Prof. Eckstein Attends Right to Water Seminar, Meets Pope

March 31, 2017

Eckstein-Vatican1Texas A&M University School of Law Professor Gabriel Eckstein meets Pope Francis at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Seminar on the Human Right to Water held ​at the Vatican

Professor Gabriel Eckstein served as a legal commentator at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Seminar on the Human Right to Water ​held at the Vatican on Feb. 23-24, 2017.

The purpose of the workshop was to create an opportunity for interdisciplinary debate and thoughtful analysis of how the human right to water might be pursued and implemented, said Eckstein.

Experts such as scientists, policymakers, educators, clergy from a number of denominations, activists and thought leaders from around the world attended.

Eckstein was one of two legal experts in attendance. His role was to place the themes, comments and objectives in a legal framework and work together with the theological, technological, economic, social and other approaches for realizing the human right to water.

“A human right is supposed to be undeniable,” he said.  “As a result, it has to be recognized at the highest political and legal levels in order to be enshrined as obligatory and non-derogable.”

Although providing physical access to water is a critical component of the human right to water, that access is susceptible to governmental limitations and interruptions absent its legal recognition as a valid human right, he added.

Pope Francis signging Rome DeclarationThe program concluded with the attendees signing the Rome Declaration on the Human Right to Water, which raises the visibility of water scarcity and water poverty on a global level.

“There are nearly three-quarters of a billion people around the world who don’t have access to even a minimal amount of clean water for daily sustenance, and more than 2.5 billion who don’t have enough for basic sanitation and hygiene,” Eckstein said. “You would think that with modern technology and programs, the global community could figure out how to provide enough water for everyone on Earth, at least enough to alleviate the suffering.”

But there is a lack of political will and legal framework to fulfill that goal, he said.

There was also a surprise guest to sign the document: Pope Francis, who issued it.

“His presence at the event really evidenced his humanity and sincere desire to help all those in need,” Eckstein said. “And his message drove home his intention to champion the human right to water and water access for all.”

Eckstein said it was one of his greatest career honors to meet the pope.

“It was surreal when he showed up,” he said.

Click here to read the English translation of the Rome Declaration.

Prof. Gabriel Eckstein at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Seminar on the Human Right to Water

- Article by Jennifer Nassar, Communications Specialist, Texas A&M University School of Law