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Efforts are being made to remove the human right to water and sanitation from the Rio+20 negotiating text.

Dear Friends,

This is an extremely urgent appeal to all who believe in the human right to water and sanitation. Please read this, sign-on and circulate the letter so that we do not lose the historic recognition of the right to water we achieved in 2010!

We need to act quickly because in New York today, Nis Christensen, the Danish Head of the Rio+20 Secretariat confirmed to me that the European Union is trying to remove the human right to water and sanitation from the Rio+20 negotiating text. We had a leaked copy of the amendments the EU is proposing which removes recognition of the right and I put this to Mr. Christensen in a session today where he confirmed that this was true.

We must not allow this to go unchallenged and I am asking you to act now by signing this letter so that we protect the recognition of the human right to water during the Rio+20 negotiations in New York this week and next!

Below the letter is a bit more background but please sign the following by sending your name, organization, country to [email][email protected] before Thursday, March 22nd, World Water Day!

We will send the following letter to all UN Missions on World Water Day and follow-up with direct lobbying of governments here in New York.

We the undersigned representatives of civil society organizations and social movements,

Seeking to protect the United Nations historic recognition of the Human Right to water and Sanitation by the General Assembly and Human Rights Council through resolutions A/Res/64/292 and A/HRC/15/L/14 respectively,

Concerned by European Union amendments to the UNCSD Zero Draft text which seeks to remove recognition of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation,

Call upon all UN Member States, including those of the European Union, to respect their legally-binding obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the Human Right to Water and Sanitation as embodied in the two cited resolutions, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convenant on Civil and Political Rights and all other relevant international laws, treaties, covenants or declarations,

We further demand that the negotiations for Rio+20 and the proposed Green Economy not lead to increased violations of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation through the introduction of mechanisms designed to implement markets, property rights and trading regimes for water.

We call upon all UN Member States to work with civil society and social movements to create the water ‘Future We Want’ which must include respect for water as a human right, public trust and commons.


Name, Organization, Country

Further Background:

If the EU and the other governments are successful in removing the Human Right to Water and Sanitation from this text, it will have a devastating effect on the obligations which were agreed to at the General Assembly under Resolution A/Res/64/292 and reaffirmed at the Human Rights Council under A/HRC/15/L/14 and subsequently by 2 other HRC resolutions and a WHO resolution.

One week ago the recognition of the right was removed from the Marseille World Water Forum declaration (this was led by Canada), but that corporate forum is illegitimate, has no legal standing in the United Nations and has never recognized the human right to water and sanitation; while the Rio+20 negotiations are the most important negotiations currently at the United Nations.

If the original Zero Draft text is changed as they have amended it below, it will signal that the right is not in force and could lead to the effective abrogation of the right, practically if not legally.


67. We underline the importance of the right universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights. We commit to achieving universal access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2030. Furthermore, we highlight the critical importance of integrated water resources management for sustainable development, including poverty and hunger eradication, public health, food security, hydropower, energy, agriculture and, rural development as well as for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

There is still time to fight back against those who abstained in the original vote on the human right to water and sanitation and are attempting to undermine this right before it is even 2 years old. There are many troubling parts of Rio+20 which we need to highlight and push back on, including the move to commodify and financialize nature, but we must start with stopping the EU on human rights and then build more pressure on the other issues.

The G77 and the European Union will be key in deciding this and more specifically we need to ensure the African Union is not convinced to support a false Green Economy. I will send more on this later…

Below is a list of the 42 member states which abstained, a good number of these were opposed but felt they could not vote against because of the immense pressure that we brought to bear upon them in 2010. We must again ensure they realize the world is watching.

In solidarity,

Anil Naidoo
Blue Planet Project
Council of Canadians