vote to recognise water as human right3

On July 28 the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly agreed to a resolution declaring the human right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.”

The UN General Assembly passed on Wednesday in New York, US, a resolution that recognizes the human right to clean water and sanitation, with 122 votes in favour, 41 abstentions and zero votes against it. Hundreds of social movements around the world welcome this historic decision.

“After over a decade of hard work, the global water justice movement achieved a major victory”, states the Council of Canadians in a press release issued Wednesday. The Council of Canadians is an organization that has been crucial in the international struggle for this right and that works for social, economic and environmental justice in Canada and the rest of the world.

Three members of the Council of Canadians were present at the UN General Assembly session yesterday. One of them, Anil Naidoo, said “this resolution has the overwhelming support of a strong majority of countries, despite a handful of powerful opponents. It must now be followed-up with a renewed push for water justice.”

The initiative, introduced by Bolivia with the support of over 30 countries, declares “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” And is “deeply concerned” since “approximately 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and that over 2.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation”. It also states its alarm since “approximately 1.5 million children under 5 years of age die and 443 million school days are lost each year from water and sanitation related diseases”.

The movements fighting for the human right to water at an international level are aware of the fact that their work and mobilization must continue, to ensure the enforcement of the resolution. “We are calling for actions on the ground in communities around the world to ensure that the rights to water and sanitation are implemented”, said Naidoo. “Governments, aid agencies and the UN must take their responsibilities seriously”, he added.

Several developed countries pushed to prevent the resolution from being passed, although when it was time to vote they abstained, to protect their international image. The United Kingdom, Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand are among these countries.

It was reported that these countries tried to change the text of the resolution to reduce their future obligations to ensure the human right to water.

Most of the abstaining countries are European, mostly the EU or aligned to the EU. The six African countries that abstained (Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania and Zambia) are former European colonies, as the two Caribbean countries (Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago).