It is becoming clearer from multiple sources that Canada was the country that pushed to have language that explicitly affirmed the United Nations recognized right to water and sanitation removed from the draft Ministerial Declaration of the World Water Forum now being held in Marseille, France.

-In a February 28 media statement, Amnesty International and WASH-United expressed their deep concern that the draft Ministerial Declaration of the 6th World Water Forum fails to commit States to implement the human rights to water and sanitation. They highlight, “The draft Declaration commits signatories only to implement ‘human rights obligations relating to access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation’. This formulation was insisted upon by a small number of States, such as Canada, that have persistently opposed recognition of the rights to water and sanitation at the international level over the last decade.”

-Late last week, the Kuwait News Agency reported, “In the final draft Ministerial Declaration of the 6th World Water Forum, governments - under a strong push by a very small minority of countries - have for the time being failed to explicitly affirm that the right to water and sanitation should be the basis for any solutions aimed at bringing sanitation and water for those still deprived of these essential services.”

-The Council of Canadians was inside the World Water Forum yesterday for its opening ceremonies and has spoken with a number of people that have named Canada as the prime instigator of the removal of the explicit recognition of the right to water and sanitation in the Ministerial Declaration.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has commented, “Here we have an example of a country like Canada that is using the World Water Forum, a non-democratic forum run by multinational water corporations, to try and negate what has been achieved at the United Nations General Assembly.”

The Kuwait News Agency article highlighted, “The United Nations Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque warned that the right to safe drinking water and sanitation will be sidelined at the 6th World Water Forum… ‘It comes as an unwelcome surprise that the draft ministerial declaration…still does not recognize the human right to water and sanitation that has been explicitly recognized at the UN,’ said the expert charged by the Human Rights Council with promoting, monitoring and reporting on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.”

The story of Canada’s role to negate the right to water and sanitation does not appear to have been picked up by either the Canadian media nor the world’s media.

The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have been working together to bring media attention to this outrage. In our joint media release dated March 2, we state, “The Canadian government is trying to short-circuit vital progress on the human right to water and sanitation at an upcoming international meeting, continuing its long-standing opposition to these fundamental rights. CUPE and the Council of Canadians have learned that Canadian government representatives blocked important language committing countries to concretely deliver on the human right to water and sanitation services in the draft Ministerial Declaration of the 6th World Water Forum. According to a statement from Amnesty International and WASH United, Canada and a few other countries successfully pushed to remove language directly affirming the human right to water and sanitation in a World Water Forum preparatory meeting.”

This week in Marseille, it is becoming clearer that Canada was not just one of the countries that pushed to have the right to water and sanitaiton language blocked, but that it was the country that challenged these rights and was then backed up by a small number of other countries.

We will continue to work to get this story told more broadly.

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