Barlow says Harper must recognize the right to water to deserve UN Security Council seat

The Council of Canadians issued this media release this morning on both Canadian and European newswire services:

Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians chairperson and senior advisor on water to the President of the United Nations General Assembly, says the Harper government's goal of a seat on the UN Security Council should be denied until Canada formally recognizes water as a human right.

Ms. Barlow is currently in Istanbul for the week-long World Water Forum at which government ministers from 120 countries will discuss global water issues.

The Harper government has made securing a seat on the 15-member UN Security Council for the 2011-12 term a top foreign policy priority. The election will take place in October 2010. Canada is vying for this seat against Portugal and Germany, countries which already endorse the right to water.

"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," says Barlow.

Canada and the United States have been the strongest opponents of the right to water at the United Nations. There is speculation that US President Barack Obama will change the American position on the right to water, but there is no indication to date that Prime Minister Harper intends to change his government's position on the issue.

"Unsafe water and sanitation are the source of 85 per cent of all disease and one in every six people on Earth has no access to clean drinking water," says Barlow. "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."

By 2025, the United Nations estimates that 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will be living in areas facing water stress or scarcity.

"It would be wonderful to see Canada on the UN Security Council helping to address the critical global challenges of our day," concludes Barlow. "But if the Harper government fails to act on the global water crisis, then it simply does not deserve to take that seat."