Advocating for a Right to Water

Our continued work and collaboration with the Mining Working Group at the UN (MWG) has proven to provide advocacy gains at the UN. Last month at the Open Working Group 11 (OWG), the MWG issued a letter signed by 87 organizations and presented to OWG delegates on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation (see Meera Karunananthan present at minute 2:20 ). The letter was sent to Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. In his response, Ban Ki Moon states, “…we share your view that upholding human rights and freeing people from fear and want are inseparable; it is imperative that we do more to act on this basic truth.”

Our recent advocacy brief, A Rights-Based Approach to Resource Extraction in the Pursuit of Sustainable Development, and the Rights-Based Litmus Test, a concrete tool for policy-makers and commentators to gauge the validity of proposals for sustainable development, was distributed to delegates and the public last month at OWG 10. The MWG’s overall advocacy strategy, through and beyond this brief, aims to ensure that the post-2015 agenda promotes and requires sustainable and democratic management of natural resources, to preserve, restore, and create the conditions necessary for the full enjoyment of human rights, by present and future generations.

Within the UN OWG agenda, we have strategically selected to campaign for the Human Right to Water and Sanitation to be included within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework.

For women around the world, water and sanitation are inextricably linked to poverty eradication, health, a safe/clean environment and other basic human rights. While the fundamental relationship between human rights and sustainable development has been established and generally well-accepted, only two human rights treaties refer directly to a right to water:

  • the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Despite references by seventeen governments and civil society at the last OWG, the OWG “Zero Draft document which was released this week did not contain any reference to the human right to water and sanitation. Governments it appears are not ready to commit to their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil when it comes to human right to water and sanitation.

The SDG process will determine the official international development agenda for the next 15 years.  Given that the MDG process failed drastically in the area of sanitation and given MDG targets on drinking water failed to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities, including women and children, and other vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, elderly persons and indigenous peoples, it is vital that the same mistakes not be repeated within the SDG process.  Furthermore, we feel that the Human Right to Water and Sanitation  will be an important tool in our struggle to prevent the SDG agenda from being co-opted to promote greater corporate access to water resources and services.

To this end, the Feminist Task Force, as members of the MWG, together with Blue Planet Project, PSI, Food and Water Watch, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) join the sign-on campaign to ensure the Human Right to Water and Sanitation is included within the Sustainable Development Goals framework.  We are soliciting partner organizations to s!gn on!

Please join us in our call by:


  1. Sign the letter now posted on the ( with your organization’s formal title, contact, country, and if applicable, major group or other stakeholder constituency (e.g., Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Youth, etc.) or email .
  2. Circulating this message and the Right to Water letter to your networks to sign on at
  3. Forwarding a copy of the Right to Water letter to the ambassador representing your country at the UN (see attached UN_Ambassador_OWG_member_contact_sheet_).
  4.  Tweeting the need for #owg12 to explicitly name the right to water and sanitation in the #SDGs including #SDGH20 during the OWG 11 and use @FemTaskForce @MWGatUN

For more information, write to or


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