For their exemplary and longstanding worldwide work for trade justice and the recognition of the fundamental human right to water.
Tony Clarke is a Canadian activist working on trade and justice issues, with a special focus on access to water. He received the 2005 Right Livelihood Award jointly with Maude Barlow, with whom he has often campaigned together.
With their working lives closely connected for many years, Barlow and Clarke are now recognised as two of the most respected citizen leaders in Canada and in the global justice movement generally. They have played a key role in campaigning against the World Trade Organisation’s free-trade agenda.
In 1997, Clarke founded the Polaris Institute (PI, with Barlow on the Board) “for the purpose of unmasking the corporate power that lies behind government.” Concentrating on water, energy and trade policy issues, PI works on both domestic and international fronts. PI’s activities have included a project on “city-countryside” water struggles in the Global South, a campaign to stop Canada’s participation in the US defence initiative known as the Star Wars programme and numerous other initiatives in municipalities and schools against bottled water.
Working on social action
After his studies at the University of Chicago and inspired by Paulo Freire's work, Tony Clarke returned to Canada to work on the social justice programmes of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). He eventually became head of the social action department and worked on a whole range of national and international social justice issues. In 1987 he chaired (first with fellow 2005 Right Livelihood Laureate Maude Barlow, later by himself), the Action Canada Network (ACN), the largest coalition of civil society organisations and labour unions ever assembled in Canada to mobilise opposition to the free trade agenda. Clarke was also a member of CoC's national board from 1997-2003 and vice-chair most of that time.
In 1993, Clarke was dismissed from his position in the CCCB - due mainly to his high profile organizing against NAFTA. Subsequently, he wrote a book documenting this experience titled Behind the Mitre, the Moral Leadership Crisis in the Catholic Church (1995).
He documented the unaccountable power and influence of big business in another book, Silent Coup: Confronting the Big Business Takeover of Canada (1997).
The Polaris Institute
In 1997, he founded the Polaris Institute (PI, with Barlow on the Board) "for the purpose of unmasking the corporate power that lies behind government." Concentrating on water, energy and trade policy issues and struggles, PI works on both domestic and international fronts. PI's activities have included a project on "city-countryside" water struggles in the Global South, a campaign challenging the CEO Water Mandate at the UN, an ongoing action program on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the GATS, a campaign to stop Canada's participation in the US Star Wars program, plus numerous campaigns in municipalities and schools against bottled water.
Today, a significant portion of PI's work is focused on building resistance to the extraction of oil from Canadian tar sands, which has been labelled "the most environmentally destructive industrial project on the planet."
Being the author or co-author of almost a dozen books, Clarke's most recent publication is Tar Sands Showdown: Canada and the New Politics of Oil in an Age of Climate Change (2008). He has also served on the board of directors for organizations such as the International Forum on Globalization, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the Oakland Institute.
Campaigns against the WTO
Together, Clarke and Barlow have played a key role in building opposition to and defeating the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), and in campaigning against the WTO's free-trade agenda, especially in Seattle (1999) and Cancun (2003). With their working lives closely connected for many years, Barlow and Clarke are now recognized as two of the most respected citizen leaders in Canada 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, which has been shown in their work against the MAI and WTO; in creating democratic models of organising 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 joint 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 major 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, which was published in 47 countries in 2009.
A recent book by Clarke, Inside the Bottle: Exposing the Bottled Water Industry (2007) highlights concerns about the bottled water industry and its impact on the water resources of the poor.
They have built a considerable network of activists in the Global South. An important part of their work has been visiting and assisting 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 into the constitution of Uruguay a new article ensuring not only that access to piped water and sanitation was a fundamental human right available to everyone, but also that in the creation of water policies social and ecological considerations must take precedence over economic considerations.