A statement issued at a World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation calls on churches, governments and the United Nations to ensure universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene, while placing access to water prominently on their post-2015 agendas.
The Church must “serve as a catalyst for creating an inspiring and shared vision of water justice in the social domain,” read the statement, titled “God, lead us to abundant life and peace through water justice.”
The statement was developed by 40 church leaders, theologians, academics and activists who gathered for a strategic consultation here organized by the WCC’s Ecumenical Water Network (EWN). The June 10-12 event was hosted by Bread for the World, a German church aid agency not related to the U.S. anti-hunger agency of the same name.
The statement asked governments and the international community to renew their commitment “to provide universal access, including for the poor and other marginalized groups, to adequate safe, drinking water supply, hand-washing and sanitation facilities at home by 2030.”
In her inaugural speech, the Rev. Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, president of Bread for the World, recollected the contribution of the agency in forming the EWN with other ecumenical organizations. She gave assurances of her support for the work of the EWN and outcomes of the consultation.
“Water is a public good which cannot be the subject of a property right, where this right can be used or abused,” said Maria Francisca Ize-Charrin of the WaterLex. In that sense, she added, “grabbing of water resources by private companies without taking into account the right to water for populations and future generations becomes unacceptable from a human rights point of view.”
Among other speakers at the consultation were Ambassador Luis Gallegos, permanent representative of Ecuador to the U.N. Office in Geneva, and Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp of the Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values.
Reflections on the U.N. Millennium Development Goals were also shared by Virginia Roaf, adviser to the U.N. special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and by Hannah Neumeyer from the WASH United.
According to the EWN coordinator Dinesh Suna, the consultation provided a “clear sense of direction” in taking concrete steps towards churches’ efforts on water justice and the human right to water. “We see a lot of scope in contributing to the post-2015 development agenda related to water, sanitation and hygiene,” said Suna.
The EWN international reference group also met at the consultation, preparing for the WCC’s upcoming assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea, from Oct. 30-Nov. 8. Gaim Kebreab of Norwegian Church Aid and Veronica Flachier from the Latin American Council of Churches were elected as the new co-chairs of the EWN’s international reference group, while the Rev. Bridget Ben-Naimah from the All Africa Conference of Churches stepped down after her term as interim co-chair.