Canada opposes right to water at World Water Forum

By Brent Patterson
Pambazuka News

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.

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