Mikhail Gorbachev urges world leaders to adopt a treaty that would guarantee people clean water and sanitation, the Associated Press reported.
Gorbachev said that decreasing water supplies and political resistance have limited efforts to bring fresh water to people living in poverty around the world.
According to the report, Gorbachev will call for a first-ever international water treaty during an April 21 keynote address to the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development.
The former Soviet leader calls for an agreement that makes access to water and basic sanitation a human right and holds nations responsible for providing it; an agreement that would also govern how freshwater resources are managed and shared.
On March 22 he launched a petition campaign that aims to pressure governments to begin negotiations to produce the covenant.
Gorbachev, founded Green Cross International in 1993 to encourage business, government and non-governmental organizations to collaborate and find solutions to environmental problems.
In recent years, he has urged governments to give people access to clean water and sanitation; his group has worked in parts of Africa, South America, Jordan, Russia and Eastern Europe. He argues wealthy countries to devote more funding to solving the problem.
"It's scandalous that a lot of this money is not found and put into saving the kids who die every day from unsafe water," he told the Associated Press.
About 2.5 billion people worldwide lack water sanitation services, and 5 million die from waterborne diseases each year, according to Global Green USA, the American arm of Green Cross. Nearly 1.2 billion people do not have clean water to drink.