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UN’s Post-2015 agenda shifts its focus from human rights to water and sanitation

UN’s Post-2015 agenda shifts its focus from human rights to water and sanitation

Water is supplied by the military in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: UN Photo/Kibae Park

08 May 2014

While the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) related to water and sanitation has been partly successful, with the targets related to water deemed to have been “met”, the sanitation targets are demonstrably off-track, with 780 million people living today without access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion people without adequate sanitation facilities.

Water activists around the world have been advocating to include the human rights to water and sanitation as a stand-alone goal in the UN’s post-2015 agenda.

However, on 8 May 2014 these efforts received a setback. The 11th session of the Open Working Group (OPW) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), meeting from 5 to 9 May, shifted its focus from “human rights” to “access” vis-à-vis water and sanitation in the post-2015 agenda when the new SDGs follow up the current MDGs.

A United Nations high-level panel had already included the right to water and sanitation in recommendations for the post-2015 agenda and argued for a stand-alone goal, in line with many Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) including the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) of the World Council of Churches. However, the working group produced a text that lacked language about “human rights” and instead called merely for “access” to water and sanitation.

This new development has disappointed the EWN and its partners.  The EWN has called its member churches and partner CSOs to join in protest along with another 77 NGOs such as the Blue Planet, End Water Poverty and others. The OPW continues to meet regularly, probably until early 2015, with the post-2015 agenda to be finalized by September 2015 when the MDG timeframe will come to an end.

The EWN hopes the OPW may still make the desired changes, if a persuasive effort is made.

For more details, read the press release of Inter Press Service News Agency below.