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WIN! Sustainable Development Goals include the right to drinking water and sanitation

Water is a human rightThe Guardian reports, “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 on Friday. …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 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. Furthermore, given the central role of water within a number of different SDG areas, it is vital that the human right to water be seen as a central component of other focus areas including energy, food, gender and climate change.” 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, Council of Canadians chairperson 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.”

Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan has been regularly meeting with UN member state representatives on this issue, including interventions in May, June and July 2014 and in March, May and July 2015.

The Guardian article adds, “The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said the true test of commitment to the new global goals will be implementation.”

As we have noted in a media release, “Despite this important reaffirmation of the human right to water and sanitation, we remain deeply concerned about some elements of the broader agenda. Specifically in relation to the realization of the human right to water and sanitation through sustainable development initiatives, we are troubled by the lack of clarity regarding the role of the private sector and the call in SDG 7 to expand ‘modern energy’. Investments in ‘modern energy’ through this agenda would threaten global efforts to stop the spread of hydraulic fracturing and big dam development projects that have been detrimental to watersheds.”

The Blue Planet Project and allies will continue to work to ensure that privatization is not part of the implementation of the post-­2015 development agenda essential services, including water and sanitation. Karunananthan will be travelling to the United Nations this coming Monday and Tuesday for a ‘Dialogues for Justice’ follow-up forum with allies.

Further reading
Human right to water and sanitation named and reaffirmed in post-2015 development agenda (August 2015 media release)
Defending the human right to water and sanitation at the United Nations (July 2015 blog by Meera Karunananthan)
Blue Planet Project calls for explicit recognition of right to water in UN development agenda (May 2015 blog)
Blue Planet Project calls for right to water to be named in Post-2015 Development Agenda (May 2015 blog)
Blue Planet Project says privatising public services is no way to fund sustainable development (May 2015 blog)