Blue Planet Project founder Barlow (Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, 2008, etc.) reports on a significant victory in the fight to establish the human right to water but warns that there is much left to do.
In 2010, the U.N. General Assembly passed a “historic resolution recognizing the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation,” but implementation still remains a problem. According to a recent World Health Organization document, “every three and a half seconds in the developing world, a child dies of waterborne disease.” Lack of adequate sanitation services fosters the spread of diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery. Barlow explains that the U.N., despite the resolution, does not consider the right to drinking water a priority. It is considered a “third-generation” human right. These also include the conservation of natural resources for the use of present and future generations. The U.N. directs most of its focus to “first-generation” rights, such as freedoms of speech and religion and the right to a fair trial. Historically, Canada and the United States have led the opposition to implementing second-generation rights—e.g., the rights to employment, health care, housing and social security. The author attributes this to the power of global corporations, including Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and others. “Privatization of drinking water and wastewater services was deliberately imposed on the Global South by international institutions and water companies” as a condition for financing from the World Bank, which demands that they are “open to dealing with private utilities, most of which were based in Europe.” Nor are water resources being conserved, despite the danger that within the next three decades, demand will outstrip supply “by 40 percent.”
A somewhat strident but important call to action.