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Student Plan of Action

The following Plan of Action on "Water as a Human Right" was approved by a majority of student delegates from Tanzania, Canada, United States, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Some delegates had traveled to UN Headquarters in New York, others participated by videoconference.


“Water as a Human Right”
8th Annual UN Student Conference on Human Rights

December 2nd, 2005

We the participants at the 8th annual UN Student Conference on Human Rights,

Affirming the significance and relevance of Millennium Development Goals #2 (achieve universal primary education), #3 (promote gender equality and empower women), #7 (ensure environmental sustainability), and #8 (develop a global partnership for development) to the issue of water and human rights;

Grieved that despite the Millennium Development Goals, The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there has been little progress made towards combating the global water crisis;

Recognizing that water is the essence of life and in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that, “everyone has the right to life” and thus the right to potable, accessible water;

Realizing that the General Assembly proclaimed the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” from 2005 to 2015;

Respecting each society’s different cultural and religious values;

Deeply disturbed that over 40% of the world’s population, from more than 80 countries, is subject to serious water shortages, and that conditions are estimated to worsen in the next 50 years as populations grow, according to the UNEP;

Conscious of the undeniable connection between the use of water as an economic tool and human rights violations;

Concerned with the pressure on indebted developing nations to hand over their water systems to private companies;

Recognizing that any private takeover of the water systems of developing countries would take away the control of water management from areas in which the resources are located, thus implying foreign control;

Awarethat government corruption contributes to the violation of the human right to water;

Mindful of the economic loss when individuals cannot work due to water-borne illness, and the time women spend collecting water;

Noting that water-borne diseases are responsible for 80% of illnesses and deaths, according to WHO;

Reaffirming the fact that diseases such as leptospirosis, typhoid, malaria, diarrhea and cholera are widespread in developing countries and that 22 million people die annually because of contaminated water, according to WHO;

Recognizing the need for women and girls to have private sanitation facilities and bearing in mind that lack of such facilities can be a major reason for girls to drop out of school;

Further concerned that women and girls are often obliged to walk many hours everyday to fetch water, a strenuous responsibility that can be detrimental to their education and health;

Taking into consideration that water can be a source of conflicts among nations;

Concerned that industries and governments pollute water through irresponsible actions;

Awareof the environmental and social impacts of dams, hydroelectric projects, river diversion and other large scale water projects;

Realizing that pollutants entering the water table, rivers or oceans are not stationary and disperse to plague other areas besides those where the initial pollution occurred;

Noting with grave concern that continued squandering of our planet’s water will affect the complex relationship between all living organisms that inhabit our earth;

Recognizing that almost everywhere, water is wasted, including in cities where 50% of all water used is wasted, according to UNEP;

Noting with concern the tendency of people who are not facing immediate water scarcity to believe access to water is the norm;

Acknowledging the difficulties in coming to consensus in regard to the costs and the benefits of desalinization;

Recognizing the potential of the scientific community to contribute to the resolution of water availability and sanitation issues;

Aware of the fact that students have the power to effect change through individual action;

We, the student delegates,

  1. Support development projects that have representatives from both genders because they have a greater chance of succeeding, according to the United Nation Department of Economic and Social Affair’s Commission on Sustainable Development study;
  2. Support current UN initiatives addressing the prevention and resolution of trans-boundary water conflicts;
  3. Firmly advise governments, NGOs and corporations to provide funding for the implementation and continuation of sustainable projects and policies that make water more easily accessible; this funding will be supervised by the Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP);
  4. Urge a multilateral commitment among affluent nations to provide financial support for proper water management and for the prevention and treatment of water related diseases;
  5. Recommend implementation of short-term solutions, such as water filters, chlorination and purifiers, during the planning and organizing stages of permanent long-term solutions;
  6. Support ongoing, accessible treatment of water-borne diseases, and efforts to increase access to appropriate drugs, and reduction of drug costs;
  7. Encourage governments of developing nations to ratify water pollution controls and hold private companies responsible for the quality and cleanliness of the water they provide;
  8. Encourage all members nations of the UN to aid developing nations in creating and maintaining local, regional, and national water sources that are affordable;
  9. Recommend the implementation of specialized international water monitoring and management agencies with the ultimate goal of providing access to safe water to the peoples of undeveloped nations;
  10. Strongly suggest the creation of an advisory/review board to report the progress and failure of UN projects;
  11. Encourage the responsible maintenance of water systems, dams, wells, etc., through education, and encourage the construction of large water projects in a calculated, well-planned way;
  12. Ensure the fair distribution of debts incurred by countries that undertake large water projects;
  13. Insist that any sort of privatization of water resources should be strongly monitored and regulated by authorities in which the water resources are used;
  14. Stress the use of effective sewage treatment in community development planning;
  15. Call upon companies or institutions that have the machinery or disposition to fund drilling operations in countries where water is scare;
  16. Request that the aforementioned companies offer training programs in order to teach local populations who depend on underground water how to operate drilling machinery, as well as maintain wells and pumps;
  17. Appeal to local companies to create a plan whereby companies agree to donate a set amount of money for every liter of water saved by students; these donations would be sent to countries in need of help with water projects;
  18. Encourage further government research and implementation of desalinization;
  19. Urge the scientific community to assist in creating and distributing cheaper technology for desalinization, sand filtration, well recharging, and other water purification strategies;
  20. Advocate cheaper and more ecologically-friendly irrigation systems;
  21. Support the use of arts and media as a form of water education so people can get informed and warned;
  22. Encourage the tourism industry to create green hotels as a way of conserving water;
  23. Strongly urge educational institutions to offer proper and gender separate sanitation facilities to ensure education as a viable and comfortable option for girls;
  24. Support efforts to educate women about sanitation and good hygiene;
  25. Encourage education regarding sustainable agricultural practices;
  26. Recommend that wells and clean water sources are places strategically (i.e. near an educational institution), promoting education and safe access to water;
  27. Urge school administrators to form partnerships with schools in other countries for an exchange of ideas addressing water issues via established networks such as the UNESCO Associated Schools Project or other networks and online projects;
  28. Support the development infrastructure in underdeveloped areas, to facilitate the application of educational concepts;
  29. Stress the importance of education in regard to sustainable development;
  30. Firmly advise the teaching of the connections between daily life, water shortages and pollution to children and adults in order to raise awareness and understanding of environmental issues;
  31. Encourage our generation to raise awareness about health issues caused by the contamination of water through participation in awareness programs and student lobbying efforts in community, regional, national and global arenas;
  32. Encourage greater consumer consciousness of virtual water costs (cost of water embedded in commodities) in food and other products with an aim towards water conservation;
  33. Discourage support of companies that don’t comply with UN or government regulations and suggestions regarding water;
  34. Commit to contacting our policy makers where feasible to:
    • Endorse democratic, gender-sensitive, people-centered and sustainable models of water management;
    • Encourage schools to ban bottled water in favor of re-useable water bottles, in areas where tap water is safe;
    • Promote educational programs about water conservation among students, which will persuade them to reduce their personal water consumption;
    • Exclusively fund projects that equally represent both genders;
  35. Agree to hold one another accountable for the goals outlined in this document through an on-going exchange of projects and ideas.




December 1-2, 2005

United Nations
Headquerters, NY

Intermediate and
Secondary Students
(grades 5- 12)

Water as a Human


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