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US, Canadian lobbyists weaken UN resolution protecting water as basic right

Resolution now protects right to sell water.

US, Canadian lobbyists weaken UN resolution protecting water as basic right  by by Wenonah Hauter, The American Prospect

May 27, 2008 — If adequate water for drinking and sanitation is essential for life, shouldn't we consider water a human right? Not everyone thinks so. In February, the United Nations Human Rights Council missed a critical opportunity to recognize a human right to water. As a result of lobbying by the United States and Canada, the council derailed a European-backed declaration, accepting instead a weaker resolution that actually protects a corporation's right to sell water.

As illustrated by the February United Nations vote, our government and its corporate allies believe that water is a new profit center. They are promoting markets and privatization as the solution to providing water to the world's poor — 1.4 billion people without access to drinking water and 2.5 billion without sanitation services. International finance institutions, funded by the United States and other developed nations, provide loans to developing nations on the condition that they privatize services and charge steep user fees. Indeed, the very institutions that are charged with alleviating poverty, like the World Bank, are implementing policies that force people who make $1 or $2 a day to choose among food, housing, or water.

Contrast this with the United States where, at the turn of the 20th century, reformers concerned about the high levels of water-borne disease successfully campaigned for public funding of municipal water and sewage systems. Today, public utilities provide 86 percent of household drinking water and 98 percent of sewer services. But the same economic interests promoting privatization in the developing world are clamoring for it in the United States.

Over the past 15 years, private water corporations, mostly European, have begun targeting American cities for privatization. . .

Wenonah Hauter is executive director of Food & Water Watch in Washington, DC.

Links and sources
  The Perils of Privatization, by Wenonah Hauter, The American Prospect, May 27, 2008

Posted: May 29, 2008

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