The former Soviet leader launched a high-profile water initiative in the European Parliament yesterday (12 February), calling for water issues to be included in UN negotiations over a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December.

Launching a Memorandum for a World Water Protocol in the European Parliament in Brussels, Mikhail Gorbachev said the inclusion of water in global climate talks should be a high priority. 

"Water is without no doubt a political problem, and a crisis of development that is unsustainable. It is part of a global political crisis," Gorbachev said. Meanwhile, the current global economic crisis may even act as a catalyst for a new order to help overcome "our old unsustainable model of development," he said. 

Gorbachev called for clear political leadership on water, demanding that all nations help the United Nations to "enshrine the right to water as the most important human right".  

As international organisations are "not really dealing with global governance," the issue should be addressed by the upcoming G20 meeting in April, he argued. "The world needs a new model of development and a new political structure," he concluded. 

The memorandum, published yesterday, argues that the global water crisis is such that profound structural changes to the economic system and lifestyles are needed.

It calls for a global political paradigm shift regarding water, and the establishment of a world water plan featuring: 

  • The universal right to water and sanitation, and;  
  • acknowledging the universal individual and collective responsibility regarding safeguarding water for future generations. 

"We cannot save the water without political institutional engineering and promoting the global shared responsibility towards our common source of life," reads the memorandum, pledging for the water protocol to be integrated into the UN's post-Kyoto agenda and future agreement. 

The final aim of the protocol is to pave the way towards a new world political architecture capable of responding to the global challenges of the 21st century.