chapter  2
26 Pages

Commons versus commodities: debating the human right to water

On a rainy Friday in 2003, the world’s Water and Environment Ministers met in Kyoto to discuss the global water crisis. While Ministers met behind closed doors, participants at the parallel public World Water Forum were presented with alarming statistics: water scarcity had been growing in many regions; and over 20% of the world’s population was without access to suf¼cient supplies of potable water necessary for basic daily needs. In response, conference or­ ganizers had drafted an Inter­Ministerial declaration, based upon the view that the best response to increasing scarcity was the commercialization of water. International support for commercialization had been growing since the con­ troversial Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development in 1992, which advanced the principle that ‘water has an economic value in all its com­ peting uses and should be recognized as an economic good’. Supporters of the Dublin Principles argued that in light of endemic ‘state failure’ by governments supposedly too poor, corrupt, or inept to manage water, increased involvement of the private sector in water supply management was openly advocated by many conference participants.