Activists mark one-year anniversary of recognition of human right to water and sanitation
A group of activists celebrated the right to water in front of a public water fountain in the centre of Brussels on 27 July. The occasion was the one-year anniversary of the UN's recognition of right to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation as human right.
Brussels is perhaps most famous for Mannekin Pis, a 17th century statue of a boy peeing into a water fountain. The world-famous image hardly conjures up ideas of clean water, but in the past the 33 public water fountains in Brussels were crucial public source of free drinking water for travelers and pilgrims.
On 26 July 2011, a group of activists demonstrated in front of a public water fountain at Place de la Bourse in the centre of Brussels to remind the public of the importance of water being publicly owned and available to all. The occasion was the one-year anniversary of the UN general assembly's recognition of right to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation as human right.
The action was linked with the advocacy work done by Council of Canadians, Food and Water Watch and other civil society groups in New York during the UN general assembly, which demanded further commitments by governments and implementation of the human right to water. This included a public event with the Bolivian government representative, who played a key role in building support for the resolution last year.
Civil society organizations also prepared an open letter ('Review of the UN & Water on the Year Anniversary of the UNGA Recognition of the Human Right to Water & Sanitation) addressed to UN member States and agencies, which warned that transnational water corporations are hijacking the global response to the world water crisis by inserting themselves into UN activities and by partnering with UN agencies. The letter praises the UN's Human Rights Council for establishing a new mandate for the Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, to 'study and promote effective means of accountability for the human rights abuses of transnational corporations'.
In India, the Mumbai-based NGO Pani Haq Samiti organized a week long awareness-raising campaign to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the right to water. Pani Haq Samiti protested that the elite and the rich in Mumbai are pampered and taken care of, while poor and marginalized are deprived even of their most fundamental rights.
In New York yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that the task at hand is to translate the commitment to provide access to clean water and adequate sanitation into action. He stated that "a right to water and sanitation does not mean that water should be free. Rather, it means that water and sanitation services should be affordable and available for all… and that States must do everything in their power to make this happen." The example from Mumbai and many of cities around the world shows that citizens groups need to struggle hard to make the right to water a reality for all.