Africa: Water is not a commodity and a financial asset to be exploited, says UN human rights expert

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Geneva – Pedro Arrojo Agudo, special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, said in a report that trade in water use rights in markets has eroded the notion of water as a common good and of the State as the guarantor of the general interest.

The UN expert also pointed out that the water trade tends to treat the environment as another user, and not as the basis of life, forcing states to buy streams for environmental needs and not addressing the roots of unsustainability.

“I call on states to rethink the usefulness of water trade as a scarcity management tool and to consult with the public to determine whether water trade markets should be abolished or more strictly regulated “said Arrojo Agudo.

On the other hand, the recent entry of water as a commodity derivative into the Wall Street futures markets worsens the situation by subjecting water to the forces of financial speculation and the risks of speculative bubbles, regardless. human rights requirements and ecosystem sustainability, he said.

“States should urgently take legal action to prevent water from being the subject of financial speculation in futures markets, which could lead to far-reaching consequences similar to those of food and property bubbles,” said the expert.

Rather than setting up water exchange markets and allowing water exchange on futures markets, states should manage water as a public good, ensure sustainable management and develop plans participatory adaptation to climate change (as recommended by experts and the UN), in order to guarantee human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, he said.

“The harsh experience of the pandemic has reminded us that water and sanitation are the cornerstone of public health. It is essential that States, the World Bank and the international community understand that we are facing a global democratic challenge, ”said the UN expert. “This challenge requires a public, not-for-profit, effort to leave no one behind, building on the funds made available to implement the 21st Century Green New Deal.”

A simplified version of the report is also available in English, French and Spanish.

Yesterday, a group of human rights experts issued a joint statement on the threat financial speculation poses to the enjoyment of a range of human rights.


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