U of A appointment and degree for Nestle Chairman facing international backlash

February 29, 2012
Media Release

Over 70 organizations from more than 20 countries condemn Brabeck-Letmathe honorary degree

Within 24 hours of University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera publicly claiming that “as far as I'm concerned there is one group that is upset and that's the Council of Canadians” over the University granting Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe an honorary degree and his name being considered as part of the External Advisory Board of the new Water Initiative, a massive international backlash is taking shape.

In an open letter to the university president, more than 70 prominent organizations from more than 20 countries are calling on the University to reverse its decision and instead “that other voices be added [to the External Advisory Board] which better reflect the importance of water as a commons, human right and public trust.” The letter and full list of signatories is included below.

The organizations include Public Services International (which represents more than 20 million workers, represented by 650 unions in 148 countries and territories), Greenpeace Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Sierra Club of Canada, the Alberta Federation of Labour, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Council of Canadians, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta, and Public Interest Alberta.

Other organizations in Canada which have signed the letter include the Water Commission of the Union of Ontario Indians, Coalition Eau Secours! (Quebec), Earthroots, Edmonton Friends of the North Environmental Society, Indigenous Environmental Network, INFACT Canada, Manitoba Wildlands, Mother Earth Water Walk, Ontario Native Women's Association, Polaris Institute, People’s Health Movement of Canada. International organizations have also signed the letter from the UK, USA, Germany, France, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Belgium, South Africa, Cataluña, Malaysia, Uruguay, Egypt, Luxembourg, Togo, Nigeria, Italy, Ecuador, and Haiti.

“This should put to rest the notion that there’s not much opposition to this ill-conceived decision,” says Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow. “The University of Alberta should reverse its decision to grant Nestlé’s Brabeck-Letmathe a degree and a position of influence in water policy, before bringing the institution into disrepute.”

While the university claims that the honorary degree will honour those who have contributed to “the preservation, distribution and management of one of humanity’s most vital resources: water,” the reality is that Nestlé is one of the biggest global voices pushing for the privatization and commodification of water worldwide, is the largest player in the bottled water industry and is depleting aquifers in communities throughout North America to bottle and sell.

Nestlé is the target of global boycotts for its marketing of breast milk substitutes in violation of international standards, has a long list of labour violations in countries all over the world, and is currently involved in a court case in which Nestlé has admitted it hired agents to spy on the activist group ATTAC.

The Council continues to receive additional signatories to the letter.

In addition to these groups, thousands of people have now contacted the university demanding it revoke the honorary degree to Peter Brabeck-Letmanthe, pointing to Nestlé’s appalling corporate record. A rally is planned for March 1 at 2:00 pm at the Timms Centre for the Arts, where Mr. Brabeck-Letmanthe will receive the honour.


(Download PDF version)


Indira Samarasekera
Office of the President
3-1 University Hall
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta  T6G 2J9

Dear President Samarasekera,

We the undersigned are extremely concerned to hear that the University of Alberta has chosen to grant an honorary degree to Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, former CEO and current chairman of Nestlé. We are even more dismayed to learn that the University is considering including Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe on the external advisory board for the University of Alberta’s planned water initiative.

Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe has been a lead voice in promoting water markets and pricing and has stated publicly that the idea that water is a human right is “extreme.” During his tenure as CEO and chair Nestlé has become one of the most boycotted companies on the planet for aggressively marketing baby milks in violation of international standards, as well as over accusations of widespread labour violations.

Appointing Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe to a position on the advisory board of the University’s water initiative would give undue credibility and an important platform for his views, and we believe this would be harmful to the hundreds of millions of people around the world who do not have access to clean water.

On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized water as a human right, and we are calling on the University of Alberta to respect this historic resolution by not giving Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe a public and respected platform for views which impede the implementation of this fundamental human right. If you choose to appoint Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe, the advisory board of this potentially important initiative will have lost its legitimacy, and the reputation of all on the board will be harmed before the initiative is launched.

We ask that Brabeck-Letmathe not be considered for a position on the advisory board and that other voices be added which better reflect the importance of water as a commons, human right and public trust.


