On July 28, after years of grassroots pressure, the United Nations’ General Assembly will consider and debate a resolution supporting the right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation”.
Maude Barlow, former Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the United Nations General Assembly described the denial of access to clean water as the “most violated human right”. It’s worth recalling some alarming statistics:
1.2 billion people have no access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion without access to proper sanitation. Every 8 seconds a child dies from preventable water-borne disease. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the lack of water and sanitation.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not explicitly recognize the human right to water and sanitation, allowing member states to reject the existence of these fundamental rights. Climate change has already increased water scarcity and contamination.
Sadly, many states, most notably the U.S., Canada, Australia and England, oppose a resolution establishing the right to water and sanitation. Divisions between the North and South are growing.
There are two timely campaigns underway to influence decision-makers. One is to pressure the US Ambassador to the UN to support the resolution. The other is for elected officials from around the world to sign an Open Statement to the Member States of the UN General Assembly.
What about the planet’s plants and animals? Will winning the right to water also guarantee that the globe’s ecosystems also receive their fair share of water? No, but this resolution would be an important first step in a radical rethinking of how we manage our water commons around the globe. Currently, Bolivia is building similar support for a resolution on the rights of mother earth.
The world’s thirsty people will drink deeply. Act now and stay tuned!