Thursday, July 29, 2010

A victory on the human right to water and sanitation

Whether or not you called UN Ambassador Susan Rice in response to the alert in our July e-news, you'll be happy to know that despite lack of support from the US, the UN General Assembly has voted in favor of the Bolivian resolution to recognize access to water and sanitation as human rights.

As we blogged here, the resolution opened fault lines between the water-rich, or just plain rich, countries, and developing nations of the global South. Despite concerns that the US and other developed countries would try to defeat the resolution, it passed by a wide margin, with 124 countries voting yea, no "no" votes, and 41 abstentions, including the US.

One positive note: despite Britain, the US, and Canada's abstentions, a few European countries, and twelve of the G20 nations voted in favor of the resolution, including France, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, South Africa, China, Brazil, and India. You can see the full list here.

Establishing a global human right to water is not only a victory for public health, but opens some interesting ground in the fight against climate change, and for environmental sustainability as well. You can make a strong case that people don't merely have a right to tap water, but also to rainfall and to the viability of winter snowpack, if that's a source of drinking and agricultural water, as well as free-running streams and rivers if they have traditionally been used for irrigation and fisheries.

Here's an interview with Maude Barlow, of The Council of Canadians/Le conseil des canadians and co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, from today's edition of Democracy Now!. She offers some good analysis of the vote, and the clip also features footage of Pablo Solon, Bolivian UN Ambassador, explaining the massive toll taken on children in the developing world by the lack of access to clean water.

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