Saturday, March 28, 2009
With US encouragement, the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the World Water Forum declined to recognize a human right to water: Its time for US policy to change.
ENS reported today:
Twenty countries have officially challenged the Ministerial Declaration released Sunday at the close of the week-long World Water Forum because it defines water as a human need rather than as a human right. Latin American states played a key role in gathering signatures on a counter-declaration that recognizes access to water and sanitation as a human right and commits to all necessary action for the progressive implementation of this right. Countries that signed the counter-declaration are: Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Chad, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Panama, Paraguay, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Venezuela. Switzerland has declared its support although a formal signature is expected to take months to finalize.
The U.S. delegation, led by Daniel Reifsnyder, deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and sustainable development, took the position that "there is at present no internationally agreed right to water or human right to water, and there is no consensus on what such a right would encompass," according to State Department spokesman Andy Laine. The Ministerial Declaration was not open to negotiation at the World Water Forum as negotiations on the statement were concluded at a preparatory meeting held in Paris on March 3 and 4. Laine told ENS that during the preparatory process the United States did oppose language that would have recognized water as a human right. "The United States does not oppose any government adopting a national right to water or sanitation as part of its own domestic policy. We do, however, have concerns with a statement that would require all countries to adopt a national right to water or sanitation or would establish an international right to water or sanitation," Laine said. "Establishing an international right to anything raises a number of complicated issues regarding the nature of that right, how that right would be enforced, and which parties would bear responsibility for ensuring these rights are met," said Laine. "To date, there have been no formal intergovernmental discussions on these issues. It would therefore be premature to agree to such a right." Other governments supporting the principle of water as a human need, rather than are human right, are Brazil, Canada, Egypt and the European Union.
Nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations have mounted a campaign to lobby governments to recognize water as a human right In Istanbul last Friday, Philipp Terhorst of Transnational Institute, speaking for the European Water Network, criticized the recent EU Parliament’s resolution that fails to recognize the human right to water. The Washington, DC-based NGO Food and Water Watch asked its members to send emails to their Congressional representatives urging them to support water as a human right. Their appeal counters the State Department position, saying, "While it has been argued that there is no international consensus on the existence of a right to water and sanitation, such rights have been enshrined in two ministerial-level declarations of the United Nations."
Maude Barlow, a Canadian national who serves as senior advisor on water to UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, delivered a statement from him in Istanbul. D’Escoto was clear, “Water is a public trust, a common heritage of people and nature, and a fundamental human right. ... We must challenge the notion that water is a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market. Those who are committed to the privatization of water ... are denying people a human right as basic as the air we breathe.” "We must work quickly to guarantee that access to drinking water constitutes a fundamental right of all peoples," said D'Escoto.
The UN president also questioned the legitimacy of the forum itself. His speech stated, "The forum's orientation is profoundly influenced by private water companies. This is evident by the fact that both the president of the World Water Council and the alternate president are deeply involved with provision of private, for-profit, water services." He added that future forums should, "conduct their deliberations under the auspices of the United Nations." The Forum is staged by the World Water Council, a French-based organization whose funding comes in part from the water industry.
Barlow, who is also the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, delivered the president's message to the People's Water Forum, a counter-forum held by hundreds of civil society members from nearly 70 countries whose voices have not been at the formal World Water Forum. The speech was later released to the World Water Forum, which was attended by 25,000 delegates from 150 countries. "This is a victory for all our groups who have been working for over 15 years for water to be recognized as a human right," said Barlow.
Pope Benedict XVI last July called for recognition of the right to water. In his message to the international exposition on Water and Sustainable Development Spain, the pontiff said, "The use of water, which is regarded as a universal and inalienable right, is related to the growing and urgent needs of people who live in destitution, taking into account the fact that limited access to potable water has repercussions on the well being of an enormous number of people and is often the cause of illnesses, sufferings, conflicts, poverty and even death."
Friday, March 27, 2009
Water advocates sent a letter today to Secretary of State Clinton asking her to prioritize the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation, arguing that women bear a disproportionate share of the burden. WATER ADVOCATES, a Washington, D.C. group formed to raise awareness of the water issue among policymakers in Washington D.C., issued the press release that follows.
1506 21st Street NW, Suite 200, Washington DC 20036 | Telephone 202 293 4003 | Fax 202 293 4001 | www.wateradvocates.org
For Immediate Release
Press Contact: John Sauer, Water Advocates
Dear Secretary Clinton: “Women of the World Need Safe Water”
Washington, DC—March 25—In an unprecedented letter of concern to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, prominent women have urged enhanced U.S. leadership to reduce the burden on women from inadequate drinking water and sanitation in developing countries. The Secretary of State received the letter between International Women’s Day (March 8) and World Water Day (March 22) to emphasize this critical linkage.
It is the first time that women in America have come together from such diverse fields - non-governmental, corporate, philanthropic, environmental and entertainment – to advocate the global importance of safe water and sanitation from a women’s perspective.
In their letter, the
women leaders urged Secretary Clinton to take five actions that would
make this issue a higher priority in U.S. foreign policy:
• appoint high-level advocates for water in the U.S. State Department and USAID
• commit U.S. leadership on the world stage
• significantly increase funding
• complete the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act Strategy
• hire qualified field staff
The prominent women leaders characterized the global lack of water and sanitation as an urgent, but solvable, development challenge. Nearly one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people do not have a safe place to dispose their excreta or a place to wash their hands. Women and their children bear the most severe burden from this crisis.
“If safe drinking water were accessible,” says the letter, “women would not waste 40 billion hours annually fetching water from distant and contaminated sources. Only with safe water will women and their families have a chance to live without debilitating water-borne diseases (such as cholera, typhoid, and amoebic dysentery). Only then will they free their time to engage in income-generating activities, education, and caring for their families.”
