NEWS 2005

 

Canada's 'alternative Nobel' winners call for water rights, global justice

 

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (CP) - Two Canadian recipients of this year's Right Livelihood Awards, also known as the "alternative Nobels," on Tuesday said privatization of fresh water resources represents a threat to human rights.

"The growing fresh water crisis is perhaps the most urgent environmental and human rights issue of our times and, for this reason, water must be preserved as a common heritage," Maude Barlow, a Canadian activist for fair trade and human rights, told reporters in Stockholm.

Barlow and Tony Clarke, another Canadian activist, shared the award worth about $290,000 Cdn with activists from Malaysia and a group representing the Kalahari Bushmen.

Barlow heads the Council of Canadians, a public advocacy group. Clarke has campaigned for an alternate trade model that takes power away from big corporations. Their recent work has focused on finding trade models that prevent the privatization of water resources.

The award was announced in September. Winners were cited for promoting justice, fair trade and cultural renewal. Mexican artist Francisco Toledo won an honorary award.

The awards were founded in 1980 by Jakob von Uexkull, who sold his valuable stamp collection to recognize work that he believed was ignored by the prestigious Nobel Prizes.

Barlow and Clarke were cited for "their exemplary and long-standing worldwide work for trade justice and the recognition of the fundamental human right to water."

Roy Sesana, the leader of the organization First People of the Kalahari, was honoured for his fight against authorities wanting to evict the Bushmen in Botswana from their ancestral lands.

Irene Fernandez, a Malaysian opposition leader and rights activist, was honoured for her work to stop violence against women and the abuse of migrant workers.

"The thread of globalization connects peoples all over the world. But it is the impact of this globalization that tends to divide and marginalize various communities," she said Wednesday.

Toledo was cited for "devoting himself and his art" to protect the cultural heritage and environment of his native Oaxaca region of Mexico. He did not travel to Stockholm, but was represented by his daughter Natalia Toledo.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony at the Swedish parliament on Dec. 9, one day before the Nobel Prizes are handed out.