Gil McGowan
Alberta Federation of Labour

Asociación de Usuarios del Agua de Saltillo (AUAS)
Christiane Hansen
AQUATTAC, European ATTAC Watergroups

Javier Echaide
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Patti Rundall OBE
Baby Milk Action
United Kingdom

Dorothea Haerlin
Berlin Water Table

Dr.Krishan Bir Chaudhary
Bharatiya Krishak Samaj (Indian Farmers Organization)
New Delhi, India

Bottled Water Free Communities

Asbjørn Wahl
Campaign for the Welfare State

Bruce Campbell
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Paul Moist
Canadian Union of Public Employees

Marle Roberts
Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta

Patricia A Siemen
Center for Earth Jurisprudence

Patrick Bond
Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project
Durban, South Africa

Isaac Rojas
COECOCEIBA-Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica
Costa Rica

Véronique Rigot
Chargée de plaidoyer Environnement & Développement

Coalición de Organizaciones Mexicanas por el Derecho al Agua (COMDA)

Jean Pierre Debourdeau
Le Collectif Eau Côte d'or

Jean-Claude OLIVA
La Coordination EAU Île-de-France
Paris, France

Dave Coles
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

Consumers Association of Penang

Maude Barlow
Council of Canadians

Rebecca Sommer
Global Network of Indigenous Peoples

Josh Garfinkel

David J Parker
Edmonton Friends of the North Environmental Society

Joanne Robertson
Empty Glass For Water

Jaume Delclòs Ayats
Enginyeria Sense Fronteras

Luis Isarra Delgado
Federación Nacional de Trabajadores del Agua Potable del Perú (FENTAP)

Darcey O'Callaghan
Food and Water Watch

Gabriella Zanzanaini
Food & Water Europe

Jonas Holmqvist
Foreningen for Internasjonale Vannstudier
(Association for International Water Studies)
Oslo, Norway

Friends of the Earth Malaysia

Carleen Pickard
Global Exchange

Yossi Cadan
Greenpeace Canada

Dr. Samia Galal Saad
High Institute of Public Health
Alexandria, Egypt

Tom BK Goldtooth
Indigenous Environmental Network

Elisabeth Sterken
INFACT Canada/IBFAN North America

Maryse Arendt
Initiativ Liewensufank

Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement
Lomé, Togo

Julius Apale
Kenya Local Government Workers Union

Ayodele Akele
Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre
Lagos, Nigeria

Giosue De Salvo
Mani Tese ONG

Gaile Whelan Enns
Manitoba Wildlands

Josephine Mandamin
Mother Earth Water Walk

Mujer y Medio Ambiente

Belinda Phipps
NCT (The UK's Largest Charity for Parents)
United Kingdom

Kum-Kum Bhavnani
Nothing Like Chocolate

Adriana Marquisio
Water Activist

Cesar Cardena Ramirez
Observatorio Ciudadano de Servicios Publicos

Josephine Mandamin
Ontario Native Women's Association

Daniel Moss
Our Water Commons

Camille Chalmers

Tony Clarke
Polaris Institute

Maija Kagis
People’s Health Movement of Canada

Bill Moore-Kilgannon
Public Interest Alberta

David Boys
Public Services International
France (International)

Red de Género y Medio Ambiente

John Bennett
Sierra Club of Canada

Walaa Hirzallah
Sierra Club-Montreal

Richard Cellarius, Ph.D.
International Vice President
Sierra Club US/Sierra Club Canada

Meena Raman
Third World Network

Josephine Mandamin
Union of Ontario Indians Water Commission

Christiane Hansen
Wasser Allianz München
Bürgerhand, Germany

Trude Malthe Thomassen
Water Movement Norway

Ellen F. Murtha
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Santa Cruz Branch

Kristy Wright
World Development Movement
United Kingdom

Jean-Yves McGee
Coalition Eau Secours!
Québec, Canada

Serigne Sarr
la défense des droits de l'eau et de l'assainissement(ADDEA)

James Olson
Flow for Water

Nikhil Aziz
Grassroots International

Marcella Olivera
Red Interamericana por la Defensa y Derecho al Agua
Las Americas

Helena Paul
UK (International)


Linda Hughes
University of Alberta Chancellor

Douglas Goss
Chair, Board of Governors

Rory Tighe
Students' Union President

Farid Iskandar
Students' Union VP External

Raphael Lepage Fortin
Undergraduate Board of Governors Representative