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Civil Society Roundtable Discussion on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation

On July 28th, the year anniversary of the UN General Assembly (GA) resolution on the human right to water and sanitation, Corporate Accountability International, Food and Water Watch and the Council of Canadians organized a roundtable discussion at the UN to explore ways to move from recognition to realization.

We had a packed room with UN permanent missions (including from Panama, Tuvalu, Tajikistan, Philippines and Brazil), UN agencies (such as FAO, UN-Water, UN-Habitat, UNESCO and UNEP) and civil society organizations (including UNANIMA and Tribal Link Foundation).

Ambassador Rafael Archondo from the Mission of Bolivia to the United Nations opened up the discussion highlighting the resolution as a victory for civil society. He stressed that governments needed a global consciousness when making decisions. States need to make concessions in their policies and not only think of national interests or the interests of a small block of countries. Dialogue at the UN is not enough. Countries need to think about problems globally.

Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the UN GA, spoke next about the GA resolution as well as the second resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council last September which makes the human right to water and sanitation legally binding. She emphasized how governments now have a responsibility to put together a national plan of action which they must submit to ECOSOC. Barlow called for a ‘political centre’ at the UN which could ensure that decisions are made and actions are taken.

Anil Naidoo, Coordinator of the Blue Planet Project, then facilitated the discussion among the states, UN agencies and civil society organizations. We had a rich discussion about the MDGs, the green economy, the need to work in solidarity, water issues such as fracking, the rights of indigenous peoples and resource management. Excellent dialogue on what we hope will be the first of many.