The Watchdog

Keeping citizens in the loop

WORLD WATER WARRIORS: ‘Canada legally required to take action on human right to water: Report’

For Immediate Release
June 20, 2011

Canada legally required to take action on human right to water: Report

Ottawa – As the first anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s historic recognition of the human right to water and sanitation draws near, the Council of Canadians is releasing a new report today by chairperson Maude Barlow, titled Our Right to Water: A People’s Guide to Implementing the United Nations’ Recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation. The report is available here.

The report finds that Canada is legally bound to respect the UN vote, and therefore to address the pressing issue of access to water and sanitation in First Nations communities.

While the July 28, 2010 General Assembly resolution was not binding, two months later the Human Rights Council also recognized the human right to water and sanitation in a similar resolution, setting out exactly what this new right entails for governments. Because the Human Rights Council resolution is based on two existing treaties, it rendered the first right to water resolution binding. In other words, as the UN acknowledges, “The right to water and sanitation is a human right, equal to all other human rights, which implies that it is justiciable and enforceable.”

“All governments are now bound by these historic UN resolutions. Whether or not they voted for the two resolutions, every member nation of the UN is now obligated to accept and recognize the human right to water and sanitation and come up with a plan of action based on the obligation to respect, the obligation to protect and the obligation to fulfil these new rights,” says Barlow.

“Even though the Harper government shockingly did not vote for the right to water and sanitation, it is bound now by this obligation. We are calling on the government to recognize these new rights and let Canadians know when it will be tabling its plan of action with the UN.”

“Canada has very good public water systems and enough water to supply everyone in Canada with safe and clean drinking water. Unfortunately not all Canadians equally enjoy the human right to water and sanitation,” says Council of Canadians national water campaigner Emma Lui.

“This is apparent in indigenous communities, as illustrated by the recent report by the Auditor General of Canada. Canada has already been put on notice by the UN regarding the conditions in First Nations communities. The government is now legally bound to move to remedy these human rights violations.”

The Council of Canadians is calling for immediate action from the Harper government on these longstanding violations to the right to water in Indigenous communities. The organization will be releasing an additional report on the situation in Canada soon, which will set out its expectations of the federal government at home and internationally to fulfil this commitment.

More information:

Stuart Trew, media, Council of Canadians:, 647-222-9782
Emma Lui, Council of Canadians water campaigner:, 613-233-4487 ext 234

Download the report here (1.35 MB)

June 21, 2011 Posted by | Human rights, WORLD WATER WARRIORS | Leave a comment

WORLD WATER WARRIORS: ‘Canada a major exporter of virtual water, says new Council of Canadians report’

For Immediate Release
May 25, 2011

Canada a major exporter of virtual water, says new Council of Canadians report

Ottawa – The Council of Canadians is releasing a new report today called Leaky Exports: A portrait of the virtual water trade in Canada. This report highlights the daily loss of massive amounts of the country’s fresh water used to produce commodities, minerals and energy for export. Virtual, or embedded, water is the sum of water used in the production of a good or service. Virtual water trade refers to the embedded water transferred across borders when these goods and services are internationally traded.

One of several major findings in the report is that Canada is the second net virtual water exporter in the world. Canada’s net annual virtual water exports (exports minus imports) amount to just under 60 Bm3 (billion cubic metres), which is enough to fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto 37,500 times.

“Because Canada has more abundant water supplies than some other countries, successive provincial and federal governments have built their economies on the ‘myth of abundance’ and the assumption that these supplies are unlimited,” says Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, one of the authors of the report. “Most of our provincial and federal governments depend to this day on exports that may endanger Canada’s fresh water legacy.”

The virtual water trade is now coming under close scrutiny as some impoverished and water-poor countries are depleting their water supplies in order to maintain export markets, while other, more wealthy countries import most of their “water footprint” (the total volume of water needed to produce the goods and services for their citizens) in order to protect their own limited water resources.

