Maude Barlow in Hot Water?
There was a curious article on FoxNews today with a rather provocative headline: “U.N.’s Water Czar to Participate in Protests at U.N.-Backed Water Conference”.
Just a few months after being appointed the United Nations’ senior adviser on water, a top U.N. official is heading off to Istanbul to take part in protests … against a U.N.-backed water conference.
Maude Barlow, attending the conference in her official role as the U.N.’s “water czar,” will help lead at least 200 activists in protests and demonstrations against the weeklong World Water Forum, where the U.N. on Monday will unveil its flagship report on water resources.
Barlow was named to the post in December. She is a chief opponent of the privatization of water, which she and allied protesters say exacerbates a crisis in the developing world.
Interestingly, when you read through the rest of the article you will discover that “U.N. backed” means that the U.N. will have a booth there, and “taking part in protests” means that Barlow will be speaking to participants at an alternative forum. And the two main sources quoted as critical of Barlow and her stand against the privatization of water are a spokesperson from the conservative Fraser Institute, and a representative of the International Bottled Water Association – who actually calls her a “hippie”.
I did a bit of checking into the background of the World Water Forum and found this document which, while not entirely unbiased itself, does explain in a bit more detail why people like Maude Barlow and Food & Water Watch feel the need to speak out against this annual event which, while it presents itself as a U.N.-style international conference, in fact looks a bit like a trade show for corporations interested in profiting from the purification and sale of water.
It doesn’t reassure me that the World Water Council which is responsible for the event describes itself as “An International Multi-Stakeholder Platform for a Water Secure World”, or that it’s President, Loïc Fauchon, is “the President of the Société des Eaux de Marseille, a joint subsidiary of the two French water multinationals Veolia Environnement and Suez Environnement”.
Whatever your stand, water is a complex and sometimes contentious issue. But to accuse Maud Barlow of having a “real lack of understanding” when she has made water rights and the study of water policy her life’s work is simply ludicrous. Even for Fox.