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Rights at Risk! An Urgent Call to Action

Today in New York, UN Member States are moving from the informal discussions of the past week to the more formal negotiations which take place over the next two days.

Over the past week we have seen a major number of amendments to the original Zero Draft document and these will now be negotiated with the goal of achieving a consensus on a Rio+20 Outcomes document.

The whole human rights framework is under direct attack through this process, with a few states calling for deletion or ‘bracketing’ of all safeguards and protections within this document. Combined with the clear and dangerous neo-liberal framework of the ‘Green Economy’, removing human rights and other safeguards will have profound implications for the future.

In particular, if we see the Human Right to Water and Sanitation removed from this Rio document, it will effectively end any substantial movement at the UN on this critical right.

We cannot allow this to happen and there is still time to act!

Groups here in New York are mobilizing and beginning to be more effective at voicing our concerns.

Please sign this letter to the United Nations Secretary General circulating:

We now have over 400 organizations who have signed the letter supporting the human right to water and sanitation, the Council of Canadians will circulate that again to the UN missions by fax and invite you to continue to pressure the states which are attacking this right.

Again, this is Canada, the US, Israel who are requesting deletion of the right, along with New Zealand the Republic of Korea who are proposing non-binding language and supported by the UK and Denmark who are working within the EU.

Any and all pressure that can be brought to bear on these states is important!

I am pleased to say that the G77, particularly the ALBA countries, remain strong for the right and that Switzerland has made a strong intervention supporting the right. I am also happy to report that Japan has taken a very strong position against water pricing and full cost recovery.

Countries which have put forward proposals on pricing and full cost recovery include the EU, Turkey, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Please note that it is not looked upon well to name governments directly during negotiations, but I am taking this step because I do not think that only the groups here at the UN have a stake in this process and that the decisions should be transparent as they affect us all!

I cannot stress enough the need to get engaged in this process. This is not simply an environmental agreement with some interesting discussions, this is an attempt to mandate the way that we interact with nature by ensuring it is done through market and financial mechanisms which will guarantee access to capital and deny access to those without. The removal of the human right to water and all safeguards are related to this agenda because they are seen as a barrier to further commodification and financialization!

This week we have shown that we can have an impact when we work together!

Making the EU back down from deletion of the human right to water and sanitation, claiming it was a mistake by the secretariat, is a major step forward, but will only be a victory if we can press these other governments to do the same.

Right now, the big danger is that member states that are supportive do not stand firm and accept a generalized paragraph on human rights which would not be acceptable. I am hearing that this could be what the EU proposes as a compromise but this would be not much different from complete deletion because human rights are very specific and especially the human right to water and sanitation which is also the most newly recognized human right.

Again, if direct references to specific human rights are removed from this text, water will not stand a chance in moving forward towards implementation because opposed states will claim that there is no consensus, which then means that it is effectively a dead issue. We must not allow this to happen!

If we apply concerted pressure, I think we will be successful, especially since all NGO’s down here are now referencing the human right to water and it has become a rally point, at least in speeches. We need to turn that into further action and use it to point out the deeper dangers in these negotiations. We need to look for allies past our traditional groups and work with them. I am very pleased that we have secured strong statements from the Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque

These negotiations will not conclude in the next 2 days, but what happens over the next 2 days will set the direction of the next months as we move towards the next negotiations in one month and ultimately towards Rio.

If we can build some momentum and continue to advocate, I am convinced we will have a positive impact.

In solidarity,
Anil – Writing from New York on the eve of the Third Intersessional Meeting of the UNCSD