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Protecting the right to water

Baby Milk Action is supporting an international campaign to protect access to adequate supplies of safe drinking water as a human right and to recognise water as a public good.

Baby Milk Action is co-hosting an event on Protecting the Right to Water at Friends' House, 173 Euston Road, London on 2 March 19:00 - 20:30.

Speakers include:

  • Franklin Fredrick: From the Brazilian campaign against a Nestlé bottling plant.

  • Mark Thomas: Comedian, campaigner and TV investigator

Click here to download an eflier for the event.
Click here for a higher resolution version for printing.
  • Benedict Southworth: Director, World Development Movement

  • John Hilary: Director of Campaigns and Policy, War on Want

  • Mike Brady: Campaigns and Networking Coordinator, Baby Milk Action

  • Chair - Andrew Pendleton: Senior Policy Officer, Christian Aid

You are invited to support the following declaration (click here to download as a Word document).

Declaration on water as a human right and a public good.

We, the undersigned on behalf of our organisations, issue this declaration calling for water to be protected as a human right and public good.

1. We acknowledge :

- That water is a basic precondition for all life. Without water there is no life. Having or not having access to water determines life or death. Thus water is a public good.

- Water is a human right. The "right to adequate food” is set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 25) and in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 11). In putting this into practice the problems and specific needs of women (and children, particularly girls) need consideration as they often bear the responsibility for providing water - with consequences for women's health, through carrying heavy burdens, and for young girls who are thus prevented from attending school.

- Water has cultural importance. Water is not only an economic commodity it also has a social, cultural, medical, religious and mystical value. For many peoples and cultures water has a sacred significance and has value linked to its capacity to forge community and its ritual and traditional properties.

- Water is becoming scarce. The high per capita use of water, population growth, wastage, lifestyle and destruction of forests, land and water reserves require that particular attention be given to water and to setting priorities for how it is used.

2. We demand:

- That the human right to safe water be recognized at the local and international level in the same way as the right to adequate food. This right must be respected by all sectors of society but states have a particular responsibility in this area. General Observation No15 of the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the voluntary directives to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security (in particular directive 8c) adopted by the international community at the FAO in November 2004, must be put in place without delay.

- That water is treated as a public good. The State must take over the commitment to guarantee access to adequate drinking water to all of the population. This guarantee includes retaining public ownership over freshwater resources and ensuring the institutions responsible for management and control of delivery systems are publicly accountable and acting in the public interest, fixing an affordable price for water, making the necessary technical and financial means available, as well as involving local councils and communities in decisions relevant to them on the use of available water resources. There are positive examples of public water utilities acting in this way, in a range of countries from around the world, and this good practice should be actively disseminated and learned from. Treating water as a public good also implies the commitment of states to regulate the use of water resources, by peaceful means, in such a way that the right to water for all of the inhabitants of neighbouring states is respected.

- That the right to water should be regulated through an international convention on water to be adopted by the UN.

- That in terms of water consumption legal priorities need to be laid down. The first is quenching the thirst of human beings and animals and ensuring the supply of water to food crops. This presupposes a preventative approach to environmental policy, in the spirit of solidarity between local government, countries and peoples.

3. We commit ourselves:

- together with the movements and NGOs in our country and around the world interested in these issues, to motivate public opinion, political forces and the population of our countries to work in favour of the terms set out in this declaration;

- to lobby the governments of our countries to guarantee, through appropriate laws, the human right to water and the declaration on water as a public good, and to work for the drawing up of an international convention on water to be adopted by the UN; and,

- to send messages of support to the World Council of Churches for the ‘Ecumenical Declaration on water as a human right and a public good’ signed by Brazilian and Swiss churches in Bern, Switzerland, on 22 April 2005.

Endorsed by the following UK organisations (as at 15 February 2006):

Organisations outside the UK:

This declaration is based on a similar declaration signed by representatives of Christian churches in Brazil and Switzerland (click here for the text). The World Council of Churches supported similar calls at its Assembly on 21 February 2006 (click here for details).

To add your organisation to this list or support it as an individual fill the form below or contact:

Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action, 34 Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1QY
Tel: 01223 464420
Email: mikebrady@babymilkaction.org

The organisations listed above will be holding a joint seminar on 2 March 2006, 19:00 – 20:30 to announce the declaration. See above.

Baby Milk Action is supporting this campaign for several reasons:

  • Breastfeeding provides protection against infections in the environment and exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for six months. After this a child needs other liquids and health can deteriorate if water is not safe.

  • Infants who are artificially fed are at increased risk if water supplies are not safe.

  • Everyone, we believe, has the right to optimum health.

  • We were contacted by campaigners in Brazil concerned at the environmental and social impact of Nestlé's water bottling activities because we promote a boycott of Nestlé. Nestlé is increasingly dominant in the global bottled water market. The BBC Radio 4 programme Face the Facts has reported on the impact of Nestlé's operations - click here.

  • We have long been involved in the corporate-free alternative to the Nestlé Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is known as the Tap Water Awards.

  • Our experience from the baby food campaign demonstrates how powerful international measures can be to provide protection at a national and local level (see our report, Using international tools to stop corporate malpractice - does it work?)

If you are the representative of an organisation and would like to add your organisation to the lists of endorsements of the above declaration, please complete the form below or contact Mike Brady Tel: 01223 464420 or 07986 736179.

Individuals may also give their support to build a petition to be presented to UK politicians, the World Water Forum and the United Nations.

Contact details

e-mail address:   
Organisation (if any)

Your position in the organisation (if relevant)

Please indicate if you are endorsing the declaration in your own name or in the name of an organisation



Are you interested in attending the declaration launch event in London, 2 March, 19:00?



Is your organisation interested in participating in the launch event?

Not applicable



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