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Resource Rights and Wrongs at the Core of Water and Social Justice

December 2006

“Water and other natural resources are at the center of conflicts worldwide, in large part due to their unequal distribution. These conflicts are both paradigmatic and traditional, involving a fundamental difference over whether water is a human right or a marketable commodity. For rural small producers from the Middle East to Latin America, there is no question that access to and control of water is essential to their very survival. The source of the water challenges these producers face vary across the globe, from occupying powers to a state of war, and from government-sponsored, top-down development models to corporate interests that promote private gain over public good. When viewed through the lens of resource rights, globalization is shrinking the global commons through the concentration and privatization of natural resources. Social change movements of small producers are at the forefront of envisioning and realizing more sustainable alternatives.”

I recently had a chance to think about and write an article on the connections between water, resource rights and social justice, thanks to former Grassroots board member Marie Kennedy who was guest editing a special issue on Water and Social Justice for Progressive Planning the magazine of the Planners Network. The full article is available for download as a PDF on our website. For other articles in this special issue focusing on Bolivia, Mexico, Malawi, India, Canada and the United States, contact the Planners Network to order a copy of the magazine.

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