Report: A Review of Private Sector Influence on Water Policies and Programmes at the United Nations

In 2008, Maude Barlow, the Council’s National Chairperson, was appointed Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly. This report was initiated following Ms. Barlow’s appointment, from a concern over the degree of fragmentation and corporate influence appearing in the work of the United Nations (UN) to manage the planet’s shared water resources.

To surmount the global water crisis, the UN must assure a formal, transparent and democratic space in which governments can advance the best possible sustainable strategies to protect water as a public good. In July 2010, the UN’s General Assembly, its highest intergovernmental body, affirmed the human right to water and sanitation. Yet significant challenges remain before the millions of people living without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation secure this right. For one, the UN must take a more comprehensive approach to water governance and ensure that all of its agencies, programmes, funds and intergovernmental bodies place water justice at the forefront of their policies and operations.

To help identify ways in which the UN can guide sustainable water solutions, this report asks two principal questions: (1) How is the UN system currently addressing the global water crisis? (2) To what degree is the private sector involved in this work? These questions are central to the UN’s ability to promote effective water governance that is free from corporate conflicts of interest.