ECOSOC | ÇINAR JMUN '20

ECOSOC

COMMITTEE: ECOSOC

AGENDA ITEM: Ensuring accessible water: Discussing the commercialization of water.

Introduction

Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in and there is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. However, due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, millions of people including children die every year from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world. At the current time, more than 2 billion people are living with the risk of reduced access to freshwater resources and by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water. Drought in specific afflicts some of the world’s poorest countries, worsening hunger and malnutrition.

One of the most fundamental and straightforward issues is that of access to clean drinking water. Expanding access to clean water has been a high-profile goal, even being included as a Millennium Development Goal target indicator. While global efforts mean that 91% of the world population now has access to an improved water source, the still means that some 700 million people worldwide still do not have access to water. How can those still left behind in this divide be reached and serviced with access to clean water?

Lack of access more often results from sociopolitical factors and institutions that constrain delivery, than from scarcity of water resources. Until the late 1980s, the supply of water in the vast majority of developing countries was entrusted to public companies. But the latter failed to make the infrastructural investments required to provide water services to all, and poorer regions, neighbourhoods and people were often neglected. Even areas that were connected to public water supplies suffered from unreliable service, an indication that maintenance was also insufficient. By the early 1990s, reforms involving commercialization of water services—the application of principles of cost recovery and profit maximization—and private sector participation were being proposed as a way to increase investment in water delivery networks, improve access for all sectors of the population and reduce the burden of public services on government finances. In the water sector, one of the most common ways of bringing in the private sector is through concession agreements, via which the state, while retaining ownership, transfers the right of operating the water utility to a private company.

However the commercialization and privatization of water services are controversial. On one hand, there is strong opposition from large segments of society that question the treatment of water purely as a commodity, rather than as a human right. On the other hand, water fee increases as a consequence of reforms are predictably unpopular, and users have voiced their concerns, sometimes violently, often bringing reforms to a halt. Moreover, increases in water fees tend to be regressive, hurting the poor more than other segments of society. After nearly a decade of experimentation with commercialization and private sector participation in water systems around the world, the results are disappointing. In other words, although badly needed, reforms in the water sector are not yet having the desired effect of bringing universal and equitable access to services.

AVENUES FOR DISCUSSION

Water security is a broad and wide-reaching topic that can be taken in any number of directions. Below are a few considerations that could fall under the umbrella (no pun intended) of water security issues. This list is by no means exhaustive – feel free to explore more topics and ideas!

  • Access to clean drinking water

One of the most fundamental and straightforward issues is that of access to clean drinking water. Expanding access to clean water has been a high-profile goal, even being included as a Millennium Development Goal target indicator. While global efforts mean that 91% of the world population now has access to an improved water source, the still means that some 700 million people worldwide still do not have access to water. How can those still left behind in this divide be reached and serviced with access to clean water?

  • Droughts and water shortages

Droughts and water shortages have become increasingly common and more highly visible in both the developing and developed world. A drought in East Africa touched off spikes in food prices and strife throughout the region; even developed countries can be harmed in these sorts of crises, as seen by the restrictions placed upon citizens of South Africa and California in recent years. When droughts do strike, what is the appropriate response? What is the obligation of nations and the international community to aid those who are afflicted? Can communities and nations be proactively prepared for drought?

  • Climate change and environmental changes

Patterns of shifting climates have meant that some populated areas of the world will become increasingly inhospitable in light of insufficient water resources for the populations the regions are supporting. Much of China and India are already struggling to secure adequate water supplies to support their populations. Much of the already-arid American Southwest is predicted to become increasingly – perhaps permanently – inhospitable in the coming decades as temperatures in the region continue to rise and droughts become more frequent. How can countries respond to the threat that climate change poses to their water resources? To what extent is resettlement necessary in light of these predictions?

  • Ownership of water resources

Much of the conflict over water resources has to do with contentions over ownership of often-shrinking water supplies which are key to the interests of multiple parties. The depletion of Lake Chad by its four bordering countries threatens strife. Is a new framework needed to arbitrate water ownership to prevent future conflict?

ISSUES TO CONSIDER

As you go about researching accessible water and commercialization of water, and your country’s stance on the issue, consider the below points and how you intend to approach them.

  1. What specific challenges does your country face with respect to water issues? How does your country meet its own water needs, and are those means sustainable and dependable?
  2. Are there any specific strategic goals that your country has (such as reliance on a key water source) that you will seek to secure?
  3. What specific topics and issues will your country prioritize within the broad issue of water security?
  4. What is the appropriate balance for countries to strike between preserving water resources an exploiting them for economic growth? What about preserving water resources vs. exploiting them to improve human development?
  5. What obstacles exist to greater collaboration between countries in the equitable sharing of both benefits from and responsibility for water resources? Why do nations struggle to share their common water resources? Is there a way in which these barriers can be overcome?

Conclusion

In conclusion the need of water is undeniable. That’s why water-related violence has a long history and continues to be a global and regional problem. The past several years have seen an increase in the total number of reports of violent conflict over water. So, for sure that affects environmental and economic conditions at the community scale.

Some of this violence has been, and will remain, local. But some may spill over into the international arena and may cause critical water shortages, mismanagement, drought, and subsequent economic and population dislocations.

That’s why much better mechanisms and far greater efforts are needed to address these kinds of conflicts and prevent them.

References