Top UN Leader Calls for Creation of the Right to Water

United Nations General Assembly President, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, called on countries to establish the right to water for their people on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This historic call is being met with praise from Maude Barlow, a leading water rights advocate and expert.

"We should recognize that the right to water is a human right, and water cannot therefore be treated as a commodity that is bought and sold," said President d'Escoto Brockmann in his speech. "The right to water should unite us in building a new model of sustainable human development."

"President d'Ecoto Brockmann's endorsement of water as a human right is a call to action," says Maude Barlow, National Board Chair of Food & Water Watch and newly appointed Senior Advisor on Water Issues to President d'Escoto Brockmann. "This is a wonderful opportunity to advance a more democratic and transparent method of policy making around water at the global level than now exists. Without water there is no life, water is a public good, and a human right."

But everyday the human right to water is violated.  Every 8 seconds a child dies from drinking dirty water.  The right to water means that states have three key obligations to protect this right for their people:

  • To respect that right the state must refrain from any action or policy that interferes with the enjoyment of the human right.
  • Prevent third parties from interfering with the enjoyment of the human right.
  • To fulfill that basic right requires the state to take measures to ensure the realization and the protection of this right.

To protect the right to water, governments must adopt measures to restrain practices that deny equal access to water, pollute source water, or unsustainably extract water resources.  "There can be no human right to water without clean, available fresh water in the first place and we are dangerously in peril as a planet of losing this life and death resource," said Barlow.

A right to water covenant would make both state obligations and violations more visible to citizens. Within a year of ratification, states would be expected to put in place a plan of action, with targets, policies, indicators, and timeframes to achieve the realization of this right. As well, states would have to amend domestic law to comply with the new rights. In many cases, this will include constitutional amendments. Some form of monitoring of the new rights would also be established and the needs of marginalized groups, such as women and indigenous peoples, would need to be addressed.

In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, Barlow called on members to commit to the establishment of the right to water, "In remembrance of all those who fought so hard to create the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to a water secure future for all based on the principles of water protection and watershed renewal, equity and justice, and the right of all living things to water for life."

President d'Escoto Brockmann's speech can be read in full at: here.

Read more here about what the "Right to Water," really means for billions of the world's poorest people. 

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