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US State Department on the right to water

Last weekend, Environment Minister Jim Prentice stated on CBC News that Canada does not support water as a human right because, “You get into difficult questions such as do countries that have access to water have a legal obligation to export it to countries that don’t. Clearly, it’s a complex issue.”

Now the Environmental News Service reports on US opposition to the recognition of the human right to water. ENS reports that, “The U.S. delegation (to the World Water Forum in Turkey), led by Daniel Reifsnyder, deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and sustainable development, took the position that ‘there is at present no internationally agreed right to water or human right to water, and there is no consensus on what such a right would encompass,’ according to State Department spokesman Andy Laine.”

ENS reports, “The Ministerial Declaration was not open to negotiation at the World Water Forum as negotiations on the statement were concluded at a preparatory meeting held in Paris on March 3 and 4. Laine told ENS that during the preparatory process the United States did oppose language that would have recognized water as a human right.”

Lane said, “The United States does not oppose any government adopting a national right to water or sanitation as part of its own domestic policy. We do, however, have concerns with a statement that would require all countries to adopt a national right to water or sanitation or would establish an international right to water or sanitation. Establishing an international right to anything raises a number of complicated issues regarding the nature of that right, how that right would be enforced, and which parties would bear responsibility for ensuring these rights are met. To date, there have been no formal intergovernmental discussions on these issues. It would therefore be premature to agree to such a right.”

There is some hope in all this. It is our understanding that these State Department officials are still George W. Bush appointees, and have not yet been replaced by the Obama administration.

The full article is at http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2009/2009-03-27-03.asp

To read the Council of Canadians critique of the Harper government’s position on the right to water, please go to our campaign blog at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=259