Amnesty International will mark World Water Day, Sunday, March 22, with an afternoon of films and panel discussions focused on the right to water. The Right to Water Film Festival runs from noon to 5:30 pm and takes place at Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, room 1900. The event is co-presented by The Water Team and Oxfam Canada, and admission is by donation.
Although the right to water is not explicitly described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has stated that the right to water is a prerequisite for realizing all other human rights and indispensable for leading a life in dignity, and several UN resolutions and statements have re-iterated the human right to water.
However, to settle the question once and for all, Maude Barlow, senior advisor on water to the president of the United Nations, is calling for the development of a UN covenant on the right to water -- a binding law to codify that states have the obligation to deliver sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water to their citizens as a public service.
In response, local organizers have gathered together a number of films and speakers to describe the challenges and ways forward to establish water as a human right.
The afternoon begins with Water Discources, which features ten short stories drawn from the 2006 World Water Forum and the grassroots protests that took place at the time, including one organized by women from an aboriginal community near Mexico City who were protesting the re-routing of their local water supply to serve the city.
This film will be immediately followed by Dead in the Water, a CBC/National Film Board co-production that examines the role of powerful companies that are working to privatize water services in thousands of cities around the world.
These films will be followed by a panel that will discuss the right to water and the different ways it is being addressed locally and globally.
After a short break, two films will be screened that focus on corporate irresponsibility with regard to community water supplies and food sources. Texas Gold introduces viewers to Diane Wilson’s brave struggle to hold petro-chemical companies accountable for releasing a lethal cocktail of toxins into the rivers flowing into the Gulf Coast of Texas, affecting the health of workers and communities along the coast, and destroying the fisheries.
A similar example of corporate destruction of the environment and violation of human rights is described in Justicia Now. This film centers on the health of the Northern Ecuadorian region of the Amazon rainforest and the people who have launched a class-action lawsuit that is attempting to hold ChevronTexaco responsible for high levels of cancer, sickness, and death in the area.
The second panel of the day will explore this question further, with a particular emphasis on Canadian oil, gas, and mining companies operating overseas. Panelists will include members of the local Amnesty International committee on business and human rights, and others.
The event will close with an opportunity for the audience to take action on the right to water, through signing petitions and supporting various campaigns.