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VIEW: A billion dollars better spent on clean water

The Toronto Star reports today that, “The cost of securing next month’s G8 and G20 summits has soared to at least $833 million – an eye-popping sum that has some wondering whether it’s time to rethink how international summits are organized.”

Other news reports note that the Harper government has budgeted another $100 million dollars for security, so the final tally for Canadian taxpayers could reach $933 million.

The Globe and Mail explains that, “One security expert said the cost of securing Toronto is the biggest reason for the massive policing and protective bill. Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former CSIS intelligence officer, said the G20 meeting in downtown Toronto – a busy part of a bustling city – is a major security headache.”

Could this money have been better spent?

It has been estimated that $10-$30 billion a year could provide clean drinking water to half the 1.1 billion people around the world who need it.

That means the almost billion dollar security bill for the 48 hour summit could have instead provided clean drinking water to millions of people, maybe up to 50 million people.

It also means that about eight minutes of security costs for the summits – about $2.5 million – could have restored Canada’s long-standing, but recently cut, funding to the Global Environment Monitoring System, which assesses more than 3,000 freshwater sites around the world and supplies 24 United Nations agencies with vital information to assess water policy.

The Toronto Star adds that, “(NDP leader Jack Layton) said rising costs could force meetings like this to forums such as the United Nations headquarters in New York, where the security and infrastructure already exists.”

The Council of Canadians has questioned the exclusivity and undemocratic nature of the G8 and G20, and in opposition to these constructs supports (despite its various challenges and failings) the broader based body of the United Nations, also referred to now more often as the G-192.

The extraordinarily expensive security tab for these roaming summits is another reason why the United Nations is better placed for global decision-making.