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NEWS: Canada opposes the right to water at the UN, again

Steven Edwards, the United Nations-based reporter for the Canwest News Service, reports that, “Rich countries would be expected to help fund water and sanitation delivery to the world’s poor under terms being discussed behind closed doors at the United Nations, documents obtained by Canwest News Service show.”

“A Bolivian-penned draft resolution says internationally endorsed water rights would ‘entitle everyone to available, safe, acceptable, accessible and affordable water and sanitation.’ It declares that countries unable to deliver water to their populations — despite their best efforts — should be helped through ‘international co-operation and assistance’. Such language essentially calls for rich countries to give foreign aid to any government that says it doesn’t have the means to meet its citizens’ water ‘rights’. …With such a resolution in the international record, the world would be one step closer to seeing a so-called ‘economic’ standard enshrined as a core right alongside individual-centred human rights to life and liberty.”

“A line in the Bolivian draft resolution (also) addresses the question of natural-resource sovereignty, saying that ‘states have …the sovereign right to their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies.’”

“Water-rich Canada is among the western countries seeking to pull the plug on the Bolivian bid — in part on grounds the resolution could impinge on Canada’s sovereignty rights over its natural resources. Canada would be content to see the campaign fizzle into a debate about the ‘right to access to clean water’ — with emphasis on the word ‘access’, one insider indicated. …In the language of diplomats, having to provide ‘access’ would oblige governments to do no more than deliver water as a marketable commodity — not as a core right that would have to be given to anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

“Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon has taken the position the government ‘will not put Canada in a position where our sovereign right to protect our natural resources is compromised by any international treaties,’ according to comments on the issue prepared for delivery in the House of Commons.”
“(But the) Foreign Affairs Department (also) says, among several policy statements on the issue, that Canada ‘recognizes there are linkages between access to safe drinking water and certain existing human rights obligations.’”

“Officials in Ottawa declined a request to further explain Canada’s approach to the Bolivian text. ‘Unfortunately we do not have anyone available to give you a briefing at this time,’ said department spokeswoman Dana Cryderman.”

“Nicaragua and Cuba are among the outspoken backers of the Bolivian initiative, while the Yemeni chair of the Group of 77, a bloc of developing countries that today has 130 members, has also voiced his support.”

“Britain’s new Conservative government has pledged to vote against the draft if, as one official whispered, the text comes to include ‘aggressive proposals’. Like Canada, Britain also favours wording that speaks of ‘ensuring access to’ rather than ‘a right to’ water, another insider confided. But Britain is additionally concerned about what the Bolivians mean when they talk about a right to ‘sanitation’, which some say implies funding the supply of fully functional toilets around the world.”

“Bolivia was about to circulate a revised draft over the weekend that it claims takes into account some of the western concerns. Insiders say diplomats expect stormy exchanges at the next closed-door meeting (on) Thursday (July 1). Even some G77 member states fear the Bolivian push could undermine widely backed ongoing efforts on the issue at UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council. At a closed-door meeting last week in New York, Jordan asked Bolivia directly what it hoped to achieve with its new draft, an insider with knowledge of the meeting said. Bolivia replied it felt the issue needed the attention of the UN’s biggest body, but many remain skeptical.”

“Leading non-government campaigners backing the resolution include Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, who, like other advocates, says a right to water needs to be linked to the development goals the UN established at the 2000 Millennium Summit. ‘We are overdue for water to be acknowledged as a global priority (and) passing this resolution would send a strong signal that, before the Millennium Development Goal review in September, and before the next Earth Summit in 2012, we are committed as a global community to address the suffering caused by the global water crisis,’ she said in a news release.”

The full article is at http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/water+human+right+puts+onus+rich+countries/3208745/story.html#ixzz0sC85XbCb.