The drink­ing age starts at zero

Pasatiempo - - Heart-warming Gifts -

Ac­cord­ing to 2004 fig­ures from the­World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, 1.1 bil­lion peo­ple around the world live without ac­cess to clean drink­ing wa­ter. Mil­lions die ev­ery year, mostly chil­dren, from water­borne ill­nesses. Ad­vo­cacy groups around the world are seek­ing a United Na­tions covenant guar­an­tee­ing the hu­man right to wa­ter.

The United Na­tions Com­mit­tee on Eco­nomic, So­cial and Cul­tural Rights in 2002 gen­er­ated Gen­eral Com­ment 15 — the first step to­ward what ad­vo­cates hope will be a U.N. covenant declar­ing wa­ter a hu­man right. The com­ment said, in part, “The hu­man right to wa­ter en­ti­tles every­one to suf­fi­cient, safe, ac­cept­able, phys­i­cally ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able wa­ter for per­sonal and do­mes­tic uses. An ad­e­quate amount of safe wa­ter is nec­es­sary to pre­vent death from de­hy­dra­tion, re­duce the risk of wa­ter-re­lated dis­ease, and pro­vide for con­sump­tion, cook­ing, per­sonal and do­mes­tic hy­gienic re­quire­ments.”

Gen­eral Com­ment 15 isn’t bind­ing on U.N. mem­bers, but a covenant would be. Ac­cord­ing to theWorldWater Coun­cil, “A covenant is an in­ter­na­tional le­gal in­stru­ment. Thus, when mem­ber and non-mem­ber states of the United Na­tions rat­ify a covenant and be­come a ‘ state party’ to it, they are will­fully ac­cept­ing a se­ries of le­gal obli­ga­tions to up­hold the rights and pro­vi­sions es­tab­lished un­der the text in ques­tion.” That means they have to “en­sure the com­pat­i­bil­ity of their na­tional laws with their in­ter­na­tional du­ties, in a spirit of good faith. Through the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of hu­man rights treaties, there­fore, states be­come ac­count­able to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, to other states which have rat­i­fied the same texts, and to their own cit­i­zens and oth­ers res­i­dent in their ter­ri­to­ries.”

The WWC places those hu­man rights obli­ga­tions un­der three head­ings: re­spect (“Gov­ern­ments must re­frain from un­fairly in­ter­fer­ing with peo­ple’s ac­cess to wa­ter”), pro­tect (“Gov­ern­ments must pro­tect peo­ple from in­ter­fer­ence with their ac­cess to wa­ter by oth­ers,” in­clud­ing by stop­ping pol­lu­tion or price gouging by pri­vate providers), and ful­fill (Gov­ern­ments must “take all steps with avail­able re­sources to re­al­ize the right to wa­ter” by pass­ing and over­see­ing the en­force­ment of wa­ter-ac­cess laws). For more in­for­ma­tion, see the WHO and WWCWeb sites.

— S.M.

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