From: Jeremiah Marquez, Associated Press
Published April 18, 2005 12:00 AM

Gorbachev Calls for Global Treaty Making Access to Water and Basic Sanitation a Human Right

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Mikhail Gorbachev is pressing world leaders to adopt a treaty guaranteeing clean water and sanitation for their people, a task he says is more daunting than ending the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.

Dwindling water supplies and political resistance have hampered efforts to bring fresh water to poor people around the world, the former Soviet leader said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.

"We were able to solve the nuclear arms race because of ... political will," he said before an awards banquet held by his American environmental group, Global Green USA. "Today we don't see that political will. But I think it will emerge that leaders will have to address this problem."

Gorbachev will call for a first-ever international water treaty during an April 21 keynote address to the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development.

He envisions a binding agreement that makes access to water and basic sanitation a human right, holds nations responsible for providing it and governs how freshwater resources are managed and shared.


A petition campaign he launched March 22 aims to pressure governments to begin negotiations that would produce the covenant.

Gorbachev, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who led the Soviet Union for six years until its 1991 collapse, founded Green Cross International in 1993 to encourage business, government and non-governmental organizations to collaborate and find solutions to environmental problems.

A former Soviet agriculture official, Gorbachev said he saw firsthand the effects of drought on harvests, and of mismanaging water supplies on the environment. In recent years, he has urged governments to give people access to clean water and sanitation; his group has worked in parts of Africa, South America, Jordan, Russia and Eastern Europe.

Wealthy countries, he argued, should devote more funding to solving the problem.

"It's scandalous that a lot of this money is not found and put into saving the kids who die every day from unsafe water," he said.

About 2.5 billion people worldwide lack water sanitation services, and 5 million die from waterborne diseases each year, according to Global Green USA, the American arm of Green Cross. Nearly 1.2 billion people do not have clean water to drink.


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Source: Associated Press

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