Ref. :  000030771
Date :  2008-11-27
Language :  English
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Cosmopolitical approach to Water

Cosmopolitical approach to Water

Principle n°1 : The cosmopolitical necessity
« Water issues » are intrinsically cosmopolitical – and so, at whichever level they are apprehended: global, multilateral or regional. Each and all of those questionings make for the formation of an authentic cosmopolitical approach to Water as well as its transnational, transdisciplinary and intercultural discussion a necessity.

Principle n°2 : Beyond Water policies
Today, « Water policies » and hydric resources management and distribution administrative strategies can suffice no more. Why is that so? The first reason is that those policies and strategies have, for a long time now, proved to be too often blind, unilateral, and unfair and driven by private interests. The second reason is that even when they appear enlightened, they are lacking of a corpus of values solemnly claimed by the international community – a corpus which they are subject to and not that they can dispose of. No serious hope can rely on the effective results of a mere coordination of national and regional Water policies. Indeed, coordination is unable to produce wisdom or fairness per se if those are not already existent in the very political and administrative reflection that precedes action.

Principle n°3 : Beyond a geopolitical approach
A «Water geopolitics » also is insufficient considering the issues at stake. At a time when geopolitics has invested all fields, it has also brought to light its limits in view of the most critical contemporary issues, in particular those of Hunger, armed conflicts, and last but not least, Water of course. The geopolitics of Water has two positive aspects: not only does it draw the governments and public’s attention on the problems of preservation, management and repartition of hydric resources but it also contributes to set those problems in a global perspective. Yet, its weakness lies in its remaining mostly descriptive and above all: bereft of any real power of constraint over political stakeholders. Despite being useful, the geopolitics of Water is not sufficient and has to be taken over by a more ambitious project.

Principle n°4: The capacity of judging Water policies and geopolitics on an objective basis
The elaboration of a cosmopolitical approach to Water would have two positive properties: on the one hand, it would take the geopolitics of Water out from the night at which all cats are grey, free it from its relativity in view of Water national and regional policies; and on the other hand, it would make it possible for an objective critical judgment on those policies to be formed. Indeed, from now on, taking into account the different public and private points of view on access to water and fair allocation is not sufficient any longer. We shall also be able to judge the rightness of those points of view that are often opposed, as well as to arbitrate between them on behalf of a common law that has to stand above all private interests, and thus that cannot be but cosmopolitical.

Principle n° 5: Peace as the horizon for a Cosmopolitical approach to Water
What does a cosmopolitics own that makes the differentiation between a cosmopolitical approach to Water and a Water geopolitics possible? The decisive feature of cosmopolitics, ever since this concept was forged by the Enlightenment and by Emmanuel Kant in the most singular way, consists in relating all ambition of a “global governance” to the superior objective of the establishment of a lasting peace. In short: no cosmopolitics can be thought of outside the horizon of a lasting peace, if not of a “perpetual peace”. Such a perspective by far outstrips the goal of a geopolitics that will settle for with assessing the effective relations between nation-states, with asserting their respective arguments and with certifying the seriousness of their conflicts. What will be the first driving force of a cosmopolitical approach to Water is then: the willing to think about and to act on the global issues of Water in all its aspects – however contradictory or conflicting they might reveal to be – according to the dominant objective of reaching a lasting peace between the nations, ethnic groups, cultures and communities.

Principle n°6: The access to water of good quality as a human right
For a cosmopolitical approach to Water to come to light as a vision, philosophy, policy and practical implementation all together, not only should this approach be understood as the vehicle for a lasting peace, but also should the access to water of good quality be fully recognized by the international community as a human right (personal as well as collective) of an exceptional importance, and one that cannot be ignored. This should be fully recognized on the declaratory level, solemnly claimed by the international community in the wake of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other universal declarations such as the one that was adopted in 2001 on Cultural diversity. Lastly, it should also be implemented in practical terms through an international convention and other appropriate law instruments.

Principle n°7: The pre-eminence of ethical imperatives
Whatever the economic, social or strategic constraints that might be invoked by executive stakeholders, the management (national, regional, international) of Water should not only be de-privatised but also subordinated to ethical imperatives considered as regulatory and not subject to composition. The respect of those ethical imperatives, defined or reaffirmed by the representatives of the international community, academic community and civil society, would be placed under their permanent control. More particularly, the safeguarding or implementation of a public distribution of water of good quality for all should be regarded as an objective having priority on any other – whatever the “market constraints”, “national security imperatives” or financial difficulties – and subsequently, an objective that binds concerned executives to provide the means to reach the results expected.

Principle n° 8: Cosmopolitics above normative law
Another aspect of the pre-eminence of ethical imperatives is that water issues (and the resolution of related conflicts) can no longer be left to lawmakers, political executives or entrepreneurs. That means that Water law, whether public or private, national or international, existing or in the process of formation, not only cannot pretend to autonomy but also has to be subject to the principles of cosmopolitical approach to Water as well as to cosmopolitical law in general. Indeed, as culture is, Water is “a commodity of a unique kind”. Its irreducible singularity is best apprehended through this quality that makes it irreplaceable: that, without it, life is not possible. Whichever the ratified conventions or planned law instruments that might be invoked to assess a water issue (a trans-border dispute for instance), this assessment should no longer be based exclusively on the law which is defined by such instruments: it will have to check over the compatibility of this law with the cosmopolitical law, and the evaluation it gives of the concerned situations will have to be produced in the light of the cosmopolitical principles.

Principle n° 9: In favour of a joint approach of Water issues and Culture issues
Water and Culture are interrelated in the sense that human beings cannot live without them both. Only a cosmopolitical approach of the “World’s issues” makes possible the understanding of the importance of such a statement and its consequences. Force of habit and intellectual laziness incite a distinct and separate treatment of “cultural issues” and of “water issues” implying the use of absolutely different concepts, techniques and approaches for both their understanding and “resolution”. On the contrary, cosmopolitical philosophy, as it has formed for the last two and a half centuries, has the capability and the duty of identifying the numerous links at work between Water issues and Culture issues, of bridging their challenges and issues, of highlighting the necessary converging of the political, law, economic, educative and social means that will enable us to jointly seize those challenges and stakes and, in this way, to address them in the most comprehensive and useful possible manner.

Principle n°10: A reaffirmation by the example of the United Nations’ project
One would miss out the heart of the matter if they did not understand that with the project of building a cosmopolitical approach to Water, in the wake of the successful experimentation of the cosmopolitical approach to Cultural diversity (led by the Unesco since 1996) and bridging with this latter, what is at stake stands well beyond the production of a mere renewed approach of those major issues for Humankind. And indeed, beyond the resolution of the declared or potential conflicts related to Water and Culture, what is at stake is nothing less than the very re-foundation of the United Nations’ project itself- thanks to the powerful vehicle heralded by the joint development of a cosmopolitical approach to Water and a cosmopolitical approach to Cultural diversity. By favouring and promoting this multilateral dynamics, which would surely receive a staunch and decisive support from the international civil society and scientific community, the United Nations would avail themselves of the historical opportunity to - by giving the example - overcome their latest and most terrible setbacks (Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, RDC…) and re-launch their project in accordance with its initial inspiration, that is to say, precisely, that of a cosmopolitical project.

Translated by Julia Guimier - (Provisional translation)

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