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News UN Must Recognize Water as a Basic Human Right: Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Once again, the UN Human Rights Council missed a critical opportunity to recognize the human right to water. Instead, as a result of lobbying by the United States and Canada, it passed a watered?down resolution protecting a corporation?s right to sell water.

As many as 1.4 billion people suffer daily without access to adequate water, while 2.5 billion lack access to improved sanitation.  
According to the World Health Organization, increasing pollution levels and a global water consumption rate that doubles every 20 years will cause 48 nations to face severe water shortages by 2025.

Government policies can ensure that all individuals have equitable access to water to meet basic human needs. Some countries, such as Uruguay, and South Africa, have revised their national constitutions to formally recognize the right to water. In Comment 15 to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN sets out detailed standards on what governments must do to respect and ensure the right to water for all. Comment 15 amounts to a good start, and Food & Water Watch is eager to work within the process established by the UN Human Rights Council for building upon this positive first step.

However, the UNHRC balked at an important opportunity this week when it stripped from a resolution all references to a ?right to water? at the urging of the U.S. and Canadian governments. This is the third attempt in recent years by UN member nations to recognize the right to water. Each time, the effort has been opposed by U.S. and Canadian governments.

Our governments oppose a right to water resolution because it would not comport with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which defines water as a good and an investment. But water is not a commodity; it is a public trust. By buckling to pressure by the United States and Canada, the UN this week violated that trust.

Contact information Maj Fiil, Director | Water for All | Food & Water Watch, 1616 P St. NW | Suite 300 | Washington, DC 20036 (email:
Phone: +1 202.683.2453 | Fax: +1 202.683.2454
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information Food & Water Watch
Keyword(s) right to water
Geographical coverage International
News date 28/03/2008
Working language(s) ENGLISH