Updates from NYC at the UN Rio+20 Negotiations, April 24, 2012

By Anil Naidoo, Blue Planet Project, Council of Canadians

States just finished negotiating para 67 on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation and Canada, is now the only country that is still demanding that para 67 be deleted.

Other UN Member States explicitly supported recognition, these included, Switzerland, the Holy See and Norway – Norway said, “where Canada suggests deletion, Norway wants retention of the sentence recognizing the Human Right to Water and Sanitation”.

The US, previously calling for deletion along with Canada and Israel, suggested changing ‘recognize’ to ‘ reaffirm our commitments regarding’… Israel was silent and therefore accepted the human right.

Overall, this is a major and positive development!

If this recognition is retained in the text, it will be the first major document where there is consensus and will put to rest any question regarding the legitimacy of this right, some who abstained are still trying to undermine this human right to water and sanitation.

There were other suggestions by Member States, they are important, but are not critical….safe instead of clean (US), splitting of some sentences so human rights and management issues separate (G77), adding of agriculture into the para 67 (Switzerland and Holy See)… and others.

US also wanted removal of ‘as essential for the full enjoyment of life’ which some would say is problematic as this references which of the UN Covenants this right falls under, those who want the right weaker would only like it under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, not the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is stronger and includes the Right to Life.

Ominously the EU suggested that they might want to suggest concrete targets and goals on water, and Republic of Korea reserved its position on the use of ‘progressive’ realization of the right.

Again, this is a major victory for our long journey to implement the human right to water and sanitation!!!!

Our work continues and the struggle continues, but the July 28th, 2010 resolution gives communities and activists a powerful tool to use as they fight for water justice. Human rights are far too narrow to take us to where we want to go, but it does provide a safeguard against those who would control and commodify our water with only regard for profit.

Retaining the human right to water and sanitation is important, and we need to retain and expand safeguards and rights in the text; the bigger fight is to ensure that we challenge the neo-liberal, market-based Green Economy. If we do not stop implementation of this agenda, being promoted in this document and through other venues, it would mean that human rights, sustainability and the rights of nature would become marginalized and under severe attack from this corporate Green Economy.

We also need to retain the Rio Principles such as Common but Differentiated Responsibility, the Precautionary Principle, Polluter-Pays Principle etc. Our next goal has to be to ensure Equity, Human Rights and these Rio Principles are not undermined by  a vague Green Economy.

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