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Human Rights and Water Resources: Recognition, Governance Structures, Realization

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Daniel R. Lynch
Maclean Professor of Engineering Dartmouth College Senior Fellow Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Keyword(s): Human Rights, UDHR, Governance, Professions
AbstractThis paper explores the governance structures needed to define and secure Human Rights in relation to with Water Resources. Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the background for this paper. Starting from its intellectual tradition, we examine three areas of potential extension: • the right to access to the fruit of technology in delivering elementary economic rights and in reducing scarcity. In some ways this is a right to the consequences of knowledge and its public goods (nonrival) aspect. • the right to the preservation of natural resource productivity, especially in the living and/or renewable category; and related, the proper rate of substitution in the exhaustible resource category. In short, these are versions of a right to stewardship of the natural basis of all economic activity. • the right to a healthy and safe environment that supports human flourishing. These extensions may be inferred from the UDHR, perhaps in Article 25 as the conditions of “an adequate standard of living”. Technology permeates. In mitigating scarcity, it is essential in dealing with “economic” rights. As the instrument of communication, it colors aspects of “political” rights and the possibilities for governance generally. Critical is the identification of responsibilities for achievement of rights. Effective responsibility must be coordinated across economic, political, and professional actors – herein, the three forms of ‘governance’. Natural Resources Natural Resource dynamics embed three interacting dynamics : The natural physics The sense of value The ownership regime The special case of Water Resources – sterile, degradable, fugitive, renewable – is explored in this general context. Water presents the possibility of renewable steady states, surrounded by dynamic adjustment processes. These adjustment processes are critical in understanding the resource in the face of the current IPCC projections of regional hydrology shifts. These ‘physical’ processes will rely on human governance in adjudicating outcomes. Governance There are two classic types of “governance” institutions, governmental and corporate (economic). Much is written about the right sorting of authority among these forms. We assert a third form, the professional institution. Classic analysis identifies two distinct features of authentic professions: The cultivation of specialized knowledge The direction of that knowledge toward ends The latter distinguishes Profession from Occupational Specialist. Attention to ends is a professional concern , while occupational specialty is typically embedded in corporate or governmental organization and focuses on the ends of the host organization. In the professional institution, therefore, one finds an independent voice representing human rights. We seek coordination, among several sectors: those concerned with government and diplomacy; with corporate governance; and with professional governance. Each must understand its unique contributions, accept the necessity of positive synergy with the others, and bring this vision ‘home’, internalizing a common aspirational vision and concrete measures which can be pursued. This is the sense of “governance” herein. Existing explorations are reviewed and extended within the present framework, with emphasis on the role of the global professional. The Human Right to Water. Since WWII, water has been recognized as an indispensable element of development. Most recently, it has been re- featured in the Millennium Project and realization of service goals is a necessary condition for fulfillment. That water is an international resource, and hence a political one, is clear. Equally clear is the need for international management structures which are elusive. Conceiving of water as a transboundary, economic and political resource has run into chronic limitations in terms of delivery of basic human services including water supply, sanitation, public health and general environmental quality. The renewed focus on human delivery, and the consequent assertion of a “human right to water” will shift the debate from one based in economic scarcity and national interest to one based in essential humanism – perhaps in a Rawlsian sense. Constructing governance structures - their likely feasibility, stability, coordination - is of concern here. References: J. Maritain, The Rights of Man and Natural Law. Scribners, 1943 Y. Simon, A General Theory of Authority. UND Press, 1962. C. Sunstein, The Second Bill of Rights: FDR’s Unfinished Revolution. Basic, 2004. I. Kaul et al, eds. Global Public Goods. Oxford, 1999. D. Lynch, Natural Resource Management for Scientists and Engineers, Cambridge (in review 2007). E. Freidson, Professionalism: The Third Logic. U. Chicago 2001. D. Lynch, “A Human Rights Challenge to the Engineering Profession.” Proc. ASEE Annual Conference, 2004, Salt Lake City. I. Kaul et al, eds. Providing Global Public Goods. Oxford 2003. S.M.A.Salman and D.D. Bradlow, Regulatory Frameworks for Water Resources Developent. The World Bank, 2006. P. Gleick, The World’s Water 2000-2001. Island Press, 2000. S.M.A. Salman and S.McInerney-Lankford, The Human Right to Water, Legal and Policy Dimensions. The World Bank, 2004. J. Rawls, Justice as Fairness. Belknap Press 2001.
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