Maude Barlow

Awarded 2005


For their exemplary and longstanding worldwide work for trade justice and the recognition of the fundamental human right to water.

Maude Barlow is a high-profile leader in the women’s movement in Canada, serving as the Director of Equal Opportunity for the City of Ottawa and leading a national coalition against violence against women. She later became Pierre Trudeau’s advisor on women’s issues when he was Prime Minister in 1983-84.

In 1985, she founded the Council of Canadians, Canada’s most prominent citizens’ advocacy organisation, which works to safeguard Canada’s universal social security system and its water and energy heritage, where she served as the elected chairperson from 1988. The Council of Canadians has also been a leading voice in the international search for a more just and sustainable trade system and fights for the universal right to water through its Blue Planet Project. Today, she is the Honorary Chairperson.

Maude Barlow received the Award jointly with Tony Clarke. They have been long-term activists on trade and justice issues with a special focus on water, whose campaigning lives have intertwined for many years.

Access to water is a human right. It’s a matter of justice, not charity.

Maude Barlow, 2005 Laureate

Barlow is the author and co-author of dozens of reports as well as 18 books on all aspects of globalisation and the theft of the "global commons", including her latest, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and The PlanetForever and Boiling Point, Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse and Canada's Water Crisis.

Furthermore, Maude Barlow chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Global Alliance for the Right of Nature, and is a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council.

She is the recipient of fourteen honorary doctorates and many awards, including the 2005 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship, the 2008 Canadian Environmental Award, the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award and the 2011 EarthCare Award, the highest international honour of the Sierra Club.

In 2008/2009, Maude Barlow served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly. She was the leader in an international campaign for a United Nations Convention on the Right to Water. On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of recognising water and sanitation as human rights. The resolution – put forward by Bolivia and co-sponsored by 35 states – passed with 122 states voting in favour and 41 abstaining.

Together, Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke (who received the Award together with Barlow) played a crucial role in building opposition to and defeating the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), and in campaigning against the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) free-trade agenda, especially at Seattle (1999) and Cancun (2003). With their working lives closely connected for many years, Barlow and Clarke are now recognised as two of Canada's most respected citizen leaders and in the global justice movement generally.

Both have been featured speakers at the World Social Forums in Porto Alegre and Mumbai. They have also been important innovators in cross-border organising, shown in their work against the MAI and WTO; in creating democratic models of organising, shown by the Council of Canadians, and in bringing new issues to the forefront of the movement, as with NAFTA, the MAI and water; and in developing credible alternatives, which are discussed in their co-authored book Global Showdown: How the New Activists are Fighting Global Corporate Rule(2001).

They have also worked closely together through the International Forum on Globalisation (IFG) which was set up in 1998. A primary common focus of their work in recent years has been the world's water resources.

In 2002 they published "Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World's Water, " published in 47 countries. They together built up a considerable network of activists in the Global South. An essential part of their work has been to visit and assist communities struggling for water rights, e.g. the village of Plachimada in Kerala fighting against a Coca-Cola plant.

One particular victory for the international water movement was the inclusion by referendum a new article into Uruguay's constitution ensuring that access to piped water and sanitation is a fundamental human right available to everyone. In the creation of water policies, social and ecological considerations should take precedence over economic considerations.

Another huge victory (July 2010) was when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution recognising the human right to water and sanitation as "essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life." Two months later, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a second resolution, adding that the human right to water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to life and human dignity.

In 2009, the Council of Canadians initiated, together with the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Blue Planet Project, the Blue Communities Project. The project encourages municipalities and indigenous communities to recognise that water and sanitation is a fundamental human right.

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