The Right to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

In an op-ed in the New York Times last week, Green Cross International founder Mikhail Gorbachev wrote abut the right to water and sanitation:

The United Nations estimates that nearly 900 million people live without clean water and 2.6 billion without proper sanitation. Water, the basic ingredient of life, is among the world’s most prolific killers. At least 4,000 children die every day from water-related diseases. In fact, more lives have been lost after World War II due to contaminated water than from all forms of violence and war. This humanitarian catastrophe has been allowed to fester for generations. We must stop it.

This OpEd was published at a timely moment since a UN resolution that seeks to  recognize the human right to water and sanitation is currently being negotiated by Member States. The final text will be submitted for adoption this Wednesday (July 28) at the 3rd Commission of the 64th UN General Assembly. Then 3 things can happen:

1- In the best case scenario the text is adopted by consensus, meaning no State calls for a vote - this seems unlikely. 2- A country calls for a vote: if a majority of present Member States votes in favor, the resolution is adopted by the 3rd Commission. If not, the resolution is NOT adopted. This is the worse case scenario. 3- If the resolution is adopted the sponsors can decide to bring it to the plenary session of 65th General Assembly this September in New York. This would give the text a broader status.

The resolution was presented by Bolivia along with about twenty other sponsoring States listed in the attached resolution. Although the existence of  this resolution is a break through, the outcome of the negotiations is not clear.  Countries opposing legal enshrinement of the right are well known but the vote represents a moment of truth that even States presumably in favor of the right to water might resent. Implementation mechanisms follow legal recognition. Therefore, gaps between votes and past national endorsements in all sorts of declarations should be expected. Others, like the UK, oppose the mention of sanitation and will only go for the right to water.

Green Cross International and it's world affiliates, including Global Green USA, strongly supports the draft resolution presented by Bolivia and 22 other States at the United Nations on the Right to safe drinking water and sanitation. While a child still dies every 8 seconds of a water borne disease, the potential adoption of this resolution, which would mark the international recognition of the Human Right to safe water and sanitation, would represent a major step towards the realization of this Right.

Global Green USA urges the United States government to contribute to this historic moment by standing for the international recognition of the Human Right to water and sanitation and by acting accordingly in the context of the ongoing negotiations at the United Nations.

As President Gorbachev stated at the end of his article:

The actions and voices of millions of citizens have brought the global movement for the right to water this far. I hope that more people will join us to help bring us closer to the ultimate goal — a world where everyone’s right to safe water and sanitation is not just recognized but is also fulfilled.

Read President Gorbachev’s OpEd in the New York Times about the right to water and sanitation.