France Libertés Foundation

Date de la référence: 
28 April, 2012

Right to water is affirmed in the Rio +20 text, but social rights and Rio principles are still under threat in the definitions of the green economy.

A few weeks ago, the civil society groups involved in the UNCSD Rio +20 negotiations shared their deep concern about the threat against human and social rights in the draft text for the Conference, as well as the threat over other important collective principles established in 1992. During the past session of the UN negotiations in March, we had seen with surprise and disappointment a group of few member states in the offensive to bracket and delete any reference to human rights, including the right to water, in the draft text to be presented in June to the heads of state in Rio. At that time several NGOs, human rights experts, unions and social movements have mobilized to denounce the attack on the rights and over principles born in the Rio 92 earth summit.

During the last weeks these networks and civil society organizations have mobilized again to the negotiating sessions that started in the last days of April, proposing meetings and "side events" on the most sensitive issues about what we called “the rights at risk”. These organizations are also putting pressure on the floor over the member states negotiators to ask for more clear positions on specific points. So we had this week finally an important victory in the chapter on water, with a step back of most countries opposed the right to water in paragraph 67, with the exception of Canada that again requested its deletion. In the session of April 26th when the water chapter was negotiated, Switzerland was the first country to speak, stressing "the importance of right to water as essential in the text." The United States, European Union, Israel and Australia, which had asked for deleting and bracketing in the last session, abstained this time the demand for deletion of the right to water, even after Canada’s intervention asking to delete the entire paragraph. Norway has retained its position supporting the rights and asked the maintenance of the entire paragraph, in opposition to Canada. Finally the G77 made a strong defense of the right to water, asking the paragraph division into two parts to give better visibility to the first part on the right. According to the representative of the G77, "The right to water cannot be placed in the same level with the issues of management and investment."

The networks and institutions who worked for years for the right to water been finally recognized in the UN General Assembly in July 2010 supports the position advocated by the G77, Switzerland and Norway in this process and cannot accept a setback in the Final Declaration of the Rio + 20 on this principle. After this week we are confident the Canada is now isolated and will have to accept the paragraph 67 and the affirmation of the right to water, but we still have to maintain the pressure and to get some victories on other paragraphs.

We know that in less than two months the heads of state of more than one hundred countries and representatives of thousands of organizations around the world will be in Rio de Janeiro proposing alternatives for implementing sustainable development and making choices that will be important to our society and our planet. Its important to say that we recognize that there are positive developments and new processes being opened in some areas like renewable energy, food security, oceans, or with the proposal for a Social Protection Floor. But on the other side we see clearly that on the context of the green economy some proposed market-based mechanisms are a clear offensive of the financial markets towards the commodification and financialization of natural resources essential for life, and more broadly represents a step backwards on admitting regression for some acquired social rights and the so called Rio principles.

We know that this victory for the right to water is certainly still partial, but it can be an example for putting energy of civil society at Rio +20 process and give us power to influence on the choices to be made in the coming months. We also need to expand and enhance the debate about where and how member states are captured by different economic interests in different subjects and what are the "red lines" that we believe important to highlight related to human rights and to some important other collective principles, such as the precautionary principle; the polluter pays principle; the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Those are rights and principles already established that are being ignored or bracketed in the negotiation process.

For all those reasons we think it’s a real challenge to communicate better about these issues with the global civil society. Apart from a general and superficial vision of the green economy from one side, and in the other side slogans and protests - most of which legitimate and important - against the liberal model and against certain projects with huge social and environmental impact, we see that unfortunately the society in general is not aware about what is this green economy and what is going on in the Rio +20 process.

The Facilitating Committee of Civil Society has been promoting meetings, meetings and activities to increase social participation in the process and we hope that the People's Summit for Social and Environmental Justice - to be held at the Flamengo park from 15 to 22 June – can be an important space to this public debate. As we read each week on the first page of the French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, "freedom of information only weaken if not used."