Skip to content

NEWS: Barlow skeptical of UN claim of achieving MDG target on water

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported, “The world’s nations achieved a U.N. goal of cutting in half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water five years ahead of the 2015 target, the United Nations announced Tuesday. A report issued by the U.N. children’s agency and the World Health Organization said over 2 billion people gained access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2010. That means 89 percent of the world’s population, or 6.1 billion people, had access to safe water sources at the end of 2010 — one percent more than the goal of 88 percent set by world leaders at the U.N. Millennium Summit in 2000, the report said.”

Today, the Inter Press Service reports, “Maude Barlow, the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, a citizens’ advocacy organisation, remained sceptical about the U.N. claims on the MDG target on water. ‘While I congratulate all who work on this issue – the UN, NGOs, some countries – I don’t think the picture is as rosy as this report would suggest,’ she told IPS. …’I worry that a report like this makes us feel the problem is on the way to being solved when in fact, it is the exact opposite.’”

“One of the chief measurements of success used by the U.N. is to count the number of pipes installed in a given country. But just because there is a pipe does not mean there is clean water coming out of it, and even if there is, it may be very far away, said Barlow, a former senior U.N. advisor on water to the president of the General Assembly in 2008-2009 and co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, a strong advocate of the human right to water. As well, the water may be – and often is – priced at a level where people cannot pay the rate.”

“Further, there are settlements of displaced people and slum dwellers governments do not recognise that are not counted in the country reports even though they have no running water. …UN Habitat says that by 2030, more than half the population of huge urban centres will be slum dwellers with no access to water or sanitation services whatsoever.”

“Most important though is that other U.N. studies contradict these hopeful numbers and in fact, suggest the crisis is deepening as the ecological crisis grows, she added. …And there is the World Bank report that by 2030, water demand will outstrip water supply by 40 percent, she noted.”

The AP article does note, “The report said the world is still far from meeting the U.N. goal of reducing by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation. Only 63 percent of the world now has basic sanitation and the figure will increase to just 67 percent by 2015, well below the 75 percent required to reach the target, the report said.”

The IPS article can be read at http://ipsnews.net/2012/03/world-has-met-development-target-on-water-u-n-claims/.