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Goals and Penalties

In September the UN adopted seventeen Global Goals, intended to build a better world by 2030 (www.globalgoals.org). These include such aims as ending poverty and hunger, promoting clean water and renewable energy, achieving gender equality and combatting climate change. All very worthy, and at least the global nature of problems and solutions is recognised, but let’s step back a bit and look at the background and history of such efforts.

The Global Goals are a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the UN in 2000 (www.un.org/millenniumgoals), though with 1990 often taken as a benchmark. There were just eight MDGs, from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to reducing child mortality and combatting HIV/AIDS. For a discussion of one aspect of this, see Material World in the August Socialist Standard.

Water, Waste and War

UN data predicts that by 2025 more than half of countries will be either under water stress or have outright shortages. Many rivers are overtaxed, for example the Nile, Jordan, Yangtze and Ganges; and underground aquifers below growing urban areas such as New Delhi, Beijing have falling levels. World population is rising and there is also increased demand by people for water as part of rising living standards. The minimum requirement per person is 1,000 cubic metres per year for drinking, hygiene and growing food (Marlin Falkenburg of Stockholm International Water Institute -and others).

Why Water is a Commodity

‘It's outrageous,’ Sara Parkin, the Green Party spokeswoman, was quoted as saying, ‘that water should become a capitalist commodity.’

Commodity production is a hall-mark of capitalism and if Sara Parkin could be persuaded to dip into Volume 1 of Marx's Capital the first words to meet her eye would be:

“The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as ‘an immense accumulation of commodities.’ … Our investigation therefore must begin with the analysis of a commodity.”

Water Grab - the Theft and Waste of Water

The world has arrived at a critical stage in the way it uses its water. As water, a fundamental necessity of all life, is absolutely essential to the whole of humanity, who should be the primary stakeholders?

Water is fast becoming the focus of attention for social justice rights groups, environmentalists and diverse populations, both rural and urban who recognise the dire effects that increased privatisation, monopoly control, misappropriation and misuse, globalised corporate policies and government and international institutions' complicity and influence have all had on the ordinary citizen's access to it. We are at the stage where the misuse and overuse of water have resulted in severely falling water tables as a result of the over-pumping of aquifers and the negative results from big dams and river diversions are being realised. More water is being used every year than is being replenished.

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