At the risk of alienating every reader this blog has ever had, we have to continue discussing human rights where water is concerned. In the eyes of the United Nations, water is literally at the top of that list.
In November 2002, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment No. 15 on the right to water. Article I.1 states that “The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights”. Comment No. 15 also defined the right to water as the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/human_right_to_water.shtml
A prerequisite for the realization of other human rights? Well, it’s certainly one of the prerequisites for life. As is food, air and possibly shelter from the elements depending upon where one lives. Beyond that there are far too many variables to make a blanket statement that anything is a requirement to sustain life.
The larger question here is can the various definitions of what is a right coexist? Unalienable rights, social contract, natural rights, etc., etc. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “rights structure the form of governments, the content of laws, and the shape of morality as it is currently perceived.”
As it is currently perceived? Can rights be devoid of principle? If a right is changeable based upon the whims of how it is currently perceived, there is no foundational value to it. In other words, it is nothing more than populist opinion.
The Stanford definition would be more appropriate to say the ends justify the means when it comes to rights. For a right to exist in perpetuity in its original unaltered form, it cannot be open to interpretation. It cannot come with a cost, not even an “affordable” one as is the argument concerning clean, safe drinking water. It cannot be implemented by any governing body, nor taken away by one.
Those are commonly called privileges. They may be based in ethics or morals, they may be formed out of compassion or charitable means. Governments may use them as a basis for law, human rights organizations may draw upon them to establish their charters. It doesn’t matter. If any human or group or government, any entity whatsoever, can take it away, then it is not a human right. A human right absolutely must exist for all under any conditions.
This is an extremely important distinction. Understanding the concept of what a true human right would require serves as a reminder that prioritizing the collective above the individual surrenders whatever claim to rights we ever had.
I would challenge you to prove otherwise. This isn’t meant as an attack on the Founders. They simply got it wrong. Not that didn’t debate it thoroughly. They did. Article 9 only came about after a tremendous back and forth for this very reason. Enumerating certain rights comes at the peril of excluding others.
Isn’t that why Thomas Jefferson laid it out in the Declaration of Independence that governments are instituted by men to secure our rights and if they fail, it is our right to abolish them? Securing rights doesn’t mean granting them.
Getting back to the idea that water is some sort of human right. It isn’t the only essential we have to sustain life. Nor is it any more important than the others. The notion that the U.N. should randomly determine that it is a prerequisite to all other rights is presumptive at best and more realistically just flat out wrong.
This argument needs to be debated because it isn’t about insuring the human race isn’t denied its right to water. It is about empowering the collective to decide the rights of the individual. We have already heard the blame game in full effect. Global warming is to blame. Conservatives who wish to disband the EPA are the cause. The farmers and their fertilizer runoff are the culprits.
I’ll give the progressive’s a freebie they haven’t even hit on yet. Blame capitalism. After all, it was the invasion of the Great Lakes basin by the zebra mussel that is behind the recent rise in algae blooms. It was the global economy at fault as European vessels dumping their freshwater ballast in the Great Lakes that brought us the zebra mussel invasion. Bad capitalists!
Blaming zebra mussels isn’t very sexy though. Besides, algae blooms have a long history in the Great Lakes. They were just as big a problem in the 1960’s and 70’s before global warming was even on the radar. Creating fear from water supply toxins is far more effective at getting individuals to hand over their rights and let big government take over. Rallying residents against the big and rich over shutting off their water supply when they don’t pay their bills is another slam dunk.
Ensuring that every human being has access to clean, safe water is a noble cause we should all pursue. Handing over the reins to government to make it happen is probably the surest way to guarantee that cause will fail.