United Nations, New York — Council of Canadians chair Maude Barlow will make her first address to the United Nations General Assembly on the morning of April 22 to support the Bolivian call for an annual “International Mother Earth Day” celebration. Her speech will be a call to action to implement the human right to water. According to Barlow, this means the world will have to abandon the “hard path” of large-scale technology – dams, diversion and desalination – in favour of the “soft path” of conservation, rainwater and storm water harvesting, recycling, alternative energy use, municipal infrastructure investment and local, sustainable food production.
Barlow’s speech comes at a time when the quest for a formal right to water instrument is gathering strength both at the UN and within countries. She is hopeful that it is only a matter of time before the “blue covenant” she will call for in her speech will be a reality.
“The problem is that we humans have seen the Earth and its water resources as something that exists for our benefit and economic advancement rather than as a living ecological system that needs to be safeguarded if it is to survive,” Barlow will say in her remarks. “The human water footprint surpasses all others and endangers life on Earth itself.”
Barlow, who was appointed last year as Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the UN General Assembly, will also participate in an afternoon program with Bolivian President Evo Morales, Brazilian writer-theologian Leonardo Boff, and UN President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. Barlow will also be briefing more than 35 countries and meeting with key UN agencies on this visit as part of her ongoing commitment to the human right to water.
“Water must be seen as a commons that belongs to the earth and all species alike. It must be declared a public trust that belongs to the people, the ecosystem and the future and preserved for all time and practice in law. Clean water must be delivered as a public service, not a profitable commodity,” Barlow is to say. “We need to assert once and for all that access to clean, affordable water is a fundamental human right that must be codified in nation-state law and as a full covenant at the United Nations.”
“Watersheds must be protected from plunder and we must revitalize wounded water systems with widespread watershed restoration programs. Simply put, we must leave enough water in aquifers, rivers and lakes for their ecological health. This must be the priority: the precautionary principle of ecosystem protection must take precedence over commercial demands on these waters,” Barlow will urge.