KYOTO WATER DECLARATION
Third World Water
Forum, Kyoto, Japan, March 2003
Relationship to Water
1. We, the Indigenous
Peoples from all parts of the world assembled here, reaffirm our
relationship to Mother Earth and responsibility to future generations
to raise our voices in solidarity to speak for the protection of water.
We were placed in a sacred manner on this earth, each in our own
sacred and traditional lands and territories to care for all of
creation and to care for water.
2. We recognize, honor and
respect water as sacred and sustains all life. Our traditional
knowledge, laws and ways of life teach us to be responsible in caring
for this sacred gift that connects all life.
3. Our relationship with
our lands, territories and water is the fundamental physical cultural
and spiritual basis for our existence. This relationship to our Mother
Earth requires us to conserve our freshwaters and oceans for the
survival of present and future generations. We assert our role as
caretakers with rights and responsibilities to defend and ensure the
protection, availability and purity of water. We stand united to
follow and implement our knowledge and traditional laws and exercise
our right of self-determination to preserve water, and to preserve
Conditions of Our
4. The ecosystems of the
world have been compounding in change and in crisis. In our generation
we see that our waters are being polluted with chemicals, pesticides,
sewage, disease, radioactive contamination and ocean dumping from
mining to shipping wastes. We see our waters being depleted or
converted into destructive uses through the diversion and damming of
water systems, mining and mineral extraction, mining of groundwater
and aquifer for industrial and commercial purposes, and unsustainable
economic, resource and recreational development, as well as the
transformation of excessive amounts of water into energy. In the
tropical southern and northern forest regions, deforestation has
resulted in soil erosion and thermal contamination of our water.
5. The burning of oil,
gas, and coal, known collectively as fossil fuels is the primary
source of human-induced climate change. Climate change, if not halted,
will result in increased frequency and severity of storms, floods,
drought and water shortage. Globally, climate change is worsening
desertification. It is polluting and drying up the subterranean and
water sources, and is causing the extinction of precious flora and
fauna. Many countries in Africa have been suffering from unprecedented
droughts. The most vulnerable communities to climate change are
Indigenous Peoples and impoverished local communities occupying
marginal rural and urban environments. Small island communities are
threatened with becoming submerged by rising oceans.
6. We see our waters
increasingly governed by imposed economic, foreign and colonial
domination, as well as trade agreements and commercial practices that
disconnect us as peoples from the ecosystem. Water is being treated as
a commodity and as a property interest that can be bought, sold and
traded in global and domestic market-based systems. These imposed and
inhumane practices do not respect that all life is sacred, that water
7. When water is
disrespected, misused and poorly managed, we see the life threatening
impacts on all of creation. We know that our right of
self-determination and sovereignty, our traditional knowledge, and
practices to protect the water are being disregarded violated and
8. Throughout Indigenous
territories worldwide, we witness the increasing pollution and
scarcity of fresh waters and the lack of access that we and other life
forms such as the land, forests, animals, birds, plants, marine life,
and air have to our waters, including oceans. In these times of
scarcity, we see governments creating commercial interests in water
that lead to inequities in distribution and prevent our access to the
life giving nature of water.
Right to Water and Self
9. We Indigenous Peoples
have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right we have
the right to freely exercise full authority and control of our natural
resources including water. We also refer to our right of permanent
sovereignty over our natural resources, including water.
10. Self-determination for
Indigenous Peoples includes the right to control our institutions,
territories, resources, social orders, and cultures without external
domination or interference.
includes the practice of our cultural and spiritual relationships with
water, and the exercise of authority to govern, use, manage, regulate,
recover, conserve, enhance and renew our water sources, without
12. International law
recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples to:
Ownership, control and
management of our traditional territories, lands and natural
Exercise our customary
through our own institutions
Require free prior and
informed consent to developments on our land
Control and share in
the benefits of the use of, our traditional knowledge.
13. Member States of the
United Nations and international trade organizations, international
and regional financial institutions and international agencies of
economic cooperation are legally and morally obligated to respect and
observe these and other related collective human rights and
fundamental freedoms. Despite international and universal recognition
of our role as caretakers of Mother Earth, our rights to recover,
administer, protect and develop our territories, natural resources and
water systems are systematically denied and misrepresented by
governmental and international and domestic commercial interests. Our
rights to conserve, recreate and transmit the totality of our cultural
heritage to future generations, our human right to exist as Peoples is
increasingly and alarmingly restricted, unduly impaired or totally
14. Indigenous Peoples
interests on water and customary uses must be recognized by
governments, ensuring that Indigenous rights are enshrined in national
legislation and policy. Such rights cover both water quantity and
quality and extend to water as part of a healthy environment and to
its cultural and spiritual values. Indigenous interests and rights
must be respected by international agreements on trade and investment,
and all plans for new water uses and allocations.
15. Our traditional
practices are dynamically regulated systems. They are based on natural
and spiritual laws, ensuring sustainable use through traditional
resource conservation. Long-tenured and place-based traditional
knowledge of the environment is extremely valuable, and has been
proven to be valid and effective. Our traditional knowledge developed
over the millennia should not be compromised by an over-reliance on
relatively recent and narrowly defined western reductionist scientific
methods and standards. We support the implementation of strong
measures to allow the full and equal participation of Indigenous
Peoples to share our experiences, knowledge and concerns. The
indiscriminate and narrow application of modern scientific tools and
technologies has contributed to the loss and degradation of water.
