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African nations could make faster progress on United Nations goals for sustainable development by acknowledging the rights of their citizens to clean water and land for crop growing, the body’s Environment Program said.
Africa’s growing population and climate change, which has forced farmers to cope with erratic weather patterns, are putting pressure on water supplies and food security, UNEP said in its Global Environment Outlook released by e-mail today.
Global targets on the sustainable use of the environment include slowing deforestation, halving the number of those with no access to sanitary toilets and safe water, and improving conditions for at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2015.
While almost 90 percent of the world’s population now has access to clean drinking water, meeting a UN Millennium Development Goal ahead of a 2015 deadline, sub-Saharan Africa is lagging behind Latin America and the Caribbean, North Africa and parts of Asia. More than 40 percent of those without access to safe water live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a March statement by Unicef and the World Health Organization.
Governments need to follow the example of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and counterparts in South Africa, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo who recognize in law that water is a fundamental right, it said.
In Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, communities including the Ogoni indigenous people have used human rights arguments in court to oppose oil and gas projects they say threaten to disrupt agricultural production, the report said.
Other groups throughout Africa with similar grievances have trouble accessing the justice system because of inadequate legal knowledge and financial resources to fight their cases, it said.
The UN in 2000 established the Millennium Development Goals, a 15-year plan to reduce poverty and child mortality, and boost access to health care in developing nations.
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