Sanitation, a typically ignored women’s issue, is central to the women’s message. The letter points out that “latrines enhance girls’ attendance at school (especially once at the age of menstruation). They would provide dignity to the one billion women who otherwise defecate in the open, and reduce direct exposure to disease-causing pathogens.”
Proven techniques and technologies are readily available to provide access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Experienced developmental organizations stand ready to increase their work with the U.S. government around the world. The letter also calls upon Secretary Clinton to encourage public-private partnerships to solve this global crisis and improve the condition of women and children worldwide.
“It is often forgotten how important water is to women’s lives,” emphasized Andra Tamburro of the non-profit organization, Water Advocates. “Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is an essential step to empowering women.”
The signers include the following:
Vice Chair of the Global Water Challenge; Former Deputy Administrator, USAID
President & CEO, World Learning
Senior Vice President and Chief Liaison Officer, PSI
CEO of WaterAid America
Monica D. Ellis
President & CEO, Global Environment & Technology Foundation
President & CEO of CARE
Molly F. Greene
Founder, Chief Philanthropy Officer
Water Missions International
Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security)
President & Founder, H2O for Life
Executive Director, TransAfrica Forum, Inc.
Executive Director, Kind World Foundation
Director, Water and Sanitation Initiatives, Global Water Challenge
Attorney, International Program, NRDC
Assistant Director, Global Water Futures Project
President, Earth Day Network
Jeannine B. Scott
Senior Vice President, Africare
Founder & CEO, Fair Winds Trading, Inc.
Mrs. Paul Simon
Christine Todd Whitman
President, The Whitman Strategy Group; Former Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency
I've been having a hard time pinning down how many people die each year from lack of clean drinking water and sanitation. The figure I had used for the last three years was 2 million deaths annually. I read a figure of 4 million in a recent Church World Service paper. The WHO 2008 report Safe Water, Better Health gave figures that add up to nearly 3 million. But today I encountered a figure of 8 million deaths in Water and Wastewater News, a publication for water service professionals. For now, I'm going with the WHO figures that are obviously low because of the conservative methodology they used, but that seems more realistic. If anyone can help me sort this out, I'd appreciate it.
Well, I've got a new version:
Where has all our money gone,
Long time passing,
Where has all our money gone,
Long time ago,
Where has all our money gone,
Gone to the bankers, everyone
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
Obviously, the financial sector didn't do too bad while they foreclosed on houses through the Depression. But life's been really good for the bankers since about 1995. Even better than foreclosing on farms and homes during the Depression days. But all good things must come to an end.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
In the first few weeks of my introductory Environmental Law and Policy course, I ask students to prepare a presidential briefing on a current issue. If any of you have the same approach, you might want to take a look at this and provide it as a sample.
Of course, anyone who is interested in global warming should review it too. Download Endangerment briefing
A frequent reader brought this article in Toxic Law Reporter to my attention. Trent Taylor's article discusses the implications of the district court ruling in North Carolina v. TVA and other recent public nuisance rulings. Here's the opening paragraph:
On January 13, 2009, in North Carolina ex rel.Cooper v. Tennessee Valley Authority,—-F. Supp.2d—- Civil No. 1:06CV20, 2009 WL 77998 (W.D. N.C. Jan. 13, 2009) (hereafter ‘‘TVA decision’’), U.S. District Judge Lacy Thornburg of North Carolina declared that air emissions from three coal-fired plants located in eastern Tennessee and one plant located in Alabama, all operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, are a public nuisance contributing to ‘‘significant hurt, inconvenience [and] damage’’ in North Carolina. As a remedy, the court ordered that the TVA proceed with plans to install enhanced pollution controls in these plants and reduce emission of certain pollutants by specific time limits. The court estimated that complying with its orders would cost, at a minimum, approximately $1 billion. The court found against the TVA despite its compliance with all applicable federal and state regulations. Yet few noticed this important decision–it caused barely a ripple in mainstream legal circles. This may be because while public nuisance as recently as several years ago was seen as the ‘‘hot’’ tort, some legal commentators have since written it off as a serious legal doctrine due to a string of victories for defendants in the most high-profile public nuisance litigation to date–claims against the past manufacturers of lead paint and pigment. However, it would be a mistake for practitioners to ignore this decision. Though it may not singlehandedly rehabilitate public nuisance as a tort theory of consequence in the minds of the legal literati, the TVA decision will have a number of far-reaching implications, especially when other recent decisions on public nuisance are taken into account. Indeed, it may herald in a new era of public nuisance suits against corporate defendants, [including those] seeking to redress environmental harms...
This strikes me as a little late given the approaching Copenhagen deadline, but better late than never.
The Summit on America's Climate Choices, to be held March 30-31, 2009 in Washington, D.C., provides an opportunity for study participants to interact with major thought leaders and key constituencies to frame the questions and issues that the study will address.
Four panels of experts will release consensus reports in late 2009:
- Panel on Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change
- Panel on Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change
- Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change
- Panel on Informing Effective Decisions and Actions Related to Climate Change
The Committee on America's Climate Choices will issue a final report in 2010 that will integrate the findings and recommendations from the four panel reports and other sources to identify the most effective short-term actions and most promising long-term strategies, investments, and opportunities for responding to climate change
Here's the full agenda for the conference: Summit_agenda_3-23-09
Monday, March 23, 2009
Above you'll find the Recovery.gov image of where the $819 billion stimulus money is going. Below is the CBO's analysis, with graphics by the Washington Post. Clicking on either image will pop-up a full-size image.