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Water for all: WCC high level panel reaffirms faith communities’ contribution to achieve SDG 6

Water for all: WCC high level panel reaffirms faith communities’ contribution to achieve SDG 6

Leo Heller, UN special rapporteur for Human Right to Water and Sanitation, was one of the speakers of the event in New York. ©Marcelo Schneider/World Council of Churches

13 July 2018

In the sidelines of the ongoing High Level Political Forum (HLPF) of the United Nations (UN), an official side event was organized by the Ecumenical Water Network of the World Council of Churches (WCC-EWN).

The panel “Water and Faith Communities towards achieving SDG 6” was moderated by Rev. Douglas Leonard, coordinator of the Ecumenical UN Office in New York and was co-sponsored by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the UN Inter Agency Task Force on Religion and Development (UNIATF). The event was held at the Church of the Covenant, in New York.

“It was quite heartening to note that the same high level panel of experts and eminent personalities from the water sector who led the official review of the SDG 6 at the HLPF were at our side event speaking on faith communities contribution to achieve the SDG 6”, said Dinesh Suna, coordinator of the WCC-EWN.

Reflecting on the overall impact of the water justice agenda in the context of the 2018 HLPF, Suna pointed out that the synthesis report on SDG 6 has some gaps with regards to the faith communities’ contribution to the goal.  “The multi-stakeholder participation leaves out faith communities, who are drivers of change, as underlined by Dr David Nabarro the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda”, he said.

“The report on Public-Private partnership, ethical principles governing human right to water is not emphasized. There is no critical approach to the bottled water industries nor to the issue of privatization of water as a concern”, added Suna.

Prof. Leo Heller, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Right to Water and Sanitation, reminded the gaps in the Synthesis Report on SDG6.  “The human rights to water framework has to be built on two blocks: the normative content of accessibility, affordability, availability, quantity and quality and the principles of human rights, such as non-discrimination and equality, transparency, accountability and sustainability”, stated Heller.

For Prof. Stefan Uhlenbrook, World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), UNESCO and Coordinator of the UN-Water Task Force, which produced the SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018, affordability should be a key aspect of the SDG6 goal. “People from the poorer countries continue to pay a higher price to access clean water compared to richer and developed countries”, he stressed.

Keynote speaker of the official UN HLPF review of SDG 6, Ms Mina Guli, was also one of the participants of the WCC side event.  She is a water advocate who runs through deserts around the world to raise awareness on water issues around the world.  Guli’s current challenge in her water advocacy work is to run 100 marathons in 100 days.

The three co-sponsors of the event with WCC, namely SIWI, GWP and UN IATF were represented by Ms Elizabeth Yaari, Dr Monika Weber–Fahr and Dr Azza Karam respectively.  All of them underlined their engagement with the faith communities on issues of water and the importance of this partnership and assured its continuation to achieve SDG 6 on water and sanitation for all.

The 2018 HLPF is taking place at the UN headquarters in New York, 9-18 July.