Tim Hayward – A Global Right of Water

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 27 Jan 2016

Photo: United Nations

Photo: United Nations

This week’s PTRG saw Professor Tim Hayward present his paper ‘A Global Right of Water’.  In the paper, Tim answered several important questions such as: whether a right regarding safe and clean water is a ‘basic right’ without which no other right can be enjoyed; who has what responsibility to fulfil the material demands that this right entails; whether the traditional paradigm of thinking is appropriate to address real ecological challenges of a changing world; what political institution would be needed to realise everyone’s secure access to safe and clean water.

The ensuing discussion was very constructive.  Questions raised by participants included these.  What implications would Tim’s paper have for theorising broader principles of right and wrong with regard to sustainable water use?  Should global institutions include a collective entity of some kind that is supposed to control global water use, such as a ‘global water ministry’?  How would Tim’s argument on the right and duties regarding water fit into his broader theory of the right and duties regarding ‘ecological space’?  How does he conceive ‘a right’ in general?  Would it be sufficient to have an international agreement on global water use without addressing transnational actors (e.g. corporations) who are acting outside international agreements, or without addressing the dynamic of capital accumulation which seems to be the root cause of unsustainable water use?  Does his paper reject the Lockean conception of human interaction with the natural world, or update it?

Written by Yuki Iwaki


Tim Hayward is Professor of Environmental Political Theory at the University of Edinburgh, founding Director of the Just World Institute and the Ethics Forum, Convenor of the Fair Trade Academic Network, and Programme Director of the MSc International Political Theory.