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UPDATE: Barlow speaks at labour-organized panel on the right to water

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow just finished speaking at a labour-organized forum titled ‘Implementation of the human right to water and sanitation’, that took place inside the World Water Forum in Marseille.

Barlow highlighted that the Blue Planet Project has commissioned a series of country reports on the implementation of the right to water and sanitation. The authors were asked to include a blueprint for action in those reports. The first set of reports can be read at http://www.blueplanetproject.net.

She highlighted that the majority of water services are still in public hands, but whenever the profit motive enters the picture we see rate hikes, job loss, and reduced services. Yet, despite this, she noted that many of our governments still promote public-private partnerships.

Barlow shared the story of the community-labour fight-back in Abbotsford, British Columbia and the outcome of a popular referendum that said “no” to a P3 proposal in a popular referendum. She then gave a special ‘shout out’ to our friends from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in the audience.

Barlow concluded that implementation of the right to water and sanitation goes hand-in-hand with keeping water services public.She emphasized that austerity measures are now forcing a massive sell-off of water services in Greece and elsewhere and that we must resist this.

And she said that trade agreements are promoting sub-national procurement provisions that will impact our local public water utilities. This includes the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). She noted Suez and Veolia are behind CETA and this type of trade-deal provision. Barlow emphasized that this is a very dangerous trend.

Barlow said that implementation of the right to water and sanitation goes hand-in-hand with keeping water services public.

She stated that we do not recognize the legitimacy of the World Water Council and the World Water Forum. She said it was wrong for $30 million of public money to have been put into the World Water Forum, and that the forum is using this public money to promote the private interests of corporations.

Barlow concluded, “We will fight forever for water as a human right and a public service.”

The panel featured insightful speeches by Anne Le Strat (the deputy mayor of Paris), David Hall (of the PSI Research Unit), Jerry van den Berge (with the European Federation of Public Service Unions), Sascha Gabizon (Women in Euruope for a Common Future), and Ismael Salgado (of the water workers union in Uruguay), and was ably moderated by Steve Bloomfield (Unison).