In my opinion, this is one of the most insidious moves ever by the Bush regime. It’s a prime example of capitalism-run-amuck. As it stands now, Canada and the United States are the only two countries to go on record at the United Nations as opposing the human right to water.
Earlier this month, European Union member countries Spain and Germany introduced a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, recognizing clean water and sanitation as a basic human right; only to have Canada undermine the resolution by presenting a series of objections, all echoed by the Bush regime. The resolution is to be voted on later in the week before the UNHRC session ends on March 28. The international NGO, Center on Housing Rights and Eviction (COHRE) has promoted the resolution three times in the past six years with Canada raising objections and voting against it every time.
Canada is a full member of the UNHRC until 2009; the United States is not an elected member but is allowed to engage under the rules of the Council.
The joint resolution was prompted by an updated report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour. The report stated that "specific, dedicated and sustained attention to safe drinking water and sanitation is currently lacking at the international level," recommending that access to both be recognized as a human right.
Last Saturday’s Toronto Star ran the story:
Note:The author of the article, Maude Barlow, is the chair of the Council of Canadians and author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.
The joint resolution promoted by Germany and Spain aims to establish a "special rapporteur" with the mandate to provide guidance on the right to water and sanitation, identify best practices, investigate country situations and promote the right internationally.
Canada is working to weaken the resolution by demanding that references to the right to water and sanitation be removed and that the scope be reduced. Canada wants the proposed position of "special rapporteur" to be downgraded to "independent expert" serving for only one year instead of the proposed three years. Canada is also opposing visits by this expert to individual countries and the granting of a mandate enabling them to clarify the content of the right to water and sanitation.
This is the third time in six years that member nations of the UN have pushed for recognition of the human right to water. On each occasion, Canada has rejected the efforts to have water recognized as a right.
Back in 2002, Canada alone, among 53 countries voted against the appointment of a special rapporteur on water. Then in 2006, Canada reacted negatively to a resolution of the U.N. Human Rights Council to conduct the study on the right to water. The current debate coincides with the observance of the 15th annual U.N. World Water Day.
The Liberal party defended the Harper government's position in the media earlier this week, claiming that a right to water would make Canada vulnerable to bulk water exports. This is utterly untrue.
All trans-boundary water issues were explicitly excluded from the scope of the resolution. A human rights convention is between a government and its citizens.
Recognition of the right to water in no way affects a country's sovereign right to manage its own resources.
The reality is the resolution would be at odds with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which defines water as a good and an investment. The real issue is that the Liberals, like the Conservatives, refuse to reopen NAFTA to remove water. They would rather deny Canada and the world the right to water.
Not recognizing water as a fundamental human right denies the impetus for governments to address the reality of more than a billion people across the world currently without access to clean water. And, this problem is only going to grow; not to mention the fact that the longer it is before this problem is recognized, the more power over decision-making bleeds from state governments and the U.N. itself in favor of institutions promoting water privatization; decisions that have proved harmful in the past both to the environment and water supplies for poor communities around the world.
The tenacity of Germany and Spain is to be commended in continuing to bring up the resolution. So far, it has kept alive hope for NGOs and other groups wanting an international solution to the growing global water crisis. Canada’s latest denial has mobilized thousands of concerned Canadian citizens, demanding that their government reverse its obstinate position.
Of course, No one's marching here in the U.S. The malevolent Bush regime (using their corporate compliant press) has successfully ducked their responsibility to lead on this epochal issue; deciding to instead take the side of the mega-capitalists who plan on making a profit on the world’s most fundamental staple. Tens of millions of Americans don't even know that water will be an important issue for the future, and without the cooperation of the mainstream press, they may not know anything about it until it's too late.
Let there be no mistake about it; to deny safe, clean water as a basic human right opens the way in the future for our federal government to use the allocation of water resources as leverage against individual states that lack necessary access to enough water to sustain the lives of its citizens. Waving water rights in the face of governors who may not agree with the federal stance on a whole host of issues is one way to gain that state’s compliance.
I know this doesn’t seem all that important right now but climate change can only worsen the situation in the future. We have to make this an issue. For example, recent arguments between Georgia, Alabama and Florida over water rights could very well have ended up arbitrarily decided by big corporations, backed up by the federal government. but climate change can only worsen the situation in the future.
Once again, the Bush regime – this time backed up by the Harper administration in Canada -- is acting not in the best interests of the people but rather in the interests of large corporations seeking total control of the continent’s natural resources.
Water and air belongs to the people; despite what the corporatists in our government say. We must make this an issue in 2008 or it may come back to haunt us a few years down the road.
We must find out how our candidates plan on dealing with this life and death issue.