It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love water.  My master’s thesis is centering around women and water, and I could talk about the benefits of keeping water public for days.  For these reason, I am truly excited about the fact that the right to water and sanitation is being considered by the UN as an addition to the Declaration of Human Rights.

Water is necessary for life — not only for the physical necessity of keeping hydrated, but also for the the daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, and sanitation.   Access to clean water and sanitation can prevent fatal diseases that have plagued the developing world for years and survive only in memory in the developed world.

In the recent decades, water has been increasingly privatized, making it difficult for those not in power to have access to clean water.  In South Africa, the private companies charge way about the income level of the poor; in other countries the water systems are not maintained, leaving broken pipes and pumps that don’t work.  These situations force the people to go back to drinking the dirty water that causes diseases like dysentery or cholera.  Even in the US, our water systems are in danger of being privatized by corporations looking to make a profit (or take the bottled water industry…selling our water back to us in little plastic bottles).

People have gathered together to protest these events, and reclaim water as a part of the commons.  In Cochabamba, Bolivia, residents successfully removed Bechtel’s influence over the water systems and re-nationalized the water system.  As recently as April 2010, The People’s Agreement declared “We demand recognition of the right of all peoples, living beings, and Mother Earth to have access to water.”

This addition of Water and Sanitation to the list of Human Rights is a huge step forward in ensuring that all people will have access to clean water.  The Millennium Development Goals set out to halve the number of people in the world without access to clean water and sanitation by 2015.  Making this a Human Right would overcome a huge hurdle in that effort.  If it is declared a human right, than not providing adequate access can be viewed as a violation of Human Rights and justification for international action.

You can tell your UN representative to make access to Water and Sanitation a Human Right here!

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