Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the United Nations General Assembly. She also chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch and is a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. Maude is the recipient of seven honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the “Alternative Nobel”), and the 2008 Canadian Environment Award. She is also the best selling author or co-author of 16 books, including the recently released Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water.
Question: What is the Blue Planet Project?
Maude Barlow: Blue Planet Project is a project of my organization in Canada called The Council of Canadians, and we are fighting for the right to water around the world. We work very closely with Food and Water Watch here in the United States, and many organizations around the world, building this global water justice movement.
We believe that if you ask the question, who owns water, we say the answer is nobody owns water. It belongs to the earth. It belongs to all species. It belongs to future generations. It is a fundamental human right and it is public trust.
We feel very strongly that we in the global north, in our movements, have to be supportive and act in solidarity with the global south where they don’t have the resources. Sometimes we are working with groups who have one computer held together by duct tape sort of thing. That is a terrible model and that is not what we are talking about. But rather, sharing resources, sharing information, sometimes getting some funding for the projects that are happening there.
That is what we do at the Blue Planet project.
We also challenge what we call the Lords of Water, and this is the World Water Council, which is an international organization that is made up of members from the United Nations and the World Bank and the big water companies and the water services development agencies of northern countries like Canada and the US. They come together in this big world water forum every three years and they announce that everybody agrees that a private future for water has been agreed to and we say, "Not so fast. The people of the world haven’t quite agreed to this."
We go to these forums and we challenge them. We get up to the mikes and we challenge them from the floor and we challenge them in the media and we bring our own people and we tell the stories of what privatization and lack of government support for water has done in communities around the world. We tell that truth, if you will, to their power and they are not so fond of us, but that is ok, because you got to take your lumps.
So at the same time that we are working in communities for local support and control of water, we are challenging the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations, when we need to, although we also work with the United Nations because it is kind of schizophrenic around this issue, so there is good parts of it as well.
We just challenge these power brokers who are making decisions around the future of water for people all over the world without their permission. So, we kind of try to act as a broker in a way between those powerful forces and some of the truly poorest communities on earth. I have worked in and with The Wretched of the Earth as Frantz Fanon called them. It is just saying over and over and over again, nobody should have to live like that. Nobody should have to die like that.
Recorded On: March 17, 2008