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Patricia Jones's blog posts
On UUSC’s blog, a range of contributors — from staff members to participants on experiential learning trips — share their thoughts and reflections on UUSC’s work and related topics. The views expressed by individual contributors here do not necessarily reflect the views of UUSC.
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Wed, 07/20/2011 - 1:08pm.
While the wave of support for the human right to water builds in California, eyes are also on the nation’s capitol and decisions being made to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protections for drinking water resources and the Clean Water Act. Environmental group American Rivers's fact sheet gives some analysis of the dense legislation on appropriations and how it may impact drinking water sources.
The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 (H.R. 2018) begs the question of just what kind of cooperative federalism we can expect from powerful vested interests that successfully got the legislation through the House of Representatives. UUSC ally Clean Water Action has a campaign to educate voters about H.R. 2018. The EPA’s analysis of the impact of this bill is certainly chilling.
A UUSC supporter reported to us this week that Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted the impacts of the budget debates on water infrastructure — expect 50 percent cuts over fiscal year 2010. This is all bad news to think about while we try and find a clean body of water to cool off in this overheated summer.
On my “to read” list for this summer is Alex Prud’Homme’s book The Ripple Effect. Not a light summer read, and won’t be good news, either. The news coming out of California and the organizations working hard on the human-right-to-water bills is one of the few sources of hope that we can collectively see our way through to protecting our drinking water sources and ensuring everyone has access.
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Thu, 06/23/2011 - 12:26pm.
Earlier this month, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that establishes an expert working group to address human rights in business practices. The group will promote the implementation of the recommendations in Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the final report from John Ruggie, the U.N. special representative on this important issue.
Ruggie took up the controversial task of setting out guiding principles for transnational corporations in the field of human rights. The council will appoint five experts at its next session in September; the experts, "of balanced geographical representation," will serve on the working group for three years. The council will also establish a forum to explore human rights in the context of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Wed, 06/15/2011 - 11:30am.
This year, July 25–30, the International Affairs Conference at Star Island — "Water as a Resource and a Right" — will feature crucial information and discussion on the human right to water. As manager of UUSC's Environmental Justice Program, I'm excited to be speaking at the conference about UUSC's work on this issue.
Conference Chair Nicholas Dembsey included UUSC in this year's conference to highlight human-right-to-water efforts in the United States and around the world. Other speakers include Juliet Christian-Smith, Pacific Institute (California); R. Allyn Clarke, Bedford Institute of Oceanography; Christopher L. Kukk, Western Connecticut State University; and Shimon C. Anisfeld, Yale University.
The speakers are experts in their fields and will present panels on many interesting and critical topics. Clarke will highlight water as "the drive train for the climate system." Kukk's talk is "The Meribah Syndrome: Modern Quarrels over Water." Christian-Smith will focus on a current topic of concern for many congregations involved in the discussion on ethical eating: "Water and Food: Retooling Agriculture to Promote Sustainable Water Management." Anisfeld will present "Understanding the Water Crisis: From Local to Global."
On Wednesday morning, I will speak on UUSC's environmental-justice work on the human right to water, exploring the issue in a talk entitled "Making Right Our Water Wrongs — Finding a Place for Everyone in Our Blue Boat Home." On Friday morning, the panelists will participate in an interactive session on the intersections between the topics discussed earlier in the week.
If there are members of your congregation who may be interested, please pass on this information about the conference in July. And don't forget to register yourself!
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Mon, 03/28/2011 - 8:33am.
The U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution Friday, March 25, extending the mandate of the independent expert on the human right to safe water and sanitation for another three years. The resolution, passed by consensus, also gave the U.N. Independent Expert Catarina de Albuquerque the powers of a special rapporteur.
