chapter  1
18 Pages

The right to water: prospects and possibilities

Water is life-giving and non-substitutable. Yet safe water remains inaccessible to millions of people around the world. Given this, the fundamental importance of ful¼lling people’s right to water could not be clearer. Indeed, it is not surprising that calls for the right to clean potable water have galvanized scholars, activists and policy-makers, whilst struggles over this right have emerged as a focal point for political mobilization in a range of locations globally (Gleick, 1999; Petrella, 2001; Barlow and Clarke, 2002; Shiva, 2002; WHO, 2003; UNDP, 2006; Barlow, 2008; Bond, 2008). Global and local movements have highlighted the critical need for water justice, in a world where nearly a billion people still lack safe drinking water and waterrelated deaths remain the leading cause of infant mortality in the developing world. The relatively modest costs of providing safe potable water and the continuing high rates of illness and death from water-related diseases have resulted in the provision of safe water gaining prominence within the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It also formed the crux of a rallying call for water activism for the right to water. Although recognizing the right to water was in part formalized in the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 15 of 2002, and embodied in the 2005-2015 UN International Decade for Action on ‘Water for Life’, it was not until July 2010 that the UN General Assembly ¼nally adopted the resolution that ‘recognized 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’ (A/RES/64/292 of 28 July 2010). Shortly thereafter, in September 2010, the UN Human Rights Council further con¼rmed that it was legally binding upon states to respect, protect, and ful¼ll the right (A/HRC/15/L.14 of 24 September 2010). These major international policy shifts have been heralded by most people as a move in the right direction towards addressing global water inequities.