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Blue Planet Project director receives Woman of Courage Award

Karunananthan speaks at the United Nations, May 2014.

Blue Planet Project director Meera Karunananthan is in New York today and tomorrow for meetings at the United Nations and to receive a Woman of Courage Award.

UNANIMA International is a non-governmental organization that advocates for women and children (particularly those living in poverty), immigrants and refugees, and the environment. Their work takes place primarily at the United Nations headquarters where it aims to educate and influence policymakers at the global level.

Their website notes, “UNANIMA is proud to announce that the recipient of our 2016 Woman of Courage Award is Meera Karunananthan! Meera was born in Sri Lanka and educated in Quebec, Canada, and is truly a global citizen with a global conscience. Fearlessly, she led a two-year global coalition for the human right to water to be named in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—there was no member state too big or small for her to engage! Her campaign is lauded as one of the strongest rights-based campaigns during the negotiations for a new sustainable development agenda!”

UNANIMA then highlights, “We are inspired by Meera’s courage, determination, and leadership. We are confident that the work she put forward on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will continue to help hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.”

In September 2015, The Guardian reported, “To cheers, applause and probably a tinge of relief, the 17 global goals that will provide the blueprint for the world’s development over the next 15 years were ratified by UN member states in New York. The ambitious agenda – which aims to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality for all people in all countries – was signed off by 193 countries at the start of a three-day UN summit on sustainable development.”

Significantly, the Sustainable Development Goals agenda includes the universal access to water and sanitation. The United Nations member states pledged in paragraph 7 of the adopted text, “A world where we reaffirm our commitments regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation”.

The recognition of the human right to water and sanitation in the post-2015 development agenda is the result of sustained efforts by the Blue Planet Project, the NGO Mining Working Group and numerous allies.

In April 2014, a letter signed by 87 civil society organizations was sent to key UN member states stating, “It is crucial that the SDG process guarantee the progressive realization of the human right to water and sanitation now and for future generations.” In June 2014, a letter was sent by nearly 300 NGOs calling for the SDG process to reinsert the human right to water and sanitation into the SDG text.

In April 2015, Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow spoke to the United Nations General Assembly. She highlighted, “For the post -2015 development agenda to reach its objective of being just, people-centred and sustainable, the goals must prioritize – for present and future generations – the human right to water for health, life, food and culture over other demands on water resources, especially industrial consumption. The goal must promote a hierarchy of water use the prioritizes basic human needs, local consumption, and healthy ecosystems, setting a zero target on freshwater extraction beyond sustainable supply and protecting and restoring aquifers and watersheds.”

Karunananthan met regularly with United Nations member state representatives on this issue, including interventions at the UN in May, June and July 2014 and in March, May and July 2015.

Congratulations Meera!