CSM Working Group on Water for Food Security and Nutrition



Shalmali Guttal – Focus on the Global South

Technical Facilitator:

Emily Mattheisen – FIAN

Read the Policy Recommendation on Water for Food Security and Nutrition

Process 2015


Emily Mattheisen – Habitat Coalition International, HIC

Technical Facilitator:

Shalmali Guttal – Focus on the Global South

CFS Special Rapporteur on Water: Nicola Lamaddalena


The CSM Water Working Group was established in April 2015 with the specific task to articulate the civil society positions into the CFS policy formulation process that started after the presentation of the HLPE Report on “Water and Food Security and Nutrition” mid May 2015. Since then the Working Group has drafted and presented positions and comments on the first and second draft of the Decision Box on this topic that will be discussed, negotiated and approve by CFS 42.

The CSO’s plenary statement at CFS 42 on the:

Adoption of the CFS Policy Recommendation on Water for Food Security and Nutrition:

Civil society would like to deliver three core points:

First, we would like to welcome and commend the HLPE report “Water for Food Security and Nutrition”, and the CFS for taking up this critical issue. This is the first time that the CFS systematically looked at water and the linkages between the realization of the right to food and the right to water, and the implications for other indivisible human rights obligations. The report highlights the value of water as common public wealth, as well as its centrality in ecosystem functions and territories.

The report adopts a human rights framing, prioritizing the rights and needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, including special emphasis on small-scale food producers and workers. Given the transboundary nature of water, the report also raises the necessity of recognizing extraterritorial human rights obligations of states.

Second, Civil society thanks the rapporteur, government delegates and other colleagues for the inclusive and transparent decision-making process towards the decision box recommendations. We are happy to see many important commitments by all actors reflected in the final decision box text.

The decision box reaffirms commitments to the progressive realization of the right to adequate food as a central component to the work and mandate of the CFS, and puts forward the human right to water as a core aspect of the realization of the right to adequate food, recognizing the multiple dimensions and uses of water.

The decision box affirms the role of regulation to safeguard public interests and recognizes the ecosystem functions of water. There is a clear prioritization of vulnerable and marginalized populations, with specific recommendations for protecting women and girls, as well as access to drinking water in the workplace.

The reformed CFS is a unique and dynamic space that has been home to discussions and deliberations that are vital to the achievement of FSN and the realization of the Right to Adequate Food. The numerous constituencies of civil society have actively participated in all of these processes, here in Rome as well as in their respective countries and territories.

Although we are pleased with the outcomes of this decision box, however we perceive a diminishing of the sense of inspiration and creativity that the reform process brought to the CFS.

This brings us to out third point, as the CFS, we have spent significant time and resources negotiating and agreeing on language, which we now use as basis for derogation rather than a basis to build stronger, more coherent policy towards food security and nutrition.

We are concerned with what seems to be a lack of institutional memory in CFS policy making. International human rights obligations, and specifically the rights of women and the rights of indigenous peoples have been recognized within the UN system, and reaffirmed in countless CFS policy documents- including most recently the Global Strategic Framework adopted in yesterday’s plenary session.

We regret that we have to frequently remind CFS members of commitments made in other spaces, and which have been reaffirmed in the CFS as having direct bearing on the mandate of this body.

Finally, Civil society is committed to continue working with all members to help the CFS achieve its very important mandate – and our expectation is that our government policy makers will do their utmost to collaborate with us in achieving this mandate and building on the recommendations of the HLPE report on water and the decision box.

Once again, we would like to welcome the HLPE report and the decision box and thank Mr. Lamaddelena for leading us through a long and complex negotiation process with tremendous patience, a sense of humor, and healthy cooperative spirit.

To see the CSM video contribution at CFS 42 visit these links:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxElAeAvbNU (French)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tPfwiyoqJo (English)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8fXIQbAkzU (Spanish)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGFCjoxPgJA (English)


The challenges of the Working Group before the adoption

The basis for the draft decision box was the set of recommendations of the HLPE report. In general, CSOs welcomed the HLPE Water report and its recommendations as a very positive and comprehensive effort and therefore a promising basis for the policy formulation process in the CFS. However, the discussions showed that key concerns and demands from civil society organizations found strong opposition of some delegations.

The key concerns of the CSM Working group on Water were:

Human right to water

  • There is a strong tendency among governments to reduce the right to water to the right to drinking water and sanitation. Civil society has demanded that the CFS decision should reflect a broader understanding of the right to water and the indivisibility of human rights. The realization of the right to water is essential to the realization of many other human rights as the human right to water has many dimensions and linkages to other rights and issues. The authoritative interpretation of the right to water in General Comment No. 15 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stresses these linkages, particularly to the rights to food, health and the access to land and other natural resources. There is a general need to harmonize the language in the Decision Box with the human rights framework. In any case, Civil Society cannot accept language on Human Rights that is below the standards already agreed upon by the UN.

“Interests of users”

  • When we discuss the “interest of users” we must be clear about who we are prioritizing, and that we are discussing “rights” not interests. Not all users are at the same level. It is essential that we better underscore that the document targets and prioritizes vulnerable and marginalized communities

Territorial approaches vs. Landscape approaches

  • Territory is a concept comes from the experiences of indigenous peoples, and is increasingly being used elsewhere. Territorial approaches to governance is less about a technical perspective, but rather holistic, non-sectorial planning and resource management with a clear human element – it also is a concept that transcends national boundaries.

Public policies and investments

  • When discussing investments- there are different kinds of investments that we should differentiate between, and here it is important that we discuss and put emphasis on public investments. Water is a public good, and the most marginalized must be protected by good public policies in place, as opposed to private investments which follow a different, profit-driven paradigm

Public-private partnerships (PPPs)

  • The text implies that PPPs are some sort of best practice, but there is not any body of evidence for such an assumption. In fact we have a lot of evidence that highlights to negative impacts on communities, so there is no clear benefit to include this.

Agricultural workers and the right to water in the workplace

  • The access to clean drinking water in the workplace is fundamental for agricultural workers. Unfortunately, the reality is that this access is not ensured for millions of workers, particularly on plantations.

Resilience, water and agroecology

  • The role of local food systems, small-scale producers and agroecological approaches is instrumental to strengthen resilience.

Water as a tool of economic and social pressure

  • CFS has recognized already in previous documents that food should not be used as a tool for economic and social pressure. This is also absolutely true for water, and extremely relevant for food security and nutrition.

Participatory governance,

  • In any discussion on governance and consultation human rights standards must also be applied and mentioned in the document, and particularly the principle of Free and Prior Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples

Water pricing

  • We strongly oppose any kind of water pricing or ration for communities; this could block the access to water for the most marginalized. We share the view that water has a value and that there should be measures to ensure that big water users such as companies contribute to the real cost of their water extraction.
  • The word “price” reduces the value of water to its economic value only, ignoring its social, cultural and spiritual value.

Follow up on water in the CFS

  • Even though the CFS is not an implementing body, the issue of water should be kept inside the CFS given its importance for FSN. The decision box should be stronger on this than is the case in the current draft. The CFS should at least encourage members to implement the decision and provide further guidance.

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