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UN Declares Water, Sanitation as Human Rights

Bradley Bouzane

Access to clean water and sanitation was declared a human right Wednesday after a vote aimed at helping the world's neediest, passed unanimously at the United Nations.

Although the motion passed with 124 countries voting in favour of the resolution drafted by Bolivia, Canada was among the 41 nations to abstain on the issue.

In June, Bolivia's draft resolution indicated that global water rights would "entitle everyone to available, safe, acceptable, accessible and affordable water and sanitation."

Maude Barlow, chairwoman of Food and Water Watch — a Washington-based group — who previously sat as a senior adviser to the United Nations General Assembly on the water issue, said Wednesday's vote was groundbreaking.

"We're absolutely thrilled," said Barlow, who also serves as national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians. "This is a historic day and I think every now and then, the human species advances somewhat in our evolution and today was one of them."

June's draft resolution declared that countries unable to provide water to their residents should be assisted through "international co-operation and assistance," essentially calling for rich countries to give foreign aid to any government that says it doesn't have the means to meet its citizens' water rights.

According to the UN, more than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion are without basic sanitation.

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