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Thematic reports

A/76/159: Risks and impacts of the commodification and financialization of water on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation - Note by the Secretary-General


16 July 2021

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Water and sanitation


Water should be considered a public good and should be managed in a way that guarantees the human rights to water and sanitation and the sustainability of freshwater ecosystems. However, the commodification of water prioritizes commercial interests and leads to progressive private appropriation that endangers the function and value of water as a resource that supports life, human rights and the public interest. The growing financialization of the economy is leading to the management of water as a financial asset. A worrying example is the recent entry of water into futures markets, where speculative logic reigns. The experience of food management in futures markets demonstrates the frequent occurrence of speculative peaks and bubbles and of price volatility, with catastrophic consequences for the poorest. If the speculative dynamics of futures markets were to have an impact on the price of water in the water markets in the territory, as was the case with food, the costs would be passed on in the form of charges for water and sanitation, increasing the risk of non-payment and of water cuts for the most impoverished. Notwithstanding these foreseeable impacts, the commodification of water and speculation are suggested as ways to manage water scarcity better and are presented as a tool to cope with drought shortages due to climate change. Against this backdrop, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation proposes the development of democratic water governance from a sustainable human rights-based perspective and the implementation of participatory climate change adaptation strategies instead of promoting commodification and financial speculation associated with water.

Issued By:

Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation