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September 25th, 2012

The First European Citizens’ Initiative: Water is a Human Right

By Gabriella Zanzanaini

Update: On the 10 December 2012, mayors from Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Genoa, Ghent, Leicester, Nantes, Naples, Paris and Vienna have joined forces with civil society and trade union campaigners to call for the implementation of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation into European Law.


Have you heard of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)? It’s a new tool launched by the European Commission to help citizens play a more active role in European political processes. Available since April 2012, it enables citizens to put an issue on the political agenda through an “ECI,” which involves collecting 1 million signatures from at least seven different EU Member States. 

Not only do you need 1 million signatures, but an ECI has to be organised by at least seven people from seven different EU Member States. This group forms a so-called citizens’ committee, which is in charge of proposing the ECI and collecting signatures.

The first ECI approved by the European Commission is on the human right to water. Led by the European Public Services Federation, the citizens’ committee is formed largely by public service trade unions and supported by a broad variety of organizations working on implementation of the human right to water.

Food & Water Europe is working to support and promote this ECI because governments in the EU have to meet their obligation to provide water and sanitation services to all. The human right to water and sanitation means that all people are entitled to clean and safe water and sanitation. These services must be available, accessible, affordable and acceptable for the people. Currently, the criteria for clean and safe water and sanitation differ widely among and even within countries.

Sometimes governments think that markets will provide these services, and they choose to leave it to market forces. But this only changes the way in which the services are provided. Implementing the human right to water and sanitation means that governments have to ensure that these services are available, accessible, affordable and acceptable to all people. They can only do that by ensuring/guaranteeing this by law.

Proponents of a market approach always promise cheaper and better services. But reality shows that this generally means better and cheaper services for the rich, and worse and more expensive services for the poor. Competition means that water companies have to invest in marketing, advertising and the act of competing itself, meaning that all this money is not then invested into the services they are supposed to be providing.

At this moment, an estimated 2 million people in Europe still lack proper water or sanitation. And many more people with low incomes are threatened with disconnection because they cannot afford to pay their bills.

The European Commission should stop its constant push for liberalisation of water and sanitation services. “No money, no water” is what a market for water services means. This is why Food & Water Europe is fighting for public, participatory water services in the EU. Join us in the fight to get the human right to water recognised in European legislation, and sign the ECI.

All citizens that have a right to vote in one of the 27 EU Member States can sign. 

6 Comments on The First European Citizens’ Initiative: Water is a Human Right

  1. A. Corinna Kern-Arroyo says:

    Count me in!

    • Jaipal Fremont says:

      The US are sold to the multinationals that’s a fact but, let’s not be fools thinking Europe is so much better and protected against such evils. The water in Europe has also its problem of contamination and a few years ago at a summit in Iceland if i recall well, the prime ministers attending had their blood analysed for potential pesticides, metals etc… showing in their blood.The results were quite clear, everyone was contaminated the Iceland prime minister least of all but still “she was not all organic”. Holland has a very florid agriculture industry which uses pesticides ending up in the water.
      The water emergency is GLOBAL and no one is safe. The north sea is one of the most polluted sea so, how can you think Mrs Vaccaro that Holland has the most pristine water! Let’s remember that water has no frontiers. Everything is interconnected…..

  2. Geraldine Vaccaro says:

    I am a dual citizen of The Netherlands and the U.S.
    In the Netherlands water is mostly owned by municipalities, i.e. the people. My family lives there and I own a condo there. The notion that somehow Western Europe should have a problem with water is merely a reflection of the U.S. where we pay through the nose for water which is full of antibiotics/viagra/hormones etc. The Crown prince of the Netherlands Prince Willem Alexander is the Chair of the U.N. Water and Sanitation Commission, and is therefore an expert traveling world wide for the cause of water/sanitation. It is strictly forbidden in Europe to dispose of medications expired or not, by dumping them in the toilet and flushing them. The only LEGAL disposal of drugs is returning them to the pharmacy for proper disposal.
    I suggest rather than wasting your time on non existing issues in Europe where amongst other things GMO foods are not allowed, neither is fluoride or Splenda, you concentrate on the U.S. which lacks any and all supervision over food and water.
    Over 75% of meat on the European Continent is tested whereas only 4% here in the U.S. Yet, because I lived in Europe I will never be able to donate blood because of the notion that Britain by way of bad feed caused CJD in their cows.
    As long as the FDA’s Clinical trials are funded and carried out by Big Pharma itself this organizations that for over 40 years allowed Fluoride, a bi-product of pesticide to be in our water, when it allows Splenda with the statement that “as long as it has not been proven dangerous to people we’ll allow it” and all its laws are written by big pharma, we are in big trouble. Europe does not allow any product that has NOT been PROVEN to be harmless to people.
    So, let us use our time wisely and concentrate on U.S. policies, such as they exist.

  3. Dr. Metzger says:

    I want to join the campaign against privatisation of producing , distributing and controlling WATER by profit-oriented companies. Anywhere, not only in US Europa or Africa. Beware of the beginning! At the end the citizen has to pay even for the oxygen he/she is breathing!
    Where is the campaign to subscribe a resolution?

  4. Renate Auberger says:

    water is the most important basic people need.
    All activities which try to pass water into private hands must be controverted..
    Where is the campaigne to subscribe a resolution?

  5. TRUDY SHIVELY says:


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