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by Blair Redlin (CUPE research staff)

CUPE delegates discussed water as a human right and options for reclaiming public water as an international civil society forum kicked off in Mexico City Friday.

The three-day meeting entitled “International Forum in Defense of Water” was created as an alternative to the corporate World Water Forum. The International Forum is organised by C.O.M.D.A., the Mexican coalition of organisations defending water rights. Some have referred to it as “the real world water forum”.

The theme of the International Forum is: No to water as a commodity. No to privatization of water.

Eminent panellists and speakers at the opening session included Danielle Miterrand from France, Victor Manuel Toledo from Bolivia, Lucha Xoxocotla from Mexico, and Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians.

In discussing water as a human right, participants heard details on the distinctions in international law between water as a human “right” versus what the World Bank refers to as the “need” for water. A basic human right cannot be sold or traded, so the legal distinction is important in protecting water for all.

Canadian participants were dismayed when it was pointed out that the Government of Canada was the only one among 53 members of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to vote against measures that would enshrine the right to water in international convenants. Other countries with concerns simply abstained.

Our government’s damaging position on this matter will be raised at a meeting with Canada´s official delegation to the World Water Forum on Saturday evening.

CUPE delegates also participated in a workshop on reclaiming public water sponsored by the Reclaiming Public Water Network. The Network recently published an excellent book entitled “Reclaiming Public Water” with useful case studies from around the world.

If you wish to purchase copies of the book, visit Corporate Europe Observatory or the Transnational Institute.

Visit CUPE’s photo gallery for the latest images from Mexico.