UNITED NATIONS – April 22 – Food & Water Watch Board Chair Maude Barlow addressed the United Nations General Assembly today to support the Bolivian call for an annual “International Mother Earth Day” celebration. Her speech was a call to action to implement the human right to water and abandon the “hard path” of large-scale technology – dams, diversion and desalination – in favor 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 United Nations and within countries. She is hopeful that it is only a matter of time before the “blue covenant” she called 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 said. “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 United Nations General Assembly, also participated in an afternoon program with Bolivian President Evo Morales, Brazilian writer-theologian Leonardo Boff, and United Nations President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. Barlow also briefed more than 35 countries and met with key United Nations 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,” Barlow said. “Clean water must be delivered as a public service, not a profitable commodity. 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,” Barlow urged.
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.”Read Ms. Barlow’s remarks to the UNGA.