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The United Nations wants Maude Barlow’s advice on water, which is good news for water justice movements in Canada and around the world.

Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a long-time CUPE ally in fighting water privatization. She’s also now the UN’s first senior advisor on water. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, the president of the UN’s current session, recently appointed her to the post.

Brockmann was clear where he stood in his first major speech to the UN General Assembly, saying “Water is not a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market…Those who seek to derive economic advantage, even from the worst of human tragedies, are pursuing the privatization of water, thereby denying peoples a human right as basic as the air we breathe.”

Reversing Canada’s opposition to the right to water is among Barlow’s goals in her new role. “This is a wonderful opportunity to advance a more democratic and transparent method of policy-making around water at the global level than now exists. Water is a commons, a public trust, and a human right,” she said.

Barlow was a keynote speaker at CUPE New Brunswick’s recent anti-P3 summit in Saint John. Her speech drew links between a local water privatization battle and the global movement for the human right to public water. She outlined a coming global water crisis fuelled by shortages and contamination – and called for public solutions, not privatization.

Along with CUPE, Barlow and the Council of Canadians played a key role in the founding of Water Watch. The national coalition celebrates its 10th birthday next year. Water Watch has sparked numerous community coalitions that have beaten back privatization across Canada.