Purpose and background

The purpose of a Water Ethics Charter is to provide a moral basis for water management decisions which cannot be accurately valued in financial terms, and are not mandated legally.  In partnership with the Académie de l’Eau, UNESCO, and other organizations, and in consultation with key water stakeholders (companies, cities, government agencies, Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, etc.) we will develop consensus around a clear set of ethical principles for governing water use and management.  The Charter will be presented at the World Water Forum in South Korea in April 2015, followed by a campaign to build awareness about the Charter and invite endorsements.

The Water Ethics Charter
 will serve as a tool for better decision-making through crystalizing ethical concepts that make intuitive sense to a broad range of stakeholders, cutting across cultural boundaries and gender, age and class distinctions.  The Charter will articulate a common set of principles about how water and water ecosystems should be utilized and protected for the benefit of present and future generations.  Some provisional objectives of the Water Ethics Charter (subject to revision) are the following:

Articulate clear principles and guidelines of what constitutes ethical water practices in particular situations;

  • Recognize inherent rights of water ecosystems to exist in a healthy state, and the right of people to enjoy clean water and healthy water ecosystems;
  • Raise awareness about the ethical implications of water policies and water decisions at multiple scales;
  • Elicit endorsement by companies, agencies, cities, indigenous groups and NGOs to uphold and disseminate the Charter;
  • Promote social and legal reconciliation among diverse stakeholders through values-based deliberation and consensus around a shared water ethic.

The need for a Water Ethics Charter was a recommendation of the 2012 World Water Forum in Marseille, in the session, “Toward and Ethical and Spiritual Approach to Water.”  An initial planning meeting held in April 2013 established an ad hoc Steering Committee to guide the process.  [Click for the minutes of this meeting, in French.]   A Steering Committee has been formed and held its first meeting on 3-4 March 2014 at UNESCO-Paris.  Updates and latest documents about the Charter initiative will be posted on this webpage.


WEC Initiative Presentation

Report of the First Steering Committee Meeting (3-4 March 2014)

Background Note (prepared for the Steering Committee meeting, 3-4 March 2014)

The Practical Importance of Water Ethics (Discussion Paper, August 2013)