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Non-Government Groups Launch Safe Water Campaign

Lisa Schlein

A consortium of more than 60 international non-governmental organizations says it will launch a global campaign on the Right to Water on March 22, which is World Water Day. The activists say they want the United Nations to begin negotiations for a legally binding Convention to provide safe, clean water for millions of people around the world.

The non-governmental organizations say plans for a citizens' campaign to provide safe, clean water for more than a billion deprived people began more than three years ago. The President of Green Cross International, Alexander Likhotal, says the campaign will officially kick off next Tuesday on World Water Day.

He says through the use of "People power", the campaign hopes to persuade governments they must do more to provide their people with clean, safe water. Currently, he says, no legal instrument exists which can force governments to do this.

"The only practical way of addressing the water crisis is through consolidation of civil society and the creation of a legally binding mechanism for resolving all water-related issues," he said. "This is why Green Cross International together with other international, national and local organizations has launched an international public campaign to urge the national governments to start the negotiations of the global treaty on the right to water."

Mr. Likhotal says there is no doubt that such a treaty is needed. He says the statistics speak for themselves.

"Every day, 10,000 people die because of the water-related diseases and problems and shortages," he added. "Every eight seconds, a child dies as a result of water contamination. In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II."

Mr. Likhotal says it would take 10 years to resolve the world's water crisis if the governments of the developed world allocated $20 per capita toward fighting this problem.

He says obtaining an international water treaty will take the same kind of mobilization by civil society which achieved the Ottawa Convention, banning the production and use of landmines. He says so far, Morocco, Tajikistan and Uganda support the movement and South Africa and Brazil are showing great interest.

Over the next three years, he says the campaign hopes to gather millions of signatures through an online petition in support of the Convention. He says the signatures will be presented to the United Nations as a rallying call for it to begin negotiations on a Framework Convention on the Right to Water.

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