|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by President of Bolivia
A year after the General Assembly’s adoption of a landmark resolution on the human right to water and sanitation, President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia appealed to the international community to ensure its availability to all as a public good, rather than a private commodity to be bought and sold.
“Water is life. Water is humanity. The right to water is just as important as any other human right,” President Morales said at a Headquarters press conference on Wednesday. He called on local, national, regional and international leaders alike to implement policies that would guarantee universal access to safe drinking water, water for crop irrigation and programmes to combat global warming — the biggest enemy of water.
The Government of Bolivia was doing its part, he said, noting that, with financial support from the Venezuela-based Andean Development Cooperation, a multilateral lending institution, it was investing $100 million this year in the “More Investment for Water, My Water” programme to supply rural municipalities with water for human consumption, irrigation and cattle-raising. It was also receiving financial aid from the Government of Spain and the Inter-American Development Bank for potable water and sewerage projects.
Asked whether his proposed creation of an international environmental justice tribunal to sanction nations that failed to comply with greenhouse-gas emission reduction commitments was realistic, the President said that despite opposition from many countries, establishing such a tribunal was the right thing to do. “It is our obligation to continue to say the truth about the effects of climate change,” he added.
Saying that the human right to water trumped the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he emphasized that it was unacceptable that in some countries, people died or were forced to migrate due to lack of access to water for human consumption and irrigation. “Our debates should concentrate on doing away with these asymmetries, not only from family to family, but from country to country and continent to continent.”
Asked how he reconciled his Government’s environmental protection policies with its recent approval of a law allowing the development of transgenics — genetically modified food-crops — he said no such law had been adopted. On the contrary, Bolivia prohibited the production of transgenics, and the Government had set up a committee on biosafety to scrutinize imported foodstuffs for genetic modification. Its short-term goal was to ensure that all food consumed in the country was organically grown and produced, he added.
Regarding the green economy and sustainable development proposals he would present during the “Rio+2O” Conference, President Morales said his administration would liaise with social movements around the world in hammering out strategies to better respect Mother Earth, building on the results of the first-ever World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Cochabamba last April.
Asked about the status of his Government’s legal dispute with Chile, in which Bolivia sought to recover the ocean-access it had lost to the neighbouring State during their nineteenth century war of the Pacific, he blamed the row on oligarchs who had ruled the region a century ago, and said he was scheduled to discuss the matter on Thursday with President Sebastian Piñera Echeñique of Chile.
Regarding Bolivian press reports quoting his fears of arrest upon entering the United States, President Morales said he was alarmed by intelligence to the effect that authorities in that country might detain his plane over the alleged presence of cocaine on board. He said the United States had falsely accused him, first as a union leader and now as Head of State, of being a drug trafficker so as to advance its own geopolitical agenda. “I am very afraid of the [United States] Government because I know they are political operators,” he added.
Responding to a question about his plans to sign an agreement to normalize bilateral relations with the United States, which would include regulations for military contractors fighting drug trafficking in Bolivia, he said he greatly desired improved ties, but the United States must respect Bolivian sovereignty and engage as a full and equal partner. Moreover, he would welcome development aid through a United States cooperation fund on condition that all monies were administered transparently and without overhead-retention costs.
Asked about the health status of President Hugo Chavez, he said he had spoken on Tuesday with the Venezuelan leader, who was “full of energy and said he is doing very well”.
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