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Water: Recognizing it as a human right

The great politician Kofi Annan declared in 2001 that “access to safe water is a basic human need and therefore a basic human right”. In the 17 years between the declaration and his death in 2018, Annan established the Millennium Development Goals, the predecessor of today’s sustainable development goals, including the goal of halving the proportion of the global population without access to water resources. Annan pointed out that “the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation, and basic medical care” is crucial to fighting infectious diseases. He warned that “the fierce competition for fresh water is likely to become the source of future conflicts and wars.” However, he also tempered this caution with an optimistic statement: “The water problem facing our world is not only a cause of tension; they can also be a catalyst for cooperation.”

At a recent conference organized by the Center for African Studies at Harvard University, the theme of water was re-examined from the perspectives of health, climate and agriculture, migration and human rights, focusing on Africa’s water opportunities: science, sustainability, and solutions. Just like Africa Martin Fregene, the keynote speaker of the Development Bank said: “Supporting water rights is not a panacea; it will not automatically solve Africa’s universal access to water and sanitation. Resources are focused on improving those individuals and communities who continue to endure the difficulties caused by limited safe water.” Recognizing water as a human right is not enough to promote access and sustainability. Nevertheless, it is important that we remember that water is a human right when discussing opportunities and approaches.

Some key findings were identified.

The first is the importance of stakeholder participation in the formulation of national and regional water policies and water resources management. From local residents to national governments, from farmers to healthcare workers, from scientists to international non-governmental organizations, having a seat for everyone is vital to Africa’s water agenda. Water may be the cause of division-there are more wars over water and natural resources than any other cause. But water is also a unity-and it is the subject of more international agreements and treaties than any other subject. In order to successfully respond to Africa’s water opportunities, it is important that all voices invest and reach consensus on the results. Related is the need to build cross-sectoral capabilities. To meet the water opportunities in Africa in the 21st century, the next generation of leaders must be cultivated among academia, researchers, and policymakers.

The second finding is that water is an issue that cuts across all fields and is vital to human life and livelihoods. Sustainable Development Goal 6 requires clean water and sanitation. But we cannot separate water from the other 16 targets. Agricultural water is at the core of achieving goal 2 of zero hunger. Without the school’s bathrooms and sanitation facilities, Goal 4, which is quality education, cannot be achieved. If a quarter of the population in sub-Saharan Africa takes 30 minutes or more to fetch water, the goal of reducing inequality will not be achieved10. We cannot separate water from discussions about national, regional and global development agendas. Water is an anchor point and must be the center of these discussions and policy developments. We also determined that more investment is needed in research that can inform evidence-based policies.

The effects of climate change will be variable; some places will be vulnerable to more rainfall and floods, while others will suffer more severe and longer droughts. The need for improved water resources and depletion rate indicators will only increase, and these data points are essential for designing methods to protect resources. Apollos Nwafor of the African Green Revolution Alliance pointed out: “Futurism means that we should be able to consider predictable policies and predict what may happen based on data. Data helps us understand how we can not only better Rebuild and understand how we grow.” Evidence building and data collection help governments and policymakers better plan and determine actions to take. The expansion of today’s water and infrastructure investment in Africa and innovative financing models are critical to avoiding long-term costs and consequences in the future.


With information from: https://mg.co.za/opinion/2021-08-31-we-need-to-do-more-than-recognise-that-water-is-a-human-right/

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