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No legal means

by Peter Hauff

In brief

Shortly before the World Water Forum in Marseille, humankind achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving the share of the world population without access to safe water. However, there still is no legal way to enforce people’s fundamental right to safe water. By Peter Hauff

France was the host of the 6th World Water Forum in March. Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of Niger, emphasised the relevance of the topic. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) complained, how­ever, that the governments of advanced nations do not take the human right to water as seriously.

The WWF stresses that water is a security issue. It has listed more than 50 examples of violent conflict hinging on water all over the world (please note comment on p. 172). At the same time, the environmentalist pressure group acknowledges that 450 international agreements were concluded on water from 1820 to 2007. For about 60 % of cross-border water bodies, however, there still is no such agreement.

Moreover, it remains impossible to turn to legal courts to enforce one’s right to water. In 2010, the international community accepted that this right is a fundamental one. Accordingly, non-governmental groups now demand that an international institution must be set up to deal with this issue, for otherwise individuals and organisations have no means of action. Governments, however, are moving only very slowly on the matter (see D+C/E+Z 2010/09, p. 312–313, and D+C/E+Z 2011/01, p. 9).

800 million in need

In March, the UN announced that the MDG for safe drinking water was achieved: the share of people who do not have safe access has been halved since 1990, and the number of people with access rose by 2 billion. Nonetheless, some 800 million people still suffer need according to the UN (please note related essays on pages 153, 155 and 157).

By 2050, the world population will grow to 9 billion and will need 20 % more water, the UN predicts. At the same time, ground water resources are being depleted fast. To reduce consumption, experts propose to recycle more waste water and cultivate crops that need less water. (ph)