Over 70 organizations from more than 20 countries condemn Brabeck-Letmathe honorary degree
Within 24 hours of University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera publicly claiming that “as far as I'm concerned there is one group that is upset and that's the Council of Canadians” over the University granting Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe an honorary degree and his name being considered as part of the External Advisory Board of the new Water Initiative, a massive international backlash is taking shape.
In an open letter to the university president, more than 70 prominent organizations from more than 20 countries are calling on the University to reverse its decision and instead “that other voices be added [to the External Advisory Board] which better reflect the importance of water as a commons, human right and public trust.” The letter and full list of signatories is included below.
The organizations include Public Services International (which represents more than 20 million workers, represented by 650 unions in 148 countries and territories), Greenpeace Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Sierra Club of Canada, the Alberta Federation of Labour, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Council of Canadians, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta, and Public Interest Alberta.
Other organizations in Canada which have signed the letter include the Water Commission of the Union of Ontario Indians, Coalition Eau Secours! (Quebec), Earthroots, Edmonton Friends of the North Environmental Society, Indigenous Environmental Network, INFACT Canada, Manitoba Wildlands, Mother Earth Water Walk, Ontario Native Women's Association, Polaris Institute, People’s Health Movement of Canada. International organizations have also signed the letter from the UK, USA, Germany, France, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Belgium, South Africa, Cataluña, Malaysia, Uruguay, Egypt, Luxembourg, Togo, Nigeria, Italy, Ecuador, and Haiti.
“This should put to rest the notion that there’s not much opposition to this ill-conceived decision,” says Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow. “The University of Alberta should reverse its decision to grant Nestlé’s Brabeck-Letmathe a degree and a position of influence in water policy, before bringing the institution into disrepute.”
While the university claims that the honorary degree will honour those who have contributed to “the preservation, distribution and management of one of humanity’s most vital resources: water,” the reality is that Nestlé is one of the biggest global voices pushing for the privatization and commodification of water worldwide, is the largest player in the bottled water industry and is depleting aquifers in communities throughout North America to bottle and sell.
Nestlé is the target of global boycotts for its marketing of breast milk substitutes in violation of international standards, has a long list of labour violations in countries all over the world, and is currently involved in a court case in which Nestlé has admitted it hired agents to spy on the activist group ATTAC.
The Council continues to receive additional signatories to the letter.
In addition to these groups, thousands of people have now contacted the university demanding it revoke the honorary degree to Peter Brabeck-Letmanthe, pointing to Nestlé’s appalling corporate record. A rally is planned for March 1 at 2:00 pm at the Timms Centre for the Arts, where Mr. Brabeck-Letmanthe will receive the honour.
LETTER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA
Office of the President
3-1 University Hall
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2J9
Dear President Samarasekera,
We the undersigned are extremely concerned to hear that the University of Alberta has chosen to grant an honorary degree to Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, former CEO and current chairman of Nestlé. We are even more dismayed to learn that the University is considering including Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe on the external advisory board for the University of Alberta’s planned water initiative.
Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe has been a lead voice in promoting water markets and pricing and has stated publicly that the idea that water is a human right is “extreme.” During his tenure as CEO and chair Nestlé has become one of the most boycotted companies on the planet for aggressively marketing baby milks in violation of international standards, as well as over accusations of widespread labour violations.
Appointing Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe to a position on the advisory board of the University’s water initiative would give undue credibility and an important platform for his views, and we believe this would be harmful to the hundreds of millions of people around the world who do not have access to clean water.
On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized water as a human right, and we are calling on the University of Alberta to respect this historic resolution by not giving Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe a public and respected platform for views which impede the implementation of this fundamental human right. If you choose to appoint Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe, the advisory board of this potentially important initiative will have lost its legitimacy, and the reputation of all on the board will be harmed before the initiative is launched.
We ask that Brabeck-Letmathe not be considered for a position on the advisory board and that other voices be added which better reflect the importance of water as a commons, human right and public trust.
Alberta Federation of Labour
Asociación de Usuarios del Agua de Saltillo (AUAS)
AQUATTAC, European ATTAC Watergroups
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Patti Rundall OBE
Baby Milk Action
Berlin Water Table
Dr.Krishan Bir Chaudhary
Bharatiya Krishak Samaj (Indian Farmers Organization)
New Delhi, India
Bottled Water Free Communities
Campaign for the Welfare State
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta
Patricia A Siemen
Center for Earth Jurisprudence
Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project
Durban, South Africa
COECOCEIBA-Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica
Chargée de plaidoyer Environnement & Développement
Coalición de Organizaciones Mexicanas por el Derecho al Agua (COMDA)
Jean Pierre Debourdeau
Le Collectif Eau Côte d'or
La Coordination EAU Île-de-France
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada
Consumers Association of Penang
Council of Canadians
Global Network of Indigenous Peoples
David J Parker
Edmonton Friends of the North Environmental Society
Empty Glass For Water
Jaume Delclòs Ayats
Enginyeria Sense Fronteras
Luis Isarra Delgado
Federación Nacional de Trabajadores del Agua Potable del Perú (FENTAP)
Food and Water Watch
Food & Water Europe
Foreningen for Internasjonale Vannstudier
(Association for International Water Studies)
Friends of the Earth Malaysia
Dr. Samia Galal Saad
High Institute of Public Health
Tom BK Goldtooth
Indigenous Environmental Network
INFACT Canada/IBFAN North America
Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement
Kenya Local Government Workers Union
Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre
Giosue De Salvo
Mani Tese ONG
Gaile Whelan Enns
Mother Earth Water Walk
Mujer y Medio Ambiente
NCT (The UK's Largest Charity for Parents)
Nothing Like Chocolate
Cesar Cardena Ramirez
Observatorio Ciudadano de Servicios Publicos
Ontario Native Women's Association
Our Water Commons
People’s Health Movement of Canada
Public Interest Alberta
Public Services International
Red de Género y Medio Ambiente
Sierra Club of Canada
Richard Cellarius, Ph.D.
International Vice President
Sierra Club US/Sierra Club Canada
Third World Network
Union of Ontario Indians Water Commission
Wasser Allianz München
Trude Malthe Thomassen
Water Movement Norway
Ellen F. Murtha
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Santa Cruz Branch
World Development Movement
Coalition Eau Secours!
la défense des droits de l'eau et de l'assainissement(ADDEA)
Flow for Water
Red Interamericana por la Defensa y Derecho al Agua
University of Alberta Chancellor
Chair, Board of Governors
Students' Union President
Students' Union VP External
Raphael Lepage Fortin
Undergraduate Board of Governors Representative