This is good news for many reasons. The first is that, as a special rapporteur, de Albuquerque now has different powers. In addition to assisting governments to define the scope and content of the rights, she can engage with governments about complaints from affected individuals, communities, and civil-society organizations on issues and violations of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
Secondly, the resolution explicitly states the full list of criteria for the human rights to water and sanitation. The U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council resolutions did not list the full criteria, which is outlined as follows in the resolution:
"Encourages the Special Rapporteur, in fulfilling his or her mandate: (a) To promote the full realization of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation by, inter alia, continuing to give particular emphasis to practical solutions with regard to its implementation, in particular in the context of country missions, and following the criteria of availability, quality, physical accessibility, affordability and acceptability."
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Mon, 03/21/2011 - 12:06pm.
After UUSC's work on U.N. Independent Expert on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque's mission to the United States, I returned to my desk to an e-mail from Abby. She is a member of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist congregation in Bedford, Mass., where UUSC's Board of Trustees Chair Rev. John Gibbons is minister. Ariel Jacobson, senior associate for UUSC's Economic Justice Program, and staff writer Jessica Atcheson have kept us informed about what we can do to stand in solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin and what is at stake for the country. What I didn't expect was the question in Abby's e-mail:
"Buried deep in the proposed new Wisconsin budget is a proviso to NOT REQUIRE MUNICIPALITIES TO DISINFECT THEIR WATER. I am a biologist, and this has me really, truly deeply worried. Is there anything that UUSC can do about this?" Abby sent me a follow-up e-mail with a news article about the issue.
I admit I was shocked. After a little digging, I discovered that there are, in fact, two bills before the Wisconsin legislature: Assembly Bill 23 and Senate Bill 19. It seems that these proposals will do just what Abby is concerned about — allow municipalities to not disinfect drinking water. The two bills are in committee in Wisconsin. The human right to water, where it is implemented, guarantees access to safe, affordable water for every person to meet his or her daily basic needs. You may know that each state has federal requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that the citizens of that state have safe drinking water. These two bills, if passed, will take away the guarantees that citizens in those cities have for safe drinking water.
UUSC works in the United States and around the world on the human right to water. We depend on our members and constituents to tell us what is happening in each city, in each state; we do not have the human hands to track every state. That is one reason why we say the work of human rights is the work of many joining hands. Is something like this happening in your state? Let us know!
Look at what congregations and our partners in California are doing to ensure that every person has access to safe, affordable water. Acknowledge World Water Day, March 22, this year by making sure that your rights to safe water are not being eroded. If you are in Wisconsin, please be in touch with us about what is happening in your state! Abby in Massachusetts — and our members throughout the country — will be keeping an eye on the situation to support you. If it happens in Wisconsin, each of our states may face the same challenge!
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Tue, 11/16/2010 - 2:21pm.
The U.N. Independent Expert (IE) on the human right to water and sanitation, Catarina De Albuquerque, will travel to the United States on an official country visit in February and March 2011. The Obama administration and the IE are in the process of defining the scope of the mission. The IE will meet with government representatives and with civil society to discover what the challenges are for people in the United States to have access to safe, sufficient, affordable water and sanitation — the human right to water and sanitation.
UUSC staff met with colleagues and the IE in New York in September to make suggestions about her visit. The objective of the IE's country visits is to "examine the situation of water and sanitation at the national level, identifying good practices, and making recommendations to the Government on steps to improve access and ensure protection of human rights associated with water and sanitation." The IE has visited Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Egypt, Japan, and Slovenia so far. The U.S. mission will be the longest mission to date.
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Wed, 12/09/2009 - 11:23am.
UUSC partner the Center for Human Rights and the Environment (CEDHA - Argentina) has prepared for the climate change summit in Copenhagen with trainings and workshops for civil society and grassroots NGOs organized under the Climate Sustainability Platform. Demanding binding agreements, CEDHA and the other Platform organizers are presenting proposals to governments and NGOs about next steps on climate change.
CEDHA is working at the international level on negotiations, and with UUSC support, at the national and local level in Argentina. Through CEDHA's law clinic, students and staff are now working with legislators in Cordova to protect "strategic glaciers" from encroachment by mining development. The glaciers are the "tap" of the environment — the source of water for drinking and agriculture in Cordova. This model legislation is an innovative effort to reform existing environmental law to protect natural resources and human rights, such as the human right to water.