Harper, don't obstruct UN vote on right to water: Council of Canadians

OTTAWA, July 8 /CNW Telbec/ - 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?"

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

SOURCE Council of Canadians

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

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