At the Fourth Annual World Water Forum, held this past week in Mexico City, the Women’s Caucus called on the conference attendees to uphold women’s human right to water by including women in decisions related to water usage and sanitation and by taking gender issues into consideration when making policy. They cited the United Nations General Comment 15 to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which says that “The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights.” The Women’s Caucus proposed many recommendations for action, including: recognizing women as full partners in water and sanitation efforts; recognizing intentional contamination or withholding of water as a crime against humanity; developing gender equity policies for institutions that deal with water; and creating gender-sensitive and gender-balanced responses to water crises.
The UN Secretary General Message on World Water Day (March 22) echoed the importance of including women in water policy, as “In many cultures, including indigenous societies, women are the guardians of water. They are the ones who often spend long, arduous hours searching for and carrying water. They need to be able to participate more meaningfully in decision-making on how water is used and managed, so that their countries can make full use of their knowledge, skills and contributions.”
Other activists at the World Water Forum protested the privatization of water resources and distribution and called on attendees to amend international law to recognize a right to water and to allow the UN to police violations in order to prevent the estimated three million deaths from contaminated water each year reports OneWorld US. While the right to water has been acknowledged in various covenants and UN resolutions, the US and other influential nations have not upheld the documents.