Human rights: the Netherlands officially recognises the right to water

In the opening of the 7th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 3rd 2008, Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen announced that the Netherlands is to recognise the right to water as a human right. Verhagen called on the Human Rights Council to make haste in reaching consensus on the right to water. He said that recognising the right to water as a human right would not solve the pressing issue of illness and high mortality rates, but was certain that it would be a powerful incentive to increase access to water for the poor. With the recognition of the right to water as a human right, the Netherlands will be able to point out to governments of developing countries that they must do everything in their power to fulfil their people’s right to water.

Last year, on World Water Day, 22nd March 2007, Minister for Development Cooperation Bert Koenders announced that he wanted the Netherlands to play a prominent role in the realization of the right to water as a human right. Koenders said that this is necessary to make water a political priority and that he wanted Dutch embassies to push for the right to water at country level.
Green Cross International believes that access to safe and reliable drinking water for human consumption is a universal human right to be recognised by all nations. The recognition of access to water by the UN Humans Rights Council is a crucial step for the universal campaign to promote access to water and the establishment of a Global Convention on the Right to Water.
Among the countries that have pushed for the right to water concept, the French and UK governments have made considerable strides in the right direction. In the UK, International Development Secretary Hilary Benn announced that the UK recognises the right to water and launched a call for a Global Action Plan to solve the water crisis. In France, a national campaign for the Right to Water was successful in incorporating the Right to Water in French law. The campaign in France also helped found the Citizens Committee to follow up the implementation and enforcement of the law by national and local authorities.

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