Save the Water Issues Committee Critical Work

A resolution was passed in the WILPF National Congress to expand the scope of the Save the Water issue committee’s work to include such topics as:

• The human right to water

• The climate crisis and rights of nature;

• Environmental trespass by corporations;

• The problems of nuclear and other waste, such as from mining and oil and gas extraction;

• Food sovereignty and support for sustainable agriculture;

• Healthy food systems

In this way, WILPF’s work will not only align with the eco-climate justice movements, but also become more integrated with the goals of International WILPF’s Working Group on the Environment.

With your help, we can carry out this new mandate and excitingly broad program. We will create new sub-committees for individual subject areas and invite you to join the listserve so we can discuss together how to move forward and develop the programs and materials we need for education and action by members and branches. We welcome all who would like to become active in this work with us. Please email the Save the Water leadership team if you would like to step forward and join with us. Thanks goes to Jean Hays, Lib Hutchby, Nancy Munger, Linda Park, Nancy Price, and Randa Solick. 

We are also pleased to announce that the panel titled “The Right to Health and Safe Water for Women and Children," which the committee submitted to Forum Alternatif Mondial de l’Eau (FAME), the Alternative Water Forum, held March 12-17, 2012 in Marseille, France was accepted. We look forward to sending a small delegation and will seek funding in support.

As required, we described the motivation for this panel as follows: The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom recognizes the profound impact of the corporate/military/industrial complex on human health, particularly women of reproductive age and children, through pollution of water. International and national laws can be used to hold corporate and military actors accountable to advance and protect the human right to health and the realization of the human right to safe water and sanitation. 

The panel topic was described as: Complementing emphasis on the global need for basic sanitation, this panel will focus on the need to protect fresh water sources and people from extensive pollution by the military/industrial complex, including, for example, mining, agriculture, and energy. Exposure to such polluted water contributes to an individual’s cumulative “chemical “body burden” and creates a pre-condition for disease leading to disability and death any time after exposure. Polluters regularly violate international and national laws, and use free trade agreements to challenge environmental regulations. Panel experts in public health, international law, and corporate accountability will discuss the specific health impacts, recent international corporate cases, and the linking of the right to health with the right to water and sanitation in order to hold States accountable for the actions of their corporate and military/industrial actors.   

This alternative forum takes place concurrent with the 6th World Water Forum, hosted by the World Water Council, and attended by representatives from the multinational water services and bottled water corporations, governments and government agencies, financial institutions, and United Nations as they claim to have the solution to providing access to clean drinking water and sanitation. The global people’s water movement say “No” to privatization of water and corporate control of water. You can read here the Preamble and Charter of the Forum. 

At first representatives of the people’s water movement participated in the World Water Forums—attending the assemblies and workshops, stepping up to challenge, and exposing the corporate agenda. The movie Thirst shows the very successful protest staged at the final Assembly of 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, in 2003.


Working on the “inside” was less than satisfactory. To highlight and bring together the growing movement, the first alternative People’s Water Forum was held concurrent with the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico City in 2006 and a declaration and statement of principles was issued, which was elaborated on at  the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul. As a result, the UN General Assembly finally declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right on July 28, 2010. 


At the same time, the General Assembly affirmed the request of the UN Human Rights Council that Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, report annually to the General Assembly. The report of her mission to the United States from February 22 through March 4, during which she visited seven communities can be read here and includes strong recommendations that the U.S., as follows:

  • Prevent pollution of surface and groundwater 
  • Formulate a national water and sanitation policy and plan of action and place the human right to water and sanitation, without discrimination, at the center of domestic policy
  • Ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as other core international human rights treaties it has not ratified thus far and to reconvene the Interagency Working Group on Human Rights (Executive Order 13107)

For more information on the Save the Water issue committee, click here.


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