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Oh. No. They. Didn’t.
I am left speechless. I actually was researching the issue of water as a basic human right for another post when I stumbled upon two completely contradictory United Nations positions about water.
In 2001 Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the United Nations, declared in a message on World Water Day that “water is a basic human right”: Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.
Now, I knew this was not the official position of the United Nations since I could not find any actual documents on the matter when writing “Women and the politics of water”. Yet I had no idea that the United Nations’ stance on water rights was being so ferociously undermined in a working session that culminated on the 28th of March with a “victory” for both the United States and Canada. Maybe this is the reason why the news was only covered by two sources online and none of the major newspapers, news agencies or news broadcasting companies in either country.
This is from Canada.com:
Federal officials in Canada said last week that the government wanted to ensure the meeting’s outcome reflected the fact that access to water is not formally recognized as a human right in international law. But a social advocacy group said that the position was designed to protect the right to sell water under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Clearly (the Harper government is) happy with the status quo: They’re not going to be an agent for change, and they’re not going to support the right to water,” said Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians.
“About every eight seconds, a child somewhere in the world is dying from dirty water, and it’s just shocking that our government has taken this position.”
And this from a press release by the Food & Water Watch found at Common Dreams:
[…] the UNHRC balked at an important opportunity this week when it stripped from a resolution all references to a ‘right to water’ at the urging of the U.S. and Canadian governments. This is the third attempt in recent years by UN member nations to recognize the right to water. Each time, U.S. and Canadian governments have opposed the effort.
“Our governments oppose a right to water resolution because it would not comport with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which defines water as a good and an investment. But water is not a commodity; it is a public trust. By buckling to pressure by the United States and Canada, the UN this week violated that trust.”
Now, let’s stop here for a moment to ponder what has happened:
For over 7 years there has been talks at the United Nations about how water is a basic human right.
For the past 3 years Canada and the United States block any resolution declaring water should be accessible to all humans and without prejudice.
The Canadian and United States government use NAFTA as the reason for denying humans all around the world the right to water because water, under the North American Free Trade Agreement, is “protected” only for the good of corporations as a good to sell and a resource to invest and profit from.
No major newspaper or news outlet reports or presents any sort of op/ed commentary on the issue.