Blue Planet Project calls for right to water in SDG process

Photo: Karunananthan meets with Hungarian Ambassador Csaba Korosi, a co-chair of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.
Photo: Karunananthan meets with Hungarian Ambassador Csaba Korosi, a co-chair of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

On May 7, Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan addressed an Informal Meeting of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations in New York.

The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, with a core group of 30 member states representing various regional groups and with participation from many more states, has been meeting since March 2013 to develop a document that will frame the United Nations' development agenda for the next 15 years.

Despite the United Nations General Assembly recognizing the human right to water and sanitation in July 2010, these rights have been omitted in the SDG framework document.

On April 30, an open letter spearheaded by the Blue Planet Project and the Mining Working Group (an NGO coalition promoting human and environmental rights at the UN) and signed by 87 civil society organizations was sent to the Open Working Group. It states, "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."

There is support for this call.

Photo: Karunananthan addresses the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.
Photo: Karunananthan addresses the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

In her address at the UN, Karunananthan noted that 17 member states echoed this demand.

And in an open letter dated March 22, fifty-seven countries at the United Nations committed to a Sustainable Goal on water and sanitation. Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Japan, Pakistan, Tunisia and other countries stated, "The water and sanitation SDG must be ambitious, with targets that take into account the unfinished business of the MDGs, as well as the emerging and future challenges. ...Being aware that many share the same vision, we encourage all Member States to support the elaboration and adoption of such a dedicated SDG on water and sanitation in the future discussions on the post-2015 development agenda in the Open Working Group, and beyond."

In an interview with the Inter Press Service, Karunananthan said, "The United Nations must not commit to a development agenda that does not further human rights. We will be talking to member states to demand that they champion a human rights-based approach to the SDGs. ...We want targets dealing with water resource management to be based in a human rights approach in order to ensure that human needs are prioritised over industrial consumption and that non-commercial water users such as subsistence farmers and landless communities are not marginalised within water resource management strategies that are deemed environmentally sustainable."

While at the United Nations, Karunananthan met with representatives of Sweden, Hungary, Ireland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Bolivia, Argentina, Montenegro, Romania, El Salvador, Brazil, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy among other countries.

The Open Working Group will be meeting again in June and July and perhaps early in 2015. They are scheduled to deliver their final report before the September 2014 session of the General Assembly. Then on November 11-12, there will be a major International Symposium on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post 2015 Agenda in Sydney, Australia. IPS notes, "The new SDGs are expected to be adopted at a summit meeting of world leaders in September 2015." That heads-of-state summit will take place at the UN in New York.

Further reading
Submission to OWG 11 regarding Water and Sanitation (PDF)
A people-centred SDG on water and sanitation
U.N.'s Post-2015 Agenda Skips the Right to Water and Sanitation
UN Sustainable development goals must include the human right to water and sanitation
Water justice groups call for the UN to remember its commitments to the human right to water