The Human Right to Water

On December 10, 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were adopted by all nations,  water was not listed as a “right,” perhaps because the threat of scarcity was not yet looming.

Today, we need one more article, the “Right to Water.” A first step was taken in November 2002, when 144 countries signed “General Comment 15” on the “Right to Water” declaring access to water is fundamental to realization of all human rights as also set forth in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), for example. Especially, in the “Third World,’’ women and girls disproportionately struggle to provide water for household needs, walking long distances to fetch and carry water that often is unsafe.

A worldwide movement calls for “Article 31” to be added to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, establishing access to clean water as a fundamental human right. A further goal is to enact an enforceable binding treaty with penalties if nations, corporations, or international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, violate the treaty. Now with Maude Barlow, founder of the Council of Canadians Blue Planet Project, appointed new Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd session of the General Assembly, the goals of the UN Decade “Water for Life” (2005-2015) may, indeed, become a reality.

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