“While Canada is often touted as having 20 per cent of the world’s water supplies, in fact it has 6.5 per cent of the world’s renewable water,” cautions Barlow. “Many parts of Canada are facing some form of water crisis and nowhere is our groundwater properly mapped. Yet the practice of allowing almost unlimited access to our rivers, lakes and aquifers for commodity, energy and mineral production and export continues without public debate or oversight.”

Other major findings in the report include:

  • The increase in virtual water exports to the U.S. is closely related to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA, due to the post–trade agreements’ increase in water-intensive exports to the U.S. and the integration of key parts of the North American agriculture and energy sectors.
  • Agriculture consumes 70 per cent of Canada’s fresh water.

“It is our hope that the findings of this report will spark the debate and research so long overdue in Canada,” adds Barlow.

The report is available here.


For More Information:

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians,             613-795-8685      ,, Twitter: @CouncilofCDNs


Emma Lui

National Water Campaigner

Council of Canadians

Tel: 613-233-4487 Ext. 234

Fax: 613-233-6776


May 26, 2011 Posted by | Human rights, Internationally significant information, WORLD WATER WARRIORS | Leave a comment

UN Health Agency’s Independence Compromised By Links To Companies -Group

UN Health Agency’s Independence Compromised By Links To Companies -Group


ZURICH -(Dow Jones)- A group of global civil society organizations has written to the World Health Organization to raise concerns that the U.N.’s links to companies such as Nestle SA (NESN.VX) and Coca Cola Co. (KO) are leading to conflicts of interest and compromising the international body’s independence.

Corporate Accountability International, which represents 100 organizations from 24 countries, said many companies used their involvement in U.N. programs to “bluewash” their activities and ignore environmental and other guidelines.

The group raised its concerns in a letter it delivered to Margaret Chan, the WHO director general, at the 64th World Health Assembly, which opened in Geneva on Wednesday.

The letter urged Dr. Chan to ask U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to establish safeguards to prevent corporate conflicts of interest.

It also wants the U.N. to withdraw its support for the CEO Water Mandate, an initiative designed to assist companies develop and implement water sustainability policies and practices.

“Agencies such as the WHO must ensure they are truly protecting our health, our food and our water,” said Mark Hays, senior researcher with Corporate Accountability International.

“If U.N. bodies act as if they have an open-door policy for transnational corporations, there is a huge risk that global policies will be distorted to protect their bottom line,” Hays said.

A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization could not be immediately reached for comment.

The group is concerned about the influence companies could have on the WHO as it implements its Millennium Development Goals, which set benchmarks for improving access to drinking water and sanitation, and the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.

It is concerned about a proposal to create a World Health Forum–a multi- stakeholder body that would allow the active participation of global food and agribusiness corporations in drafting policy.

“This new proposal risks undermining the WHO’s independence and effectiveness, and increases the power of the already hugely powerful corporate players that dominate global food nutrition and health policy,” said Patti Rundall, policy director for Baby Milk Action, a member of Corporate Accountability International.

Commercial interests were also interfering with public health on the issue of access to clean, safe water, the group said.

This week corporations involved with the CEO Water Mandate are meeting in Copenhagen to discuss efforts to assess water risks within the corporate sector.

The CEO Water Mandate is a business initiative housed within the UN Global Compact, created in 2007, with members including Coca Cola and Nestle and water companies corporations such as Veolia Environnement SA (VE).

The official mission of the CEO Water Mandate is to deal with what some say is an emerging global water crisis by gathering business leaders together to advance water sustainability.

But the leading corporate endorsers have business models ultimately based upon the premise that water should be a high-priced commodity to be bought and sold, the CAI said.

“From the start, the creation of the CEO Water Mandate was a public relations maneuver used by water corporations,” said Richard Girard with the Polaris Institute. “These corporations seek big profits from access to water at people’s expense.

“As long as corporations with a vested interest in ensuring their profits have insider access to U.N. policy makers, people’s right to water and the lives of millions of families will continue to be at risk.”

The group said an independent review raised concerns about the U.N. ability to make sure its corporate partners are meeting their own voluntary guidelines and aren’t merely using their association with the U.N. as “bluewashing.”

“It is far too easy for global corporations to use the U.N. as cover for business as usual,” said Hays.

