Go to the main content

The right to water and sanitation at the Rio+20 Summit


France Libertés and actors from civil society are defending the status of water as a common good at Rio+20, calling on the nation states for a concerted effort.

Unfortunately, the only article concerning water in the Final declaration is Article 121: “We reaffirm our commitments regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, to be progressively realized for our populations with full respect for national sovereignty. We also highlight our commitment to the 2005-2015 International Decade for Action "Water for Life”. 

This declaration is insufficient as well as counterproductive for the future of humanity.

At the UN Assembly in New York in July, 2010, no nation opposed recognition of the fundamental human right for all people to access. However, two years later, nothing that has been put in place to change the situation. Rio+20 was supposed to be a lever for those essential changes, has not fulfilled this role.

Since July, 2010, many nations have not inscribed this right in their Constitutions, nor taken the right to water forward as a priority for the 21st century. Belgium is the only European country to have done so, along with around 40 southern countries. Considering the resolution of July 2010, Rio+20 could have been the occasion to make it mandatory for states to inscribe the right to water for all as a fundamental human right in their constitutions. This has not been the case. 

If we don’t want our world to go ever deeper into the crisis of confidence that we are experiencing already today, States should listen to their peoples rather than simply concentrate on sorting out the economic and financial crises.

We must look at the future differently and develop humanity’s capacity to live in dignity, we have to give back to the common goods the importance they deserve so they can play a role in the search for a balance between economic, social and environmental spheres.

Our planet’s financiarisation will not help us live together better. On the contrary, we should learn how to alive together better in order to preserve the Earth.

What we were expecting from the Rio+20 Summit, were decisions to concretely implement the UN resolution. The Blue Pavilion at the People’s summit materialised this hope. Children and peoples understand the obvious necessity to share our water. Leaders of states should  be capable of doing so to and yet seem to have forgotten that water is a central element of life on earth.

The headlong rush of consumerist societies needs to stop. The pre-condition for breaking with this rush is for water to be replaced at the centre of international agendas as an objective of utmost importance for the humanity’s survival. 

Countries which lack water know perfectly this reality, but they are not being heard on the international stage. President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger reminded us in Paris on Monday. France has a moral obligation to set the example by inscribing the right to water for all in its constitution. It would be the first G8 country to act and would thus open the way for others. This type of decision would be a credit to our country, supposedly to be the country of human rights.

Let’s not allow the financial markets to stifle ideas of progress. Instead, let’s take some time to rethink the basis of our society in which we hope to see our children and grandchildren grow.  Water and its protection ater will surely be at the centre of it.