UN to commemorate 1st anniversary of historic human right to water resolution today

Media Release
July 27, 2011

New York – UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Bolivian President Evo Morales will address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) today to commemorate the one year anniversary of the adoption by the UNGA of an historic resolution recognizing the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.

The Council of Canadians is today releasing the Canadian edition of its report, Our Right to Water: A People’s Guide to Implementing the United Nations’ Recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation, available here.

“The struggle to achieve this milestone was a long one and blocked for years by some powerful corporations and governments who favour water as a private commodity to be put on the open market for sale,” says Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians chairperson and Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the UN General Assembly. “Now there is no longer any doubt that water and sanitation are human rights and all levels of government, communities and individual must recognize what happended at the UN last year. The resolution adopted by the General Assembly and the follow-up resolution by the UN Human Rights Council are now legally binding in international law.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo remarked on the importance of furthering work on the Human Right to water: “Too many First Nation communities and citizens do not have access to safe drinking water or proper sanitation facilities. Our leaders have long called on Canada to live up to its Treaty and international obligations to work with us to ensure all of our citizens have access to clean water. Chiefs at our recent Annual General Assembly directed the AFN to continue to work towards the application of the UN General Assembly Resolution on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation. Respect for human rights and individual dignity are values we must all embrace, along with the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples and our territories, including the waters.”

The second resolution passed in September 2010 at the UN Human Rights Council gives legal force to the resolution passed at the UN General Assembly. Together the two resolutions represent an extraordinary breakthrough in the international struggle for the right to safe clean drinking water and sanitation and a crucial milestone in the fight for water justice.

“Momentum is building as more institutions and governments are taking up the challenge of moving beyond recognition to realization of the right to water,” says Emma Lui, Council of Canadians water issues campaigner. “It’s crucial that community and collective rights be respected. What we’re seeing in the Horn of Africa speaks to the urgency of this task. This famine and climate crisis is also a water crisis.”

Civil society organization representatives will be in New York for this special session at the UN calling for action. Water justice advocates from around the world are deeply concerned about how the same forces that opposed the adoption of the right to water are trying to use international fora (including Rio +20, the Green Economy framework, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to undermine the implementation of the right to water.

The gathering of the UN General Assembly today, featuring UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Bolivian President Evo Morales, will take place from 3pm to 6pm. On July 28, from 10am to 12pm, Council of Canadians Blue Planet Project Coordinator Anil Naidoo will facilitate a roundtable discussion with UN member states, UN agencies, Non Governmental Organizations (Room B, Second Floor, North Lawn Building, United Nations Headquarters, New York).