“Unless the UN adopts stronger oversight over such partnerships, how will the right hand ever know what the left hand is doing? The stakes are too high to simply trust that corporations know what is good for us,” he said.

-By John Revill, Dow Jones Newswires; +41 43 443 8042 ; john.revill@

Mark Hays
Senior Researcher
Corporate Accountability International

May 18, 2011 Posted by | Fighting water privatisation in NZ, Internationally significant information, WORLD WATER WARRIORS | Leave a comment

The Law Of Mother Earth: Behind Bolivia’s Historic Bill – Written by Nick Buxton

The Law Of Mother Earth: Behind Bolivia’s Historic Bill

… this article showed what the real challenge is, changing the
extraction model to something else, the question is –  what is the else?

Written by Nick Buxton

Posted: 28 April 2011 10:59

A new law expected to pass in Bolivia mandates a fundamental ecological reorientation of the nation’s economy and society.

Indigenous and campesino (small-scale farmer) movements in the Andean nation of Bolivia are on the verge of pushing through one of the most radical environmental bills in global history. The “Mother Earth” law
under debate in Bolivia’s legislature will almost certainly be approved, as it has already been agreed to by the majority governing party, Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS).

The law draws deeply on indigenous concepts that view nature as a sacred home, the Pachamama (Mother Earth) on which we intimately depend. As the law states, “Mother Earth is a living dynamic system made up of the undivided community of all living beings, who are all interconnected, interdependent and complementary, sharing a common destiny.”

The law would give nature legal rights, specifically the rights to life and regeneration, biodiversity, water, clean air, balance, and restoration. Bolivia’s law mandates a fundamental ecological reorientation of Bolivia’s economy and society, requiring all existing and future laws to adapt to the Mother Earth law and accept the ecological limits set by nature. It calls for public policy to be guided by Sumaj Kawsay (an indigenous concept meaning “living well,”
or living in harmony with nature and people), rather than the current focus on producing more goods and stimulating consumption.

In practical terms, the law requires the government to transition from non-renewable to renewable energy; to develop new economic indicators that will assess the ecological impact of all economic activity; to carry out ecological audits of all private and state companies; to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to develop policies of food and renewable energy sovereignty; to research and invest resources in energy efficiency, ecological practices, and organic agriculture; and to require all companies and individuals to be accountable for environmental contamination with a duty to restore damaged environments.

The law will be backed up by a new Ministry of Mother Earth, an inter- Ministry Advisory Council, and an Ombudsman. Undarico Pinto, leader of the 3.5 million-strong campesino movement CSUTCB, which helped draft
the law, believes this legislation represents a turning point in Bolivian law: “Existing laws are not strong enough. This will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional, and local levels.”

However, there is also strong awareness among Bolivia’s social movements-in particular for the Pacto de Unidad (Unity Pact), a coalition of the country’s five largest social movements and a key force behind the law-that the existence of a new law will not be enough to prompt real change in environmental practices.

A major obstacle is the fact that Bolivia is structurally dependent on extractive industries. Since the discovery of silver by the Spanish in the 16th Century, Bolivia’s history has been tied to ruthless exploitation of its people and its environment in order to transfer wealth to the richest countries; poet and historian Eduardo Galeano’s
famous book Open Veins draws largely on the brutal story of how Bolivia’s exploitation fuelled the industrial expansion of Europe. In 2010, 70 percent of Bolivia’s exports were still in the form of minerals, gas, and oil.        This structural dependence will be very difficult to unravel.

Moreover, there is a great deal of opposition from powerful sectors, particularly mining and agro-industrial enterprises, to any ecological laws that would threaten profits. The main organization of soya producers, which claimed that the law “will make the productive sector inviable,” is one of many powerful groups who have already come out against the law. Within the government, there are many ministries and officials that would also like the law to remain nothing more than a visionary but ultimately meaningless statement.

