by Jenna Farineau
Yesterday marked the beginning of the five day “Post-2015 Sustainable Development Intergovernmental Negotiations” at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The purpose of this conference is for member states to define the post-2015 development agenda that will be launched at a summit this September in recognition that the millennium development goals will reach their expiration date by the time of that conference. Representing Earth in Brackets and College of the Atlantic at this conference are Aura Silva, Kimberly Lopez, Makiko Yoshida and myself, Jenna Farineau.
Yesterday morning we heard from the Chair of the United Nations Statistical Commission as well as from many different countries like Botswana, Poland, Japan, Russia, Liberia, etc. about the preliminary global indicators that are being discussed for the rest of the week. These discussions lasted until 1pm and in the break between the first session and the second session, there were many different side events, one of them being the Rights-based Perspectives on Indicators and Means of Implementation for Water and Sanitation.
The purpose of this discussion was to provide an “opportunity to discuss rights-based perspectives on indicators for Goal 6 [read: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all]. Keeping in mind the limitations of the Millennium Development Goals indicators regarding water and sanitation, the discussion will put forward the demands and recommendations of Major Groups, social movements and civil society organizations regarding indicators and means of implementation for the Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation.” The speakers on this panel were Dr. Caleb Otto (Representative of Palau), Meera Karunananthan (The Blue Plantet Project of the Council of Canadians), Sanda Vermuyten (Public Services International), Priscilla M. Achakpa (Women Environmental Programme), Roberto Mukaro Borrero (International Indian Treaty Council) and…..myself! [Say what?!]
I had no idea that I would be joining this panel until about 10 minutes before it actually happened, since no Major Group Children and Youth representative was on the panel. I was both thrilled to be asked to speak on the panel but also terrified because I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to be presenting or if I was going to be bombarded with questions. Nonetheless, I sat down and joined the other speakers on the panel. While they presented, I gathered my thoughts in a flurry and came up with a statement that was meant to present the position that youth have on the recommendations and demands of including water as a human right in Goal 6 as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Here is loosely what I said:
Hello, my name is Jenna Farineau. I am representing the Major Group for Children and Youth. I apologize for not having something as well prepared as the rest of the panel speakers – I just found out that I would be on this panel about 10 minutes ago, so bear with me! First and foremost, I’d like to reiterate what Dr. Caleb Otto said before me, that “It’s natural for us to have clean water,” and that’s why it’s so important to explicitly state in Goal 6 that water is a basic human right, so that it gives way for the indicators that follow the goal to be based around that principle and can be followed through with a strong focus on that. Because the indicators are listed in order of priority, it’s important to declare water as a human right even before that list of priorities. The focus must encompass all demographics – low income and poor living conditions should not determine whether you have access to clean water or not. Water is so central to our everyday lives – to the function of the planet, industries like agriculture – and to disregard that fact is simply a general lack of compassion. But it’s also not just about clean access, it’s about maintaing the health of the environment around us because we are directly affected by it and cannot thrive as humans unless we are surrounded by a happy and healthy environment. In regards to health, the importance of sanitation should also be at the forefront of discussions because it’s denying a right to only have access to contaminated water and when considering children and youth at the age of 5 or 15, if their only access to water is contaminated, then their future doesn’t look too great. I implore you to think about the right to water as something in the present – because the future only exists if the present is thriving. But also think about the future, because as a youth, I know that’s all I can think about when I look at these goals and listen to these discussions.