Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Water and Doom and Gloom

With all the flooding being reported here in the UK , in India and in North Korea and elsewhere , a conference concentrates on the real problem with water supply - its scarcity .

Addressing the 17th annual World Water Week, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) Anders Berntell warned that 1.4 billion people now live in regions where there is a real, physical water scarcity, and an additional 1.1 billion live in regions where there is water stress due to over-consumption.
And the conference reports the real problem of solving the this water shortage .
"We are not prepared to deal with the implications this has for our planet. There is a security component in this that is not fully understood or addressed internationally yet.And I am not talking about water security," he said. "I mean political security."

Berntell blamed both international aid donors and governments for their skewed priorities on development spending -- with water and sanitation getting the least. He contrasted this with the phenomenal 37 percent increase in military expenditures globally during 1997-2006, reaching close to $1 trillion annually.
"When we look at these figures, I think it is time that we ask ourselves 'Why?'. Why don't governments in developing countries, donor agencies and financiers prioritise water higher? Why are other issues, other sectors higher on the political agenda?" he asked.
I think we know why - Capitalism
Every day 34,000 people die in diseases related to deficient water and sanitation. Today, more than 1 billion people are said to lack access to safe drinking water and more than 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation.

Irrigated farmland produces 40% of the world's food supply . less than 5% of all aid goes to water and sanitation projects .

It is not through well-intentioned declarations of human rights to access to the means of life .

We have :-

United Nations General Comment 12 clarifies the rights related to food in the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights similar obligations are stated in General Comment 15 in relation to the right to water. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) (article 1,3,11,12) . This treaty recognizes that "in no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence." It requires states to take all steps within their ability to realize the rights set forth in the treaty. The treaty asserts that men and women should have equal realization of all rights. The treaty defines the right of all people to an adequate standard of living, including food, and the right to be free from hunger. The treaty commits states to developing specific programs and obligations to the people to ensure these rights. In the treaty, states are obligated to work toward reducing infant and child mortality and disease control.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) (article 3, 21, 23, 25). The Universal Declaration not only asserts the human right to life, but also an adequate standard of living. This standard includes the right to food. Each person is also entitled to public services and social security.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (article 24) .This treaty was drafted to identify and protect the best interests of the child. Article 24 of the treaty that recognizes "the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health" is immensely important. State parties commit to taking steps toward ending child and infant mortality, and eliminate the circumstances that lead to child death including illness and malnutrition. Governments must provide children with food and water security. This treaty ties the rights of the mother to the well being of the child. Article 24 acknowledges the mother’s right to appropriate pre and post-natal health care, as well as access to information and education regarding child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation.

Rome Declaration on World Food Security (1996). This declaration recognized the need to establish world food security. The participating heads of state reaffirmed "the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger." Following this affirmation the heads of state committed "an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015."
World Food Summit Plan of Action (1996) .The Plan of Action is comprised of seven commitments made by participating states to begin reducing the number of undernourished people in the world. Objective 7.4 of the plan calls for clarification and implementation of the right to adequate food in the CESCR.

The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food was appointed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2000. It is the Special Rapporteur’s job to receive information on violations of the right to food and identify emerging issues related to the right to food, including the right to clean drinking water. The Special Rapporteur visits countries, and makes reports to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and General Assembly every year. There is a Research Unit on the Right to Food that supports the Special Rapporteur with research and reports.

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) (article 14) .This treaty commits state parties to realizing, to the best of their ability and with all available resources, the child’s right to health, nutrition and safe water.

European Code of Social Security(1964) (article 42) .This article ensures the provision of food to children. Addendum 1 (Division 5) stipulates that states will provide water and sanitary services.

Charter of the Organization of American States (1948) (article 34) .This article guarantees access to proper nutrition by increasing production and availability, and diversifying production.
Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador) (1988) (article 12) Recognizes the human right to adequate nutrition. States must take steps to increase food supply through improved production and distribution.
Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding (1990). This declaration asserts that women have the right to breastfeed their babies, and infants from birth to 4-6 months have the right to be breastfed. World Declaration and Plan of Action on Nutrition (1992) .This declaration promotes food security and disease prevention for infants through support of breastfeeding.

