Harper government blocks UN resolution on right to water

    OTTAWA, March 17 /CNW Telbec/ - The Council of Canadians is calling on
the Harper government to stop blocking a resolution tabled by Germany and
Spain at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on March 10
that calls for water and sanitation to be recognized as a human right.
    The resolution, which will be voted on within the week, is currently
being debated at the UNHRC session in Geneva. Canada has put forward numerous
objections to the resolution. Canada and the United States are the only two
countries to go on record at the United Nations in opposing the right to
    Canada is a member of the UNHRC until 2009, while the United States is
not an elected member of the UNHRC but allowed to engage under the rules of
the Council.
    "Recognizing water as a human right is vital to ensuring that governments
address the reality of more than a billion people who are currently without
access to clean water," says Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of
Canadians and author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming
Battle for the Right to Water. "It is shocking that Canada would work with the
United States to oppose this fundamental right."
    The debate occurs as communities around the world observe the 15th UN
World Water Day on March 22 emerging out of the 1992 United Nations Conference
on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
    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. The resolution follows a report by
Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stating that
"specific, dedicated and sustained attention to safe drinking water and
sanitation is currently lacking at the international level" and recommending
that access to safe drinking water and sanitation be recognized as a human
    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
an 'independent expert' serving for only one year instead of the proposed
three years. Canada is also opposing visits by this independent expert to
individual countries and the granting of a mandate enabling them to clarify
the content of the right to water and sanitation.
    Negotiations on the issue are expected to conclude this week.
    The Council of Canadians will be marking World Water Day by working to
promote the right to water in nearly 40 communities across the country.

For further information:

For further information: Meera Karunananthan, media officer, (613)
233-4487 ext. 234, (613) 795-8685 (cell), meera@canadians.org

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