Thursday, 5 August 2010

Safe water and sanitation - a human right, not a privilege.

On July 28th 2010, a vote took place which, for the first time, saw the United Nations declare access to water and sanitation a basic human right.

That's correct, despite the statistics and the decades of awareness campaigns, prior to July 28th access to safe drinking water was, for all of us, a goal, an aspiration, but not a legally enforceable entitlement.

At Red Button Design, we are thrilled that the balance of power has shifted. State Governments are no longer providing a service by ensuring access to safe drinking water, they are committing a human rights violation when they are not.

Harsh words, yes, but illustrative that a long awaited step change has finally been set in motion. Declaring access to water and sanitation as a human right is a huge leap forward. Not only does it bring to the fore just how important water is to human life and how it must be the basis upon which we build further medical, educational & economic development, but this resolution also acknowledges some of the lesser publicised water problems; from privatisation, exploitative pricing and the practise of controlling water supplies as a method of blackmail and weapon of war, to the effects of climate change and over population in relation to water scarcity.

This resolution will, of course, also bring significant challenges. The guidelines for minimum water requirements vary wildly from agency to agency, there is currently no centralised body to approve water quality, or indeed no universally accepted water quality standard. Water quality can be affected by a vast array of harmful contaminants which vary by season and by region, and on-site water testing methods are on the one hand costly and unwieldy, or on the other, hugely unreliable!

It is our hope that the next few years will see a renewed effort on behalf of the international community to prioritise the provision of sufficient safe water, and to consistently and appropriately address the above concerns with a combination of policy, funding, new technologies, better implementation and greater transparency, in order to assist international learning...
High hopes we know, but then again, at RBD we do travel hopefully!

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