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II) (1977) (article 14) .This protocol is part of humanitarian law, which protects people in situations of armed conflict. Article 14 prohibits "starvation of civilians as a method of combat".

Even , Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1955) (article 20) .Recognizes prisoners’ rights to food and water provisions.

In addition to all those well-meaning laws and treaties we have international organisations funded to solve the problem food and water access.
World Health Organization. The World Health Organization (WHO) was established in 1948 as a branch of the UN specifically committed to promote good health. The WHO’s Constitution states the agency's objective as to help "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health." There are 192 states represented in the governing body of the WHO, the World Health Assembly. Since good nutrition is imperative in the attainment of good health, hunger, water and nutrition issues are a large concern of WHO.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was founded in 1945 to raise nutrition standards and the standard of living globally. There are 183 member countries of the FAO, dedicated to providing services such as technical assistance projects; nutrition, food, agriculture, forestry and fishery information; agricultural and development planning. The Committee for Food Security (CFS) is responsible for monitoring member states’ level of commitment of and follow through with the World Food Summit Plan of Action of 1996.

United Nations Children’s Fund. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the UN agency dedicated to protecting the rights of the child. UNICEF has implemented specific programs to improve child nutrition, water quality environment and sanitation. UNICEF works to improve nutrition standards by forming community based programs that supply information and education, as well as emergency care to women and children.

World Food Program. The World Food Program (WFP) was established in 1963. The WFP is the UN agency that provides food aid and relief to victims of natural and manmade disasters.

International Fund for Agricultural Development. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) branch of the UN was established in 1977 as a direct result of the 1974 World Food Conference. IFAD was created to provide the means to implement rural agricultural development projects. The fund provides loans and grants to help small, struggling agriculturists stabilize, develop and help themselves.

International Committee of the Red Cross. The independent and neutral entity of The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a humanitarian organization that assists and protects victims of war. ICRC provides medical care to victims and also arrange exchanges of family messages. The ICRC provides protection and assistance to civilians, supervise visits to detainees, medical assistance, food aid and restoration of family links between persons separated by war.

CARE International. CARE is a non-governmental organization with a mission to reduce world poverty. CARE’s work includes programs that address issues that exacerbate poverty and attempt to identify sustainable solutions. They help families increase food production and proper management of resources, teach techniques and practices that help prevent malnutrition, provide food for relief in emergency situations and build and maintain clean water and sanitation systems.

Save the Children. Save the Children is a non-governmental organization that tries to fix the root causes of food insecurity to prevent hunger and malnutrition through increase in agricultural production, education and distribution of food in emergencies.
Foodfirst Information and Action Network. Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) is an NGO that works closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. FIAN receives and researches right to food violation claims. FIAN will intervene in cases of violations of the right to food. In doing so, FIAN holds governments accountable for ensuring the violation is rectified, and publicizes the violations.

Then , of course , all those myriads of charities from Oxfam to WorldVision and campaigns such as Red-Nose days and pop concerts like Feed The World .

So it has not been from the lack of trying that society has been unable to end hunger and thirst .
Yet , in Egypt and Peru, access to a flush toilet reduces the risk of infant death by 57% and 59% respectively.
About a third of people without access to an improved water source live on less than $1 a day. Twice this share lives on less than $2 a day. In sanitation, too, there is a strong association between poverty and access: Nearly 1.4 billion of people without access live on less than $2 a day. In Jakarta, Lima, Manila and Nairobi households living in slums and low-income settlements typically pay 5-10 times or more for their water than high-income residents of the same city. Moreover, poor people in urban areas of developing countries not only pay more for their water than high income residents of the same city –they also pay more than people in rich countries. Poor people living in the slums of Manila or Accra are paying more for their water than people living in New York, London or Rome.

The Human Development Report 2006 “Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis”, a title reflecting the view that poor governance lies behind water problems rather than any shortage of the resource , in an unusually hard-hitting analysis, the HDR asserts that the “global crisis in water……reinforces the obscene inequalities of life that divide rich and poor”, casting doubt about the appropriateness of “big centralised projects controlled by power”.

They know the problem but cannot solve it while continuing to support and and persisting to preserve this Capitalist System that has long ago exceeded it Use-By-Date .
It is time for a change

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