The Guardian UK reports, “Governments have been accused of backtracking on their commitments after ministers at the World Water Forum were charged with failing to define water and sanitation as human rights. In a ministerial declaration, eighty-four government ministers and dozens of other national representatives endorsed the five-page statement calling for a ‘new approach’ to water policy ahead of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in June.”

“Tuesday’s declaration said: ‘We commit to accelerate the full implementation of the human rights obligations relating to access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation by all appropriate means as part of our efforts to overcome the water crisis at all levels.’ Campaigners say this is not the same thing as formally defining water and sanitation as human rights. The declaration’s language, they argue, leaves potential loopholes for countries to dodge their legal and financial obligations to uphold these rights.”

“Meera Karunananthan, national water co-ordinator for the Council of Canadians, a civil society organisation, said that while the declaration is not politically binding, it risks sending mixed signals. ‘The fear is that countries can now say this is the latest international language,’ she said. …Karunananthan denounced the forum for its lack of transparency. She noted there are no signatures on the ministerial declaration, making it difficult to understand who endorsed it. Bolivia’s objections signalled that no consensus was reached, she said.”

“Meanwhile, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said the declaration was ‘a step backwards for water justice and the UN process that has begun to enforce the human right to water’. …Hauter agreed (with Karunananthan) that the declaration, ‘like the forum itself, is illegitimate because it presupposes that corporations have a role in democratic water governance, when nothing could be further from the truth’. She said: ‘The forum didn’t even collect signatures from nations who supposedly endorsed it. This document should not be mistaken for a serious multilateral statement on water policy.’”

The full article is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/mar/14/world-water-forum-declaration-human-rights?newsfeed=true.

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