World Water Day: The Importance of Free Flowing Legal Advice

March 22 is World Water Day. It is an opportunity to focus public attention on critical issues relating to water. A key issue concerns the fact that 768 million peoplestill do not have access to safe drinking water. Millions of people around the world are forced to choose between having to travel great distances to collect clean water or to drink water which is contaminated. Neither option is ideal. Children (and girls in particular) are often withdrawn from school to collect water for their families. And the consequences of drinking dirty water, as we already know, can lead to outbreaks of deadly waterborne diseases such as Cholera and Dysentery.

Another critical issue is the provision of sanitation facilities such as a hygienic toilet and water for hand washing. It is hard to imagine life without a toilet in this day and age, but for 2.5 billion people this is their reality. In the absence of adequate latrines not only are diseases spread but people’s dignity is compromised. Additionally, rapid urban growth in developing countries is bringing new challenges as water pipes and sewage systems become overburdened.

Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are essential in order for people to lead healthy and dignified lives. To this end, the UN has formally recognised that affordable, accessible, and safe water is a basic Human Right. Moreover, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)which are aimed at galvanizing the international community to halve the number of people living in poverty, also recognise the importance of the right of access to clean, safe drinking water.

Our own work at A4ID focuses on the achievement on the MDGs and we source free legal advice for development organisations working towards meeting at least one of the eight MDGs. For instance we have secured legal advice for our development partners such as such as WaterAidand Oxfamwho are working on large-scale water projects. Furthermore, A4ID has worked specifically with US law firms, to support organisations such as The BARKA Foundation, who work in Burkina Faso. The Foundation has drilled wells, built toilets and conducted a hygiene promotion campaign. This is important work, as Burkina Faso is one of the most water-stressed nations on our planet, with high rates of waterborne diseases.

A4ID has also brokered pro bono legal advice for the BARKA Foundation resulting in them receiving assistance from US based law firms including N.I Jacobs and Associates. They supported the Foundation to establish a partnership with a Ghanaian water filter factory. The BARKA Foundation also received support from US law firm Dechert. The advice concerned an investment opportunity which posed risks, that the BARKA Foundation would have been unable to access on their own.

Mobilising the law and lawyers to help fight poverty is A4ID’s mission. If you would like to become involved and help in this way, do something about it and contact me

Original post by Yasmin Batliwala, the Chief Executive of A4ID.

A well in Lampiadi, Burkina Faso. It was drilled only days ago and will be officially openned to the public on World Water Day. Photo: The BARKA Foundation

Published on March 22, 2014 by
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