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Human right to water and sanitation named and reaffirmed in post-2015 development agenda

On Sunday, August 2, United Nations member states unanimously agreed on the final text that will be adopted by heads of state at the UN summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda in late September. The post-­2015 development agenda will shape official development policy for the next 15 years. The agenda includes 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), including SDG 6 on universal access to water and sanitation.

The NGO Mining Working Group and the Blue Planet Project celebrate the pledge made by member states to “A world where we reaffirm our commitments regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation” in paragraph 7 of the final text.

This recognition of the human right to water and sanitation in the post-­2015 development agenda is the result of unrelenting efforts by civil society groups over the past two and a half years during the Open Working Group and intergovernmental negotiation processes, including a global petition signed by 621 organizations worldwide to name this human right in the document. This call was also carried forward by key member states who championed the cause within the intergovernmental discussions.

The explicit naming of the human right to water and sanitation is critical to framing and interpreting SDG 6 on water and sanitation. Moreover, it is a vital step towards empowering peoples who have been denied their rightful access to essential services and freshwater supplies while providing a tool to challenge corporations that continue to abuse the planet’s dwindling water resources.

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.

Moreover, the agenda’s overemphasis on economic growth throughout the document is incompatible with the social and environmental pillars of sustainable development, and the failure to initiate stronger corporate accountability within a global context of proliferating trade and investment treaties remains troubling.

Among other strategies to address remaining contradictions in the text in this regard, the NGO Mining Working Group and the Blue Planet Project will continue to work to ensure that in the implementation of the post-­2015 development agenda essential services, including water and sanitation, are not privatized. In addition, we are preparing a report on the development of rights-­based global indicators that reflect concerns and recommendations of the water justice movement.

The explicit naming of the human right to water and sanitation in the declaration of the post-­2015 development agenda gives us a strong entry point to ensure that the communities fighting for water justice are at the forefront of agenda-­setting and sustainable development efforts.

The NGO Mining Working Group is a coalition of non-­governmental organizations that, in partnership with our members and affected local communities, advocates at and through the United Nations for human and environmental rights as they relate to extractive industries. For more information, please see the websites of the Mining Working Group and the Blue Planet Project.

Member organizations of the Mining Working Group:
Blue Planet Project
The Council of Canadians
Congregation of the Mission
Dominican Leadership Conference
Edmund Rice International
Feminist Task Force
Franciscans International
Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council (GOAC)
International Presentation Association
Loretto Community
Marianists International
Mennonite Central Office
Medical Mission Sisters
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI)
Passionists International
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary
Salesian Missions
Sisters of Charity Federation
Sisters of Mercy, Mercy International Association: Global Action
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace
Society of the Sacred Heart
Temple of Understanding
UNANIMA International
United Methodist Women, the United Methodist Church
VIVAT International
Yamasi People, Southeast Indigenous Peoples Center

Media contacts:
Meera Karunananthan meera@canadians.org
Aine O’Connor mgc@mercyinternational.ie
Avery Kelly fellow@mercyinternational.ie
Nicholas Anton nanton@goarch.org
Amanda Lyons a.lyons@fiop.org