Water you playing at?
Everyone should have access to clean, safe drinking water. Seems fairly obvious, you might be thinking. That is a fundamental human right, right? Well no, not according to all of the countries represented at the UN General Assembly, not yet. And when the resolution was proposed last Wednesday 28th, a massive 41 countries, amongst them the UK and the US, abstained from the vote.
No countries actually voted against the resolution, and with 122 voting in favour, it was comfortably passed, but it is curious that so many chose to abstain.
Especially given the fact that UN anti-poverty goals adopted by world leaders in 2000 call for the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation to be halved by 2015 and the right to water is already enshrined in international law. This seems like closing the door after the horse has bolted. These countries are already signed up to this; in notion and in obligation. An American delegate reportedly felt the resolution unnecessary and not “reflective of current international law”. Yet Amnesty experts have concluded that there is no legal reason why countries should not support the resolution.
The rights will next be debated by the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September and ahead of that, Amnesty is urging the abstaining countries to reconsider and support the proposal to recognise water as a human right. It is difficult to argue with the reasoning of Amnesty’s policy expert, Ashfaq Khalfan, who said:
“Women who risk their lives when they go to public toilets at night and people whose children die due to lack of clean water should be able to hold their leaders to account over clean water and sanitation.”
I’ll drink to that.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.