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  • It's one of your most basic needs,

  • but do you have a right to water?

  • This episode will show how the law protects something we all need.

  • Two billion people worldwide don't have access to safe water...

  • How the UN wants to change that by 2030...

  • And... can you use the law to make sure your community

  • is kept supplied with water?

  • We all need water.

  • So, you'd expect it to be on any list of our basic rights.

  • So, this might surprise you:

  • 1948 – and one of the most important documents

  • in human history is unveiled.

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • outlines what we are all entitled to

  • things like life, freedom from slavery,

  • freedom to marry. But, oddly, not free access to water.

  • It's thought access to water wasn't included

  • because the authors thought it was too obvious.

  • However, that was dealt with in 2010,

  • on 28th July of that year, the United Nations General Assembly

  • declared safe and clean drinking water and sanitation a human right.

  • They saw that a right to water is essential.

  • Without it, you can't actually use all your other basic rights.

  • But, in 2019, the United Nations reported

  • that two billion people still don't have access to water.

  • And it's an unfair picture.

  • The UN says half of the people who drink water from unsafe sources

  • live in Africa.

  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 24% of the population

  • have access to safe drinking water.

  • So, what can the law do to help? Let's hear from Amanda Loeffen,

  • from the campaigning organisation Human Right to Water.

  • She explains why water has only recently been recognised as a right.

  • It was never really a problem until, I suppose, in the last century:

  • there's been more population, more pollution.

  • Water's no longer automatically available.

  • It sometimes has to be sold to you with a cost

  • and instead of it being a free resource,

  • that people could access in their local river or lake,

  • it's no longer available.

  • So, there became a problem that needed to be dealt with.

  • A right to water wasn't an official right

  • because it wasn't seen as necessary until recently.

  • But because of problems caused by rising pollution

  • and a growing population, it was officially recognised.

  • Why do we need laws to define and protect our rights at all?

  • Well, without a law, there isn't a structure to our society.

  • You need something to define the...

  • the fundamental values that we want to protect.

  • And laws are there to protect our safety

  • and guarantee that our rights as citizens

  • are not violated by other people,

  • or organisations, or governments.

  • Laws not only protect us from harm,

  • but also define what values we have as a society.

  • They keep us safe and make us who we are.

  • What about our right to water specifically?

  • Having the right to water means that the government has to protect,

  • respect and fulfil your rights.

  • And it guarantees that your basic needs are...

  • are met and if not, there'll be some compensation.

  • Having a right to water means big organisations,

  • like governments or companies, aren't allowed to stop you having it.

  • If they do, you would be compensated in some way.

  • What kinds of laws make sure we get water?

  • Both hard law and soft law are applicable.

  • Hard law is a term used for a legal document that is binding.

  • For example, international law treaties are binding,

  • if they've signed them.

  • Soft law means that the legal document is not binding

  • and this includes, for example, UN resolutions and declarations.

  • But soft law is still important as it can help us to interpret a hard law.

  • Both hard and soft laws are used.

  • Hard laws are things like treaties.

  • If a country breaks one, it could go to an international court.

  • Soft laws are used to help us understand and use the hard laws.

  • But as lots of people don't have water,

  • does having a right to water really make a difference?

  • Yeah, it makes a massive difference.

  • The right makes the state accountable and brings awareness to the issues

  • and encourages progressive realisation of the right to water.

  • And for many people, once they realise that it is their right,

  • they then have the option to do something about it

  • and seek the advice of their local authority,

  • their ombudsman, or water service provider.

  • Having a right to water makes a big difference.

  • It makes people aware that they should have water

  • and that they can get help.

  • And it encourages them to go and get that help.

  • Amanda showed us how the fact we now have a right to water

  • means the international community thinks it's vital for everyone.

  • She also explained how having a right can encourage you

  • to fight for what you need to survive.

  • As water is so important,

  • how can we help those who are struggling to get it?

  • Seventeen-year-old Joyce is on a mission

  • to make clean water accessible for people in Rwanda.

  • We never had taps because we have water nearby our home,

  • so it's not hard work.

  • We use small jerry cans to collect as much water as possible

  • and put them in the big ones.

  • She is president of her school's WASH club,

  • which tries to increase awareness of water and sanitation issues.

  • She wants to find out what the barriers to clean water are

  • and whether they can be resolved.

  • Water from ponds and marshes can be dirty

  • and dangerous to collect.

  • A young boy drowned at this pond while collecting water.

  • Without safe access to clean water,

  • lives are put at risk.

  • Joyce meets Gisele Umuhumuza,

  • from the government-owned Water and Sanitation Corporation.

  • We try to target those that are very far,

  • those that are in the most need,

  • those areas where we have settlements that don't have water.

  • We aim that by 2024, people residing in urban areas

  • get clean water within 200 metres,

  • whereas in the rural areas they get water in 500 metres.

  • That's our aim by 2024.

  • So, how can the international community help them hit that target?

  • The UN wants access to clean water for all by 2030.

  • How can the law help us get there?

  • Here's Dr Paul Orengoh, from the African Ministers Council on Water.

  • A new policy regime is needed in many countries

  • actually both developed... developed countries

  • and non-developed countriesat all levels,

  • to accelerate access to clean water.

  • But of course, even beyond national level,

  • there are some level of interventions at the global level

  • and at the regional level,

  • which may include increasing sector financing and support,

  • both in terms of moneyaid for development

  • but also in terms of technology.

  • Paul thinks new policies from governments are needed

  • to support international law,

  • and more money is needed at a global level,

  • but also at a national level.

  • What's preventing laws and agreements on water from being followed?

  • Political commitments and arguments are just but that:

  • they're just political arguments and commitments.

  • In most instances, they do not come with a legal force,

  • so they all depend on political goodwill;

  • while on the other hand, laws,

  • especially those dealing with access to water,

  • requires firm political will to... to enforce.

  • So, without sufficient political will,

  • the instruments created to enforce laws related to access to water

  • simply goes dormant, as they lack the teeth to bite.

  • For water laws to actually have an impact on people's lives,

  • local politicians need to act to make sure they're followed;

  • otherwise the law is meaningless.

  • Could international law help you get access to water?

  • The international law only provides for trans-boundary

  • or water of transnational nature:

  • water that is shared by more than two or more countries.

  • So, in the case of water access within a given country,

  • then one would have to just consult the national laws that exist,

  • and institutions that are created by law

  • to safeguard the human interest to water.

  • Most international laws cover transnational disputes:

  • water disputes between two countries.

  • To get water in your own country,

  • you mostly have to rely on your own country's national laws.

  • What can you do to help people without water

  • if you're far away from where they are?

  • One of those opportunities I'll point very easily

  • is using the available platforms,

  • like social media platforms,

  • around specific dialogue issues,

  • either during the World Water Day or during specific, you know...

  • International Groundwater Day, or something like that.

  • You can create pressure to help people in need by using social media.

  • You could talk about specific initiatives

  • like Groundwater Day or World Water Day.

  • We've seen how water is now viewed as one of your basic rights,

  • but that politicians need to work to make sure you get the water you need.

  • We've also seen that campaigners, like Amanda and Joyce,

  • are doing everything they can to make that happen.

  • The law isn't just written on paper;

  • it needs people to make it real.

It's one of your most basic needs,

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Do you have a right to water? - BBC Learning English

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/10/26
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