NEWSLETTER - Green Cross
The water crisis is not about money, but values and priorities.

Mikhail Gorbachev
Chairman of the Board, Green Cross International

Five years have passed since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration, one third of the time that the international community has given itself to reach the Millennium Development Goals. As you know, in September the UN General Assembly will discuss the progress made so far, but it is already clear that the results are not encouraging.

Specifically concerning water, the 2004 UN report states: “Significant improvements have been made in rural access in all regions, but only a few countries have achieved improvement at a sufficient rate to meet the goal”. If the present trend continues, only one of the MDGs will be met – the goal of halving the number of people living on less that $1 a day; this goal is mainly being spurred on by China and India, with their strong economic growth.

A lot has been said about the interrelation of the different goals set in the Declaration. Water is probably the best example in this respect and progress in this area would entail positive developments in other domains. However one should not forget that even if the MDG for water supply is met, it will have improved the situation for less than half those in need!

The skeptics say that the MDGs are overambitious and that the targets set are unreachable in such a short time. Lack of funds is often given as an excuse for not coping with the current water crisis. This is not true. If we lack anything to resolve this shameful situation, it is not money but values and clear priorities. At the end of the day the solution to this crisis is not about charity, no matter what form it takes; this is about the EQUALITY of all people and about the RIGHT of every person to have to access clean, drinkable water and basic sanitation.

In order to make governments realize the importance of this issue, their voters must clearly and persistently demonstrate their concern. Only a coherent alliance of politicians, business community and citizens, based on shared concerns, will make success possible.

We need an innovative international legal mechanism to differentiate between the many types of water use and the related rights and obligations of stakeholders at the local, national and international levels. This is why Green Cross International and its partners are spearheading a campaign to encourage States to negotiate and adopt a Global Framework Convention on the Right to Water. The ratification of such a Convention by the UN Member States would provide a legal instrument by which all people could defend their right to clean water and sanitation, and would oblige governments to prioritize its provision.

We are not so naïve as to think that the Convention, or any other political or legal act, regardless of how thoroughly it may have been prepared, would immediately provide water to all those who are currently deprived. We are convinced, however, that a law-based approach to the use of water resources will gradually guarantee access to water for all, and invite all those who share our goals and vision to join us in our efforts.

Mikhail Gorbachev
Chairman of the Board,
Green Cross International

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