…'It shouldn’t be added to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights'...
- Not my view, but the quite unexpected opinion of a colleague of mine. A colleague who had, just days before, enrolled on a one year-long human rights course. How could an engaged, informed and committed individual express such a view?
It went a little something like this: If we can’t guarantee delivery of it, we have no business promising it – well that was the basic gist of the argument given. In the not uncommon cases of war and natural disasters, it is near impossible to reach communities. In other words, we shouldn’t make promises we know we can’t keep.
What to make of this view?
Shameful? If you ask me, most definitely.
A year on from that, and the UN, I am glad to say, finally declared both water (and sanitation) as human rights. After all, a human being can survive for one week without food. No water, and that goes down to just two, maximum three days. Accessing water is arguably the most crucial of all human rights, hence a much welcomed addition to the UDHR.
However, another twelve months pass by, and, quite astonishingly, the figures of those lacking access to clean water and sanitation have risen in the last ten years.
Saving grace -
- Perhaps, comes in the form of Millennium Development Goal 7, to ensure environmental sustainability, one target of which is to: “halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.” At last, the spotlight, albeit a small one, is put on water.
But just how are we doing with target 7.c?
The shiny, oh so colourful UN PDFs would have you believe we are well on our way to achieving the targets set. Hard as they try however, the uniform graphs and neatly laid out pie charts, cannot normalize the shocking reality that 2 billion people are today still waiting for the most fundamental right of all.
Two years on from sitting in that room surrounded by a bunch of eager beavers, all passionate about human rights, I’ve realized something - getting the UN to recognize the importance of water was just the start, and the 2010 resolution, only half the battle…
No more ifs, buts or maybes:
- An estimated 884 million people are still waiting for access to safe drinking water.
- The lack of such access kills more children each year than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
- 41 nations, that is one quarter of all nations, abstained from voting in 2010.
Which is the most shocking, I really don’t know.