16. To recover and retain
our connection to our waters, we have the right to make decisions
about waters at all levels. Governments, corporations and
intergovernmental organizations must, under international human rights
standards require Indigenous Peoples free prior and informed consent
and consultation by cultural appropriate means in all decision-making
activities and all matters that may have affect. These consultations
must be carried out with deep mutual respect, meaning there must be no
fraud, manipulation, and duress nor guarantee that agreement will be
reached on the specific project or measure. Consultations include:
a. To conduct the
consultations under the communities own systems and mechanisms;
b. The means of Indigenous Peoples to fully participate in such
c. Indigenous Peoples exercise of both their local and traditional
decision-making processes, including the direct participation of
their spiritual and ceremonial authorities, individual members and
community authorities as well as traditional practitioners of
subsistence and cultural ways in the consultation process and the
expression of consent for the particular project or measure.
d. Respect for the right to say no.
e. Ethical guidelines for a transparent and specific outcome.
Plan of Action
17. We endorse and
reiterate the "Kimberley Declaration and the Indigenous Peoples'
Plan of Implementation on Sustainable Development" which was
agreed upon in Johannesburg during the World Summit on Sustainable
Development in September 2002.
18. We resolve to sustain
our ancestral and historical relationships with and assert our
inherent and inalienable rights to our lands and waters.
19. We resolve to maintain,
strengthen and support Indigenous Peoples' movements, struggles and
campaigns on water and enhance the role of Indigenous elders, women
and youth to protect water.
20. We seek to establish a
Working Group of Indigenous Peoples on Water, which will facilitate
linkages between Indigenous Peoples and provide technical and legal
assistance to Indigenous communities who need such support in their
struggles for the right to land and water. We will encourage the
creation of similar working groups at the local, national and regional
21. We challenge the
dominant paradigm, policies, and programs on water development, which
includes among others; government ownership of water, construction of
large water infrastructures; corporatization; the privatization and
commodification of water; the use of water as a tradeable commodity;
and the liberalization of trade in water services, which do not
recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples to water.
22. We strongly support
the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) on water and
energy development. These include the WCD report's core values,
strategic priorities, the "rights and risks framework" and
the use of multi-criteria assessment tools for strategic options
assessment and project selection. Its rights-based development
framework, including the recognition of the rights of Indigenous
Peoples in water development is a major contribution to
decision-making frameworks for sustainable development.
23. We call on the
governments, multilateral organizations, academic institutions and
think tanks to stop promoting and subsidizing the institutionalization
and implementation of these anti-people and anti-nature policies and
24. We demand a stop to
mining, logging, energy and tourism projects that drain and pollute
our waters and territories.
25. We demand that the
World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), regional banks like
the Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, Inter-American
Development Bank, stop the imposition of water privatization or 'full
cost recovery' as a condition for new loans and renewal of loans of
26. We ask the European
Union to stop championing the liberalization of water services in the
General Agreement on Services (GATS) of the World Trade Organization
(WTO). This is not consistent with the European Commission's policy on
Indigenous Peoples and development. We will not support any policy or
proposal coming from the WTO or regional trade agreements like the
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement, Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA), on water privatization and liberalization and we
commit ourselves to fight against such agreements and proposals.
27. We resolve to
replicate and transfer our traditional knowledge and practices on the
sustainable use of water to our children and the future generations.
28. We encourage the
broader society to support and learn from our water management
practices for the sake of the conservation of water all over the world.
29. We call on the States
to comply with their human rights obligations and commitments to
legally binding international instruments to which they are
signatories to, including but not limited to, such as the Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, the Covenant on Economic, Cultural and
Social Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of all
Forms of Racial Discrimination; as well as their obligations to
conventions on the environment, such as the Convention on Biological
Diversity, Climate Convention, and Convention to Combat
30. We insist that the
human rights obligations of States must be complied with and respected
by their international trade organizations. These legally binding
human rights and environmental obligations do not stop at the door of
the WTO and other regional and bilateral trade agreements.
31. We resolve to use all
political, technical and legal mechanisms on the domestic and
international level, so that the States, as well as transnational
corporations and international financial institutions will be held
accountable for their actions or inactions that threaten the integrity
of water, our land and our peoples.
32. We call on the States
to respect the spirit of Article 8j of the Convention on Biological
Diversity as it relates to the conservation of traditional knowledge
on conservation of ecosystems and we demand that the Trade Related
Aspects of the Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement be taken
out of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements as this violates
our right to our traditional knowledge.
33. We call upon the
States to fulfill the mandates of the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
We call for the end of State financial subsidies to fossil fuel
production and processing and for aggressive reduction of greenhouse
gas emissions calling attention to the United Nations
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that reported an
immediate 60% reduction of CO2 is needed to stabilize global warming.
34. We will ensure that
international and domestic systems of restoration and compensation be
put in place to restore the integrity of water and ecosystems.