Canada undermines the human right to water at World Water Forum

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At the 6th World Water Forum, Canada’s government successfully undermined the UN-recognized human right to water, and supported efforts by multinational water corporations to promote the privatization of water

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Statement by Maude Barlow, Chair, Council of Canadians, 
and Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch
Marseille, March 17, 2012

The 6th World Water Forum this week, despite lagging attendance and Sarkozy reneging on his promise to attend, has still been an opportunity for multinational water corporations to solidify their plans to further privatize nature at Rio+20.

Thanks to Canada’s successful effort to weaken language in the forum’s ministerial document regarding the human right to water, and as demonstrated by the banking industry’s plans to integrate water trading into futures markets and to create derivative water-based financial instruments, the privatization of water has accelerated dramatically, creating a setback for right to water as resolved by the UN.

We have already seen the “casino of hunger” created by speculation on commodity crops. The global food crisis that caused millions to starve was caused by a tidal wave of Wall Street speculation.

Now the same economic interests are proposing the same type of financial mechanisms to create a ‘green economy,’ while the real agenda is creating a speculative market with the potential to create great wealth for the corporations and economic institutions promoting this strategy.

At the opening plenary of the Alternative World Water Forum, which drew approximately 5,000 attendees, the UN special rapporteur for the right to water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, said, “Be vigilant. The Marseille Ministerial Declaration is already being used at the Human Rights Council in Geneva to weaken these rights.”

The Council of Canadians, Food and Water Watch and many other organizations have sent a letter to governments to publicly denounce the Ministerial Declaration.

At Rio+20, where global leaders will meet to make commitments towards carbon reductions 20 years after the UN’s first Conference on Sustainable Development, multinational corporations are playing a key role in lobbying for the financialization of nature, complete with futures markets and other derivative based financial instruments to enable water speculation.

We can’t survive a mortgage crisis for water. It’s not a truly green economy that these interests are promoting. It’s a greenwashed economy, which will do nothing to help mitigate climate change, water shortages or other pending environmental disasters.


Canada opposes right to water at World Water Forum

(Council of Canadians News Release, March 13, 2012)

It is becoming clearer from multiple sources that Canada was the country that pushed to have language that explicitly affirmed the United Nations recognized right to water and sanitation removed from the Ministerial Declaration of the World Water Forum – the ‘Davos of water’ – now being held in Marseille, France.

The Council of Canadians was inside the World Water Forum yesterday for its opening ceremonies and has spoken with a number of people that have named Canada as the prime instigator of the removal of the explicit recognition of the right to water and sanitation in the Ministerial Declaration.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow commented, “Here we have an example of a country like Canada that is using the World Water Forum, a non-democratic forum run by multinational water corporations, to try and negate what has been achieved at the United Nations General Assembly.”

The Council of Canadians played key role in winning the recognition of the right to water and sanitation at the United Nations, overcoming the opposition of the Harper government.

“Like it or not, Canada is legally obligated to write a right to water implementation plan,” adds Barlow. “But the Canadian government is using the illegitimate space at the World Water Forum to try to negate the right to water.”

Earlier media reports have noted Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN special rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation, warning that, “the right to safe drinking water and sanitation will be sidelined at the 6th World Water Forum. ‘It comes as an unwelcome surprise that the draft ministerial declaration.still does not recognize the human right to water and sanitation that has been explicitly recognized at the UN.'”

In a February 28 media statement, Amnesty International and WASH-United expressed their deep concern that the draft Ministerial Declaration of the 6th World Water Forum fails to commit States to implement the human rights to water and sanitation. They highlight, “The draft Declaration commits signatories only to implement ‘human rights obligations relating to access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation’. This formulation was insisted upon by a small number of States, such as Canada, that have persistently opposed recognition of the rights to water and sanitation at the international level over the last decade.”

The Council of Canadians/ Blue Planet Project are in Marseille to intervene in the forum and participate in the Alternative World Water Forum, organized by global civil society groups. The Council is demanding that the Canadian government recognize the human right to water and sanitation and fulfill its international obligation to deliver on this human right in Canada.


1 Comment

  • It seems that Governments, such as the Harper government in Canada, have abdicated their role as guardians of their peoples and have instead become the lackeys of the people who play in the financial markets rather than the real world.