In the last weeks of each year, people tend to look back and evaluate the happenings of the year. The two major UN events this year, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement, provide WaterLex with continued opportunities to secure better water governance globally in a human rights-based framework. Here is how WaterLex is looking forward to 2016 and beyond:

The Sustainable Development Goals

To ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” has been recognized as a specific Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6). This reconfirms that water and sanitation are crucial for sustainable development and a fundamental basic for need for life and dignity; crucial for the wellbeing of both people and planet. Water is also recognized to be a focus area with regard to climate change. Just think about water scarcity in one place, risks of flooding in another. At WaterLex we see that integrated water resources management is essential to secure SDG 6.

SDG 6 has six targets on outcomes, and is also strongly linked to two other goals, SDG 11 and SDG 16. The targets of SDG 6 focus on building on the MDG targets on drinking water and basic sanitation, providing continuity while expanding their scope and refining definitions (6.1 and 6.2), address the broader water context such as water quality, wastewater management, water scarcity and water-use efficiency, integrated water resources management, and the protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems. (6.3 to 6.6) and targets 6.a and 6.b acknowledge the importance of an enabling environment, international cooperation, capacity building and participation of local communities.

At WaterLex we see the strong link with SDG 11 and SDG 16 for our work. To significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the economic losses relative to gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations (SDG 11.5) and the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels (SDG 16).

The continued work of WaterLex on water governance, with a human rights focus, will contribute to the realization of several SDGs and all the Global Goals in general.

The COP21 Paris Climate Agreement

The first reactions of representatives of States, business, civil society and others to the Paris climate agreement have been different, but almost all echo expressions like “a surprisingly strong climate deal” and “a turning point”. Most truly welcomed the core of the agreement to hold the global temperature increase due to climate change well below 2 °C and to even pursue max. 1.5 °C.

Article 2, which could be said is the core of the agreement, mentions these targets. This article, despite attempts of many civil society groups and some States to get human rights into the wording, does not specifically mention human rights. It does however state that the Paris Agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

Human rights are acknowledged in the preamble of the Paris Agreement:
Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and inter-generational equity.”

For WaterLex, this confirms the strong and growing link between environmental sustainability and human rights, as also confirmed by UN Human Rights Council Resolutions and the work of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and several Special Rapporteurs, which include Catarina de Albuquerque, Léo Heller and John Knox.

At WaterLex, we believe that solutions to water challenges lie in coherent and sustainable governance frameworks that must be inter-sectorial and oriented towards an equitable and sustainable development. The link with environmental sustainability is obvious.

WaterLex in 2016 and beyond:

Sustainable solutions based on human rights to improve water governance worldwide” is the WaterLex mission. It reconfirms our vision that current water challenges are not just a technical or physical issue, they are also and before all a governance issue, which requires engineers to sit at the same table with politicians, communities and lawyers.

For WaterLex. the SDGs and the Paris COP21 Climate Agreement reconfirm the value of what we do and what we aim to achieve. The founding members of WaterLex set in the heart of their fight “to improve water governance worldwide, the realization of human rights as the first principle of action“. WaterLex looks forward to contributing to the change we want to see in this world. In 2016, WaterLex warmly thanks our staff, volunteers, Board members, partners and donors for their support and contributions throughout 2015.

We wish you all a lovely holiday season and look forward to being in touch again in the New Year!