Water as a human right

May 28, 2013

Recognizing the human right to water is a surprisingly complicated endeavor for multinational corporations. United Church Funds has been a participant in an investor group calling for Coca Cola to create a policy that supports the human right to water. The United Nations’ General Assembly defines the human right to water as:

  • Sufficient. The water supply for each person must be sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses. These uses ordinarily include drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, personal and household hygiene.
  • Safe. The water required for each personal or domestic use must be safe, therefore free from micro-organisms, chemical substances and radiological hazards that constitute a threat to a person’s health.
  • Acceptable. Water should be of an acceptable colour, odour and taste for each personal or domestic use. […] All water facilities and services must be culturally appropriate and sensitive to gender, lifecycle and privacy requirements.
  • Physically accessible. Everyone has the right to a water and sanitation service that is physically accessible within, or in the immediate vicinity of the household, educational institution, workplace or health institution.
  • Affordable. Water, and water facilities and services, must be affordable for all.

At its February meeting, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility held a roundtable on the Human Right to Water. Several corporate representatives were there, including a representative of Coca Cola. The meeting was a closed door session because of the various corporate interests, but initial reports hold that the company was an active participant in the roundtable and several follow-up points are on the table.


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