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Is for-profit water on the G7 summit agenda?

Aine O’Connor of the Sisters of Mercy and Meera Karunananthan of the Blue Planet Project advocated for the public financing of the right to water at the United Nations in the lead-up to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau will be co-hosting the G7 Finance and Development Ministerial meeting this coming May 31 to June 2 in Whistler, British Columbia. The meeting will include G7 finance ministers, development ministers and central bank governors and feed into the G7 summit taking place June 8-9 in Charlevoix, Quebec.

The Canadian Press now reports, “When G7 finance and international development ministers convene in British Columbia next week, Canada hopes the meetings will generate fresh ideas on how aid money can be leveraged to entice the private sector to boost investments in poorer parts of the world.”

The article highlights, “Earlier this year, [Canada] became the last G7 country to create a development finance institution [to lure more private capital into developing nations as a way to help make up for inadequate levels of foreign aid].”

And it notes, “[The international development minister says] that without innovative ideas, the international community will fall well short of its overall targets on eradicating poverty. Investments from donor countries around the world will have to be between $5 and $7 trillion in order to achieve the planet’s sustainable development goals by 2030, she said. Total funding last year was around $147 billion, she added.”

In November 2017, The Globe and Mail reported, “Canada is working [to unlock] more private-sector financing to help fill an annual $7-trillion development-funding gap between now and 2030. …Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Marc-André Blanchard said he and his Jamaican counterpart Courtenay Rattray are heading up a group of 60 countries focused on obtaining more private-sector capital, through channels such as pension, private equity and insurance funds, to help meet the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”

That article notes, “Mr. Blanchard said the Group of Friends of SDG Financing is discussing what countries can do to ensure that private-sector investments help achieve the sustainable-development goals. …In addition to private-sector financing, the Group of Friends will seek new sources of public and philanthropic funding for the SDG goals.”

Significantly, the Sustainable Development Goals agenda includes the universal access to water and sanitation. The United Nations member states pledged in paragraph 7 of the adopted text, “A world where we reaffirm our commitments regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.” Goal 6 of the SDGs states, “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

The recognition of the human right to water and sanitation in the SDGs in September 2015 is the result of sustained efforts by the Blue Planet Project’s Meera Karunananthan and numerous allies.

Karunananthan has cautioned, “We know from past experience that ‘innovative financing’ is code private financing, which according to the World Bank’s own research has had dismal results in the water and sanitation sector. There is overwhelming evidence that privatization has resulted in the inability of governments to ensure the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation for all.”

And yet this is the agenda that the Trudeau government appears to be pursuing, including at the upcoming G7 finance and development ministerial in Whistler.

Karunananthan says, “The United Nations must prevent attempts to promote privatization and market-based solutions which serve to enable the accumulation of private wealth within the context of the global water crisis. Public financing is the appropriate way forward for the realization of the human right to water and sanitation.”

She will be bringing this message to a meeting of the United Nations High Level Panel on Water in New York City this coming July 9-18.