For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685, dpenner@canadians.org.

Council of Canadians

Harper, Don’t Obstruct UN Vote on Right to Water: Council of Canadians

OTTAWA - Canada should be denied the seat it is seeking on the UN Security
Council if the Harper government obstructs a crucial upcoming vote on
the right to water at the General Assembly, says Council of Canadians
Chairperson Maude Barlow.

The UN General Assembly is poised to vote on a draft resolution
declaring the human right to "safe and clean drinking water and
sanitation" presented by the Bolivian government and endorsed by several
other countries. The Council of Canadians and other organizations fear
that Canada is working behind the scenes to weaken the resolution before
it goes for a vote at the end of the July as it has on previous
occasions at the UN Human Rights Council.

"This is the first time the General Assembly has been asked directly to
deal with this issue and presents a huge test for the world," says
Barlow. "When the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights was
written, no one could foresee a day when water would be a contested
area. But in 2010, it is not an exaggeration to say that the lack of
access to clean water is the greatest human rights violation in the
world."

"This would be one of the most important things the UN has done since
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," says Barlow, who in
2008/2009, served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of
the UN General Assembly. "Canadians need to be aware that the Harper
government is one of the primary obstacles to the international
recognition of the right to water."

"The Harper government has consistently obstructed progress on the right
to water at the UN," says Council of Canadians National Water
Campaigner Meera Karunananthan. "With much of Canada gripped by a
serious heat wave, the Harper government still seems oblivious to the
realities of increasing water scarcity and climate change. It's clear
most Canadians support the right to water, so the question is why
doesn't Harper?"

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A 2008 poll by Environics Research Group found that 88% of Canadians
want the federal government to recognize clean drinking water as a basic
human right.

"It's time politics caught up with reality," says Barlow, noting that
nearly two billion people live in water-stressed areas of the world and
three billion have no running water within a kilometre of their homes.
"It's time leaders of the world formally recognize water as essential to
life and a human right."

"For several years, international and local community groups fighting
for water justice have been calling for the UN to recognize once and for
all that water and sanitation are human rights," adds Barlow. "We're
calling on Harper not to try to modify the language of the resolution
from rights to vague obligations. It is a loophole that countries like
Canada want to create to avoid accountability."

In a letter sent today to all UN Ambassadors and permanent missions,
global water advocate and Council of Canadians Chairperson Maude Barlow
urges a decisive and swift passage of the resolution. The letter is
available online at www.canadians.org.

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