding Recommendations in which Committee members expressed concern about “the lack of progress in ensuring water for all following its 2012 recommendation on this issue” and deep concern “that a large number of Roma, particularly in segregated communities, do not have consistent access to clean water in a high-income country.” The UN Committee called on the Slovak Republic to “take the necessary measures to ensure adequate and safe water and sanitation services for all its population, including those living in rural areas.”

In January 2020, together with the Centre for Civil and Human Rights, FORUM has organised a round table with experts on the right to health in Roma localities. In November 2020, FORUM lawyers organised a webinar for members of the expert group for the adoption of the new water policy at the Ministry for the Environment.

The project was realised with financial support of the Open Society Foundation (Public Health Program).