With only 3 weeks to go until the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hundreds of campaigners have urged the Secretary of State for the Environment, Caroline Spelman MP, to put the world's poorest people at the heart of negotiations for a sustainable future by ensuring they have fair and sustainable access to the water they need for livelihoods.

A photo petition with over 400 signatories was handed in to Caroline Spelman MP on 23 May 2012. The Secretary of State met with Christians at Central Hall Westminster in London to discuss what the values and perspectives of the Christian faith, such as stewardship of the Earth's resources, justice for the poor and concerns for the wellbeing of future generations, can bring to the Rio+20 negotiations.

Speaking at a gathering before the event, Christine Allen, Progressio's Executive Director, said: ″Whenever I speak to Progressio partners and people in the communities they serve, there is a common theme - they want to see a better future for their children. That's a very simple illustration of what intergenerational justice means. Indeed it's no different here in the UK.... We have to look at our behaviour, our consumption, our economic models and assumptions and find ways to ensure they reflect this principle of intergenerational justice.″

20 years on from the 1992 Earth Summit, one of the most urgent challenges facing the global population today is water scarcity. A third of the world's population relies on small-scale farming to provide for their families. Without fair and sustainable access to water, the livelihoods and food security of millions of people are under threat.

But, Progressio campaigners can feel encouraged that their calls for water justice are having an impact on the UK delegation to Rio+20. Addressing Christians gathered to discuss visions for a sustainable future from a Christian perspective, Caroline Spelman said:

″We need a new paradigm for growth: one that recognises the links between economic growth, environmental constraints and human well-being.″

″This is a global issue that requires global action. The Deputy Prime Minister and I will be going to Rio in just under a month's time - and we want to come away with a tangible outcome which will alleviate poverty and increase equity.″

When asked what should be top of the list coming out the Rio+20 negotiations, the Secretary of State concluded: ″...Agriculture everywhere in the world, wherever farmers farm, should be put on to a sustainable footing.″

Daniel Hale, Progressio's Campaign Officer said: ″Truly sustainable development requires that poor and marginalised communities have a key role in securing fair and sustainable access to water, particularly for their livelihoods. Caroline Spelman's positive response to the Waterproof campaign is very encouraging. But there's still a long way to go and we need to keep the pressure on so that Rio+20 secures a global commitment to sustainable development that has the world's poorest at its heart.″

Progressio is urging Christians to continue to put pressure on the UK delegation by sending postcards to Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, telling him their vision for the 'future we want'. To find out more about the next phase of the campaign to 'Waterproof' Rio+20 visit www.progressio.org.uk/rio.

Notes to Editors

1. Progressio is a UK-based charity working internationally to help people gain power over their lives and overcome barriers that keep them poor. For further information see www.progressio.org.uk.
2. Caroline Spelman was speaking at an event jointly hosted by Progressio, Tearfund, Christian Aid and CAFOD. Other panellists included The Rt Rev Peter Price, Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, Nanette Antequisa, a member of the Beyond 2015 Advisory Group from The Philippines, and Dr Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors.
3. For a selection of high resolution photographs from the event, please email Esther@progressio.org.uk or call +44 (0)20 7326 2011 / +44 (0)7783 409045.