A United Nations media release has announced, “Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque will visit Uruguay from 13 to 17 February 2012, in what will be the first official mission to the country by an independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the realisation of the human right to water and sanitation.”
“Ms. de Albuquerque will meet with representatives from the Uruguayan Government, international organizations and civil society. She will also visit communities in rural and urban areas and irregular settlements, in order to gather first-hand information regarding their situation. On 17 February 2012, the Special Rapporteur will present her preliminary findings on this mission at a press conference in Montevideo. The press conference will be held at J. Barrios Amorin, 870, planta baja.”
Special Rapporteurs can conduct fact-finding missions to countries to investigate allegations of human rights violations and assess and verify complaints from alleged victims of human rights violations.
It should be remembered that in March 2008, the Harper government weakened a resolution by Germany and Spain at the UN Human Rights Council by demanding that the then proposed position of ‘special rapporteur’ on water and sanitation be downgraded to an ‘independent expert’. An Independent Expert’s role involves developing a dialogue with governments and other bodies, undertaking studies, making recommendations, and working with other UN agencies.
On March 25, 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution - sponsored by sixty countries - changing the powers and title of Catarina de Albuquerque from the ‘Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation’ to that of ‘Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation’ and extending her term for another three years.