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Water is neither a usable good nor a financial good, says UN human rights expert – World

GENEVA (October 20, 2021) – Water is increasingly being treated as a mere commodity and even a financial good, a UN human rights expert told the UN General Assembly today, undermining the human rights to clean drinking water and sanitation as well as the sustainability of the environment.

Pedro Arrojo Agudo, the special r -porteur on human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, said in a report that trading in water use rights in markets has undermined the notion of water as a common good and the state as a guarantor of the general interest.

The UN expert also pointed out that water trade tends to treat the environment as just another user and not a livelihood, forcing states to buy electricity for environmental needs and not addressing the roots of unsustainability.
“I urge states to reconsider the usefulness of water trade as a tool to deal with scarcity and to consult the public to determine whether water trade markets should be abolished or more strictly regulated,” said Arrojo Agudo.

On the flip side, the recent introduction of water as a commodity derivative in Wall Street futures markets is compounding the situation by exposing water to the forces of financial speculation and the risk of speculative bubbles without considering the demands of human rights and the sustainability of ecosystems, he said .

“States should urgently take legal action to prevent water in the futures markets from being subject to financial speculation, which could have far-reaching consequences, similar to those of the food and real estate bubble,” said the expert.
Instead of implementing water trading markets and allowing water to be traded on futures markets, states should manage water as a public good, ensure sustainable management, and develop participatory climate change ad -tation plans (as recommended by experts and the United Nations) to ensure that the 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 cornerstones of public health. It is important that states, the World Bank and the international community understand that we are facing a democratic global challenge, ”said the UN expert. This challenge requires a public, not-for-profit investment effort that guarantees no one will be left behind and the funds made available to implement the 21st 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 that financial speculation poses to the enjoyment of a range of human rights.


Mr Pedro Arrojo Agudo (Spain) is the Special R -porteur on Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation,  -pointed in September 2020. He is Professor Emeritus of Economic Analysis at the University of Zaragoza and was previously an elected member of The Spanish Parliament during his eleventh and twelfth term from 2016 to 2019.
The special r -porteurs, independent experts and working groups are part of the so-called special procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name for the independent investigation and monitoring mechanisms of the Council, which deal either with specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts from Special Procedures work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN employees and do not receive any salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and serve in their individual c -acity. *

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Ms. Ahreum Lee ([email protected]).

For media inquiries about other independent UN experts, please contact: In New York contact Nenad Vasic ([email protected], +1 917 941 7558). In Geneva: * Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / [email protected]). *

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