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Canadian Activist is New U.N. Water Advisor

November 13, 2008

One of many stories lost in the frenzy of political navel-gazing between the Canadian and American elections was this:

Maude Barlow named 1st UN water adviser

Canadian activist Maude Barlow has been appointed as the United Nation’s first senior adviser on water issues, a role she hopes to use to establish water as a human right and to convince Canada to “change its shameful position” on the issue.

Barlow, chair of the citizens’ advocacy group Council of Canadians, will work with the current president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to advance a more democratic and transparent method of policy making around water at the global level than now exists,” Barlow said in a press release. “Water is a commons, a public trust and a human right.”

Maude Barlow has been a well known and somewhat notorious figure since she helped lead the movement against free trade with the U.S. back in the 80s, and for the past two decades has made it her mission in life to ensure that clean, fresh water is made a human right and not a commodity to be sold for profit.

Whether all that makes her a principled activist or a dangerous crackpot depends largely on which side of the globalization debate you stand on. Happily, the man who appointed her has considerably more respect for her opinions than many in our own government. From his letter to her:

Given your outstanding experience, your creativity and your leadership in water issues, I would like to appoint you as my Senior Advisor for this 63’d session of the General Assembly. I can promise you my first commitment to the water justice movement. I hope I can count on your invaluable assistance to me and my cabinet as I implement our common agenda for water justice around the world.

Whatever one thinks of Maude Barlow’s politics, there is no questioning her commitment. Hopefully her appointment will help to bring water issues to the forefront both in Canada and on the world stage, and encourage our government to take a leadership role in ensuring that all people have access to that which we take for granted.

(more on Barlow’s appointment in Embassy Magazine)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. corsullivan permalink*
    November 15, 2008 2:32 pm

    Thanks for posting on an interesting development that had slipped completely under my radar. However, I’m curious about what Barlow actually plans to do in her new role. What are the practical consequences of saying that water is a human right? If there’s just not enough water to go around, do we get to haul the global hydrological cycle in front of one of our precious human rights commissions?

    More to the point, I suppose the real issue here – from a Canadian viewpoint – is the question of who gets to control the use and distribution of our abundant fresh water. If Barlow just wants to keep it out of the hands of profit-gouging corporations, more power to her. If she’s more interested in handing control to the U.N., or establishing some framework of international law that would force us to share our water indiscriminately, I’m rather less enthusiastic.

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