3 Sep 2013

UNited in confusion?

Global bureaucrats and stakeholders are writing a post-MDG 2015 development agenda.

They've released a "water thematic consultation report" [pdf] that claims that 2 billion people have "access to an improved water supply" yet "1.8 billion of those who gained an improved source still use water known to be unsafe to drink" [p. 12] -- a failure that I noted long ago.

They also make this strange statement on a human right to water (which I oppose):
Indeed, to endure and reach everyone – especially the weakest, most remote, impoverished or unborn members in society – on an equal basis, parties felt reluctant to force water access unilaterally from above. Nor can rights take shape without due respect for local cultural, gender, political or natural context. Rather, it became clear through the consultation that secure access to water must be recognized as a fundamental right for all, which can’t be taken away. [p.5]
It's strange to me that their bold text contradicts the statements above about "unilaterally from above" and "local... context." Did someone forget to run the logic checker?

Bottom line: The UN and other bureaucrats cannot help people if they are too confused to see their own failings and contradictions.


  1. From a legal standpoint, the most important part of the statement may be the last clause: "...which can't be taken away." That turns water access from a positive right (something that someone else must provide), into a negative right (something someone cannot legally obstruct). It dovetails with the idea of a property right to water. A third party cannot legally obstruct prescriptive access rights to water. It represents a shift or at least a course correction from the General Assembly Comment (64) in 2010, which appeared to make water a positive right.

  2. @Mike -- interesting point. Does that mean that water must be provided (positive) or that once provided (via any means) that it cannot be taken away? What if you do not pay your water bill?


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