At their Feb. 16-22 meeting, the WCC Central Committee issued a statement strongly welcoming the recognition of water and sanitation as a human right by the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council.

In July 2010, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution recognizing “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” Three months later, the Human Rights Council affirmed the same position.

Following this development, the WCC Central Committee now urges its member churches to continue the advocacy work affirming the right to water as the right to life.

Since the 2006 WCC 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, efforts to promote the human right to water and sanitation have been made through the Ecumenical Water Network, a WCC-based international network of churches and Christian organizations, promoting preservation, responsible management and the equitable distribution of water.

“As churches we are called to serve and be examples in the way we use and share water,” the WCC statement declares.

At the national level, the Central Committee encouraged governments to continue their engagement but to take further steps “to incorporate the right to water and sanitation into national legislation and policies.”

The statement points out that only a few countries, like the United Kingdom and Canada, continue to oppose the full recognition of the right to water and sanitation.

It challenged those governments by underlining “that access to water and sanitation are legally binding human rights” and urged political leaders to “apply the right to water as a guide, safeguard, and yardstick” for their legislative actions.

On the international level, the statement calls “for the establishment of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation at the UN Human Rights Council.”

The Ecumenical Water Network will continue its advocacy for implementation of the right to water and sanitation with the Seven Weeks for Water Lent campaign 2011.

“This campaign seeks to raise awareness among the churches on water, conflict and just peace,” said Maike Gorsboth, coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network. “The acknowledgement of water and sanitation as human rights is a part of building just peace. The Seven Weeks for Water campaign is taking up this sign of hope and encourages the churches to get involved by ways of biblical and theological reflection and action.”