A Roma boy pumps water in Budapest, Hungary in September 2014. Laszlo Balogh / Reuters

The Most Basic of Rights

By Meera Karunananthan

October 29, 2015

Excerpt: “With freshwater access declining worldwide, water and sanitation services are increasingly becoming an opportunity for wealth accumulation. Around the world, private water corporations focused on maintaining their rates of return have raised tariffs unsustainably, shut off water to lower-income households, and circumvented quality and environmental standards. Privatization has also meant less transparency and public accountability.

Although official UN sources claim neutrality on whether water and sanitation provision should be privately or publicly provided, grassroots activists have successfully used such provisions to stop corporations from taking over community water supplies, prevent the privatization of drinking water and sanitation services, restrict corporate abuse of freshwater resources, and establish the freshwater rights of people and the needs of the planet above corporate needs.

Just to name several specific examples: over the past decade, in Uruguay, Ecuador, and Bolivia, movements have won constitutional recognition of the human right to water and sanitation that resulted in the banning of private water and sanitation services….

If the human right to water and sanitation does nothing more than deepen the cracks in the neoliberal system by holding states accountable for their obligations, then perhaps those cracks will open up new spaces for resistance — spaces where we can plant the seeds for a more just future.”