Ministers Ignore Human Right to Water Despite Consensus

Current Draft of Ministerial Statement Fails to Include Human Right to Water

March, 16, 2003, KYOTO, JAPAN – “The 3rd World Water Forum will be at least a partial failure unless the ministerial statement acknowledges the human right to water,” said Peter H. Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute during a session today at the Water Forum. Noting that the United Nations has formally recognized that access to clean water is a human right, Gleick criticized the current draft of the World Water Forum’s ministerial statement, which has no mention of that right.

“Every person on the planet deserves access to clean drinking water,” said Gleick during a panel discussion of the right to water. “This is a basic human right now acknowledged by the United Nations. But despite the importance of clean water and the international consensus that access to it is a human right, the current draft of the 3rd World Water Forum’s ministerial statement fails to acknowledge this right.”

Over 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water and over 2 billion don’t have access to adequate sanitation. The result: three to five million people – mostly children – die every year from preventable, water-related disease.

“Acknowledging the human right to water will encourage the world community and individual governments to redouble their efforts to meet this critical need while keeping a spotlight on the deplorable state of water management in many parts of the world,” continued Gleick. “Formal recognition of this human right will also help resolve conflicts over shared water resources and focus the efforts of water policy makers.”

In General Comment 15, passed on November 26, 2002, The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has explicitly declared that there is a human right to water.

Dr. Gleick’s paper, “The Human Right to Water” is available online.


Gleick: World Water Spending Priorities Misguided

Global Water Crisis Persists as Billions Are Misspent on Centralized Projects

KYOTO, JAPAN – We have enough money to solve the global water crisis, but we are spending the money on the wrong projects, said Peter H. Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute in comments made during an opening plenary session of the 3rd World Water Forum on water, sanitation and health. Instead of spending an additional $80-$100 billion per year as some policy makers believe is necessary, a small increase of $10-$20 billion – provided the money is spent on community-scale projects, should be enough to extend basic water access to those who currently do not have it.

“The global water crisis, which kills millions of people every year, is a challenge the world can and must meet,” said Peter H. Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute. “Although an increase in spending on the global water
crisis would certainly be welcome, the heart of the problem is not how much we are spending, but what we are spending it on. Instead of our current bias towards large, centralized water projects, we must invest aggressively in community-scale water projects that bring basic water and sanitation services to those who need it most.”