Should Water Be Declared a Right?

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1400: the lower estimate of child deaths stemming from water-related illnesses per day. 768 million: the number of people without access to clean drinking water (“Clean Drinking Water”). Couched in these terms, it seems difficult to understand why we wouldn’t make water a universal and human right, guaranteeing its access to all. If water is a necessary precondition of life, can we deny anyone access to it? How much value do we place on a human life, and can we quantify this in order to establish a market and maximized economic surplus? Should we? Declaring water to be a right could, in theory, secure access and ensure the survival of many people. It could even out economic and geographic disparities. But it may also distort markets and investment incentives, ultimately preventing the exact access we were trying to guarantee. Establishing water as a human right holds implications that could make allocation processes worse than they currently are. On June 28th, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized water as a human right. The resolution “[called] upon nation states and international organizations to provide financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer […] in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all” (The Human Right to Water and Sanitation). While the declaration places water at the forefront of the international community’s considerations (though it already was included within the Millennium Development Goals), it was nonbinding and set forth no precise goals or measurement methods of impact. The language of the proposal itself is vague as it “calls upon nation states” (one may as well use the word ‘suggest’) to “scale up effo... ... middle of paper ... ... Julian W. "Political Realism in International Relations." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Edward N. Zalta. Stanford University, 2 Apr. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. . Nickel, James. "Human Rights." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Edward N. Zalta. Stanford University, 15 Jan. 2014. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. . Sen, “Famines as Failures of Exchange Entitlements,” in Economic and Political Weekly, 1976, Vol XI, Nos. 31-33: 1273-1280. "United Nations and the Rule of Law." UN News Center. United Nations, 2014. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. . Wenar, Leif. "Rights." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Edward N. Zalta. Stanford University, 2 July 2011. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. .

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