Raul Prada, one of the advisors to Pacto de Unidad, explained that the Mother Earth law was developed by Bolivia’s largest social movements in response to their perceived exclusion from policy-making by the MAS
government, led by indigenous President Evo Morales. They have generally supported MAS since its resounding election victory in 2005, but were frustrated by what they saw as a lack of progress. Rather than merely expressing their concern, these movements-comprised mainly of indigenous and farming communities-are pro-actively developing a series of new laws. Their first priority was the passage of the Mother Earth Law, based on a commitment made at the historic global Peoples Conference on Climate Change held in Bolivia in April 2010.     To some surprise, the diverse movements soon developed a consensual agreement that was supported by MAS legislators.

Raul Prada notes that, even with significant pressure from social movements, transitioning to an economy based on the concept Vivir Bien will not be easy. “It is going to be difficult to transit from an extractive economy. We clearly can’t close mines straight away, but we can develop a model where this economy has less and less weight. It
will need policies developed in participation with movements, particularly in areas such as food sovereignty. It will need redirection of investment and policies towards different ecological models of development. It will need the cooperation of the international community to develop regional economies that complement each other.”

Ultimately, though, this is a challenge far bigger than Bolivia, says Prada: “Our ecological and social crisis is not just a problem for Bolivia or Ecuador; it is a problem for all of us. We need to pull together peoples, researchers, and communities to develop real concrete alternatives so that the dominant systems of exploitation don’t just continue by default. This is not an easy task, but I believe with international solidarity, we can and must succeed.”

Nick Buxton wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. He spent four years in Bolivia learning from movements fighting for social and environmental justice.

April 30, 2011 Posted by | Internationally significant information, WORLD WATER WARRIORS | Leave a comment

WORLD WATER WARRIORS: Veolia Environnement’s Profits Shrink as Communities Across the Globe Remunicipalize Water Contracts and Company Fails to Secure Long-Term Leases

Veolia Environnement’s Profits Shrink as Communities Across the Globe Remunicipalize Water Contracts and Company Fails to Secure Long-Term Leases

Water Justice Advocates Speak Out on Company’s Long Record of Service Failures 

Washington, D.C.—Despite revenues of $46.5 billion in 2010, Veolia Environnement, the world’s largest water and sewer service provider, suffered an 11 percent drop in its water division’s adjusted operating income from the previous year, finds analysis released today by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. Veolia Environnement: A Profile of the World’s Largest Water Service Corporation shows how public backlash against Veolia’s attempts to dominate the water services market has undermined the company’s revenues.

Providing drinking water service to 95 million customers and wastewater service to 68 million in 66 countries, Veolia has struggled over recent years to maintain its profit levels and realize its privatization vision. From 2005 to 2009, the company’s new contracts with public authorities shrank in duration and scope—the major new deals it signed in 2009 were 97 percent less valuable than those it signed in 2005.

The company has directed over half of its growth activities over the next three years to expand its presence in Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, customers across the globe suffer water shortages, skyrocketing rates and irregular billing practices under Veolia Environnement’s service. Some communities, such as Paris, France have ended their relationships with Veolia early, realizing the potential cost savings under public operation.

“In many ways, Paris’s move to reassume public control of its water system from Veolia can be seen as a harbinger of the company’s future problems,” said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. “A year after taking back its water system, the city is projecting $50 million in annual savings. You know things are bad for Veolia when even its hometown has rejected its services.”

These and other issues were highlighted today at a press conference convened by consumer and water justice advocates. Speakers at the event included Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch; Danielle Mitterand, president of the Fondation France Libertés; Anne Le Strat, president of the Eaux de Paris and AquaPublicaEuropea; Jean Luc Touly, regional councilor, member of the National Water Committee, trade unionist of Veolia IDF; and William Bourdon, Président de SHERPA.

“Water management has to separate itself from the commercial sphere. It is a common good and cannot become the oil of the 21st century,” said Jean Luc Touly. “Water as a common good is a source of peace, not profit.”

Veolia Environnement: A Profile of the World’s Largest Water Service Corporation is available here:

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.


Kate Fried
Senior Communications Manager
Food & Water Watch
1616 P Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 683-4905
(202) 683-2906 – Fax

April 21, 2011 Posted by | WORLD WATER WARRIORS | Leave a comment