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UPDATE: The Council counters the G20 agenda on water

The G8 will be meeting in Huntsville on June 25-26, followed by the G20 meeting in Toronto on June 26-27.

What will be on the agenda?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, “As hosts, our government will have considerable say over the agenda. It will be a tremendous opportunity to promote Canada’s values and interests; to advocate for open markets and trade opportunities; to assist on global action against global warming; and to champion values like freedom, democracy and human rights and the rule of law.”

The Council of Canadians believes that the G8 and G20 will be promoting a ‘business as usual’ agenda rather than what is needed, namely trade, climate and water justice.

Harper, who opposes the recognition of water as a human right, has stated that maternal health and infant mortality should be a top priority of the summits. He said that the solution to the ‘unacceptable’ situation of 500,000 women who die during childbirth and 9 million children who die before the age of five every year need not be expensive, noting the cost of providing clean water, inoculations, better nutrition and training of health workers ‘is within the reach’ of any of the G8 countries.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “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. A UN covenant on the right to water would serve as a common coherent body of rules for all nations, rich and poor, and clarify that it is the responsibility of the state to provide sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water to all of its citizens.”

Barlow has also written, “The UN Millennium Development Goals (which have been endorsed by the G8) include reducing by half the proportion of people living without safe drinking water by 2015. While laudable, this initiative is failing not only because the UN has worked with the World Bank to promote a flawed model for water development, but also because it assumes that there is enough water for everyone without seriously addressing the massive pollution of surface waters and the consequent massive over-mining of groundwater supplies. If the World Bank, the United Nations and northern countries were serious about providing clean water for all, they would cancel or deeply cut the Third World debt, substantively increase foreign aid, fund public services, tell their big bottling companies to stop draining poor countries dry and invest in water reclamation programs to protect source water. They would also tell the water companies that they no longer have any say in which countries and communities receive water funding.”

The Council of Canadians
In Huntsville we will be facing a $6-million galvanized metal fence that will stretch 15-kilometres around the summit site. In Toronto, it is expected that the convention centre will be surrounded by a 4-metre high steel and concrete fence, with military helicopters overhead and sharpshooters on rooftops (as was the case with the G7 summit there in 1988). Thousands of reporters from around the world are expected to converge to report on the summits from their base at the Congress Centre near Toronto’s international airport.

So far, our plans include holding a protest in Huntsville on Friday June 25 and a major public forum with Maude Barlow and other high-profile international speakers at Convocation Hall in Toronto that evening. We will take part in a major family-friendly march against the G20 on the afternoon of Saturday June 26. We will also be participating in workshops and forums at the Peoples Summit taking place in Toronto the weekend of June 18-20. We also expect to be raising our concerns when the G8 foreign ministers meet at the Château Cartier in Gatineau, Quebec on March 29-30.

Next – the G20 and climate change.