The right to water, water stress & privatization: economic or public good? A case study of the Chilean water model & a look into the future
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Water is the prerequisite for enjoyment of all rights and under threat due to global water stress. The aim of this study is to examine the scope of the right to water and the state obligations connected to it in relation to privatization. Human rights have traditionally been considered ‘neutral’ towards privatization measures. An impact study of water privatization in Chile under the 1981 Water Code is conducted revealing that commodification of water has led to human rights violations of rural and indigenous communities exacerbating inequality and water stress. The interpretative source on the right to water, CESR General Comment no. 15, is considered inadequate to deal with privatization of water. Further, the value of water must be redefined. Human rights should not stay ‘neutral’ but address privatization directly and provide responsible measures to tackle its adverse impacts. Today, the future of the right to water is at a crossroads. The Sustainable Development Agenda and climate change mitigation efforts represent a new push for privatization. A momentum for reclaiming public water in the wake of Covid-19 suggests the opposite supported by the development of a new critical approach to privatization of current and former UN Special Rapporteurs.