213011 Evolution of the human right to water as a public health issue

Monday, November 9, 2009: 10:50 AM

Jocelyn E. Getgen, JD, MPH , AVON Global Center for Women and Justice, Cornell Law School, Bronx, NY
Access to sufficient, safe water is an instrumental underlying determinant of health, and as such, the realization of the right to water is essential to population health. The recognition of the right to water as a public health issue, however, has emerged only recently. This presentation will examine the historical and theoretical developments of the right to water as an issue in public health. By understanding this shift toward individuals as rights-holders and states as duty-bearers to ensure access to secure, safe water, health professionals can continue to develop ways to improve upon past successes and challenges and adapt to future public health needs.

Public health professionals began taking a rights-based approach to water availability, access, quality and distribution as under-investment in water delivery systems and water scarcity became increasingly recognized global problems for population health. Privatization of water systems, as well as the re-routing, widespread contamination and degradation of common water sources have galvanized public health professionals to focus advocacy efforts on securing the right to water for marginalized communities. Moreover, the increased involvement of transnational corporations in the management and distribution of water in low- and middle-income countries has led to problems, including inequities in access.

Through an examination and analysis of case studies of grassroots public health and human rights advocacy efforts, this presentation will demonstrate how the evolution of globalization, privatization, environmental health and international human rights law discourses have converged to frame the right to water as a human right essential for health.

Learning Objectives:
By the end of the session, participants will be able to: 1. Identify the human rights and public health discourses that led to the evolution of the human right to water as a tool for public health; 2. Assess the international legal developments that have re-framed the public health issue of access to sufficient and safe water to advocacy pursuant to a human right to water.

Keywords: Human Rights, International Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Expertise in health and human rights
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.