Slovenia adds water to constitution as fundamental right for all

by Agence France-Presse in Ljubljana

Slovenia has amended its constitution to make access to drinkable water a fundamental right for all citizens and stop it being commercialised.

With 64 votes in favour and none against, the 90-seat parliament added an article to the EU country’s constitution saying “everyone has the right to drinkable water”.

The centre-right opposition Slovenian Democratic party (SDS) abstained from the vote saying the amendment was not necessary and only aimed at increasing public support.

Slovenia is a mountainous, water-rich country with more than half its territory covered by forest.

“Water resources represent a public good that is managed by the state. Water resources are primary and durably used to supply citizens with potable water and households with water and, in this sense, are not a market commodity,” the article reads.

The centre-left prime minister, Miro Cerar, had urged lawmakers to pass the bill saying the country of two million people should “protect water – the 21st century’s liquid gold – at the highest legal level”.

“Slovenian water has very good quality and, because of its value, in the future it will certainly be the target of foreign countries and international corporations’ appetites.

“As it will gradually become a more valuable commodity in the future, pressure over it will increase and we must not give in,” Cerar said.

Slovenia is the first European Union country to include the right to water in its constitution, although according to Rampedre (the online Permanent World Report on the Right to Water) 15 other countries across the world had already done so.

Earlier this year Slovenia also declared the world’s first green destination country by the Netherlands-based organisation Green Destinations, while its capital, Ljubljana, was made the 2016 European Green Capital.

Amnesty International said Slovenia must ensure the new law would be also applied to the 10,000-12,000 Roma people living in the country.

“Many Roma are … denied even minimum levels of access to water and sanitation,” Amnesty said in a statement.

The European Union agreed in 2014 to exclude water supply and water resources management from the rules governing the European internal market, following the first successful European Citizens’ Initiative that managed to raise more than one million signatures.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/18/slovenia-adds-water-to-constitution-as-fundamental-right-for-all?CMP=share_btn_tw

 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren OpEd on Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement & the TPP

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: A trade deal’s corporate giveaway

February 27, 2015

Link to Original Article.

The United States is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries. Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?

One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.

ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.

If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?

If the tilt toward giant corporations wasn’t clear enough, consider who would get to use this special court: only international investors, which are, by and large, big corporations.

Why create these rigged, pseudo-courts at all? What’s so wrong with the U.S. judicial system? Nothing, actually. But after World War II, some investors worried about plunking down their money in developing countries, where the legal systems were not as dependable. They were concerned that a corporation might build a plant one day only to watch a dictator confiscate it the next. To encourage foreign investment in countries with weak legal systems, the United States and other nations began to include ISDS in trade agreements.

Those justifications don’t make sense anymore, if they ever did. Countries in the TPP are hardly emerging economies with weak legal systems. Australia and Japan have well-developed, well-respected legal systems, and multinational corporations navigate those systems every day, but ISDS would pre-empt their courts too. And to the extent there are countries that are riskier politically, market competition can solve the problem. Countries that respect property rights and the rule of law — such as the United States — should be more competitive, and if a company wants to invest in a country with a weak legal system, then it should buy political-risk insurance.

The use of ISDS is on the rise around the globe. From 1959 to 2002, there were fewer than 100 ISDS claims worldwide. But in 2012 alone, there were 58 cases. Recent cases include a French company that sued Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage, a Swedish company that sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and a Dutch company that sued the Czech Republic because the Czechs didn’t bail out a bank that the company partially owned. U.S. corporations have also gotten in on the action: Philip Morris is trying to use ISDS to stop Uruguay from implementing new tobacco regulations intended to cut smoking rates.

ISDS advocates point out that, so far, this process hasn’t harmed the United States. And our negotiators, who refuse to share the text of the TPP publicly, assure us that it will include a bigger, better version of ISDS that will protect our ability to regulate in the public interest. But with the number of ISDS cases exploding and more and more multinational corporations headquartered abroad, it is only a matter of time before such a challenge does serious damage here. Replacing the U.S. legal system with a complex and unnecessary alternative — on the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong — seems like a really bad idea.

This isn’t a partisan issue. Conservatives who believe in U.S. sovereignty should be outraged that ISDS would shift power from American courts, whose authority is derived from our Constitution, to unaccountable international tribunals. Libertarians should be offended that ISDS effectively would offer a free taxpayer subsidy to countries with weak legal systems. And progressives should oppose ISDS because it would allow big multinationals to weaken labor and environmental rules.

Giving foreign corporations special rights to challenge our laws outside of our legal system would be a bad deal. If a final TPP agreement includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the only winners will be multinational corporations.

Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts in the Senate. This column first appeared in The Washington Post.

 

EPA Decision: Maine Water Quality Standards Inadequate for Tribal Waters

Link to Original Article and Radio Program

  FEB 5, 2015 | Maine Public Broadcasting Network

Download audio file: 

      1. 02052015spsmix.mp3

AUGUSTA, Maine – In a decision that is being welcomed as “historic” by Maine Indian tribes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked the state of Maine to revise some water quality standards for tribal waters.

The decision comes during ongoing litigation brought by the state against the EPA. Maine’s chief of environmental protection says it could have far-reaching consequences for discharge license holders.

In a communique to Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patty Aho this week, EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding delivered the news:  that federal regulators disapprove of some state water quality standards established by Maine more than a decade ago.

Aho says she was stunned by the announcement that the standards could not be used on tribal waters because they’re not protective enough of human health, and of the tribes’ sustenance fishing practices.

“It is, in some cases, work that we thought had been approved and had been in place for many, many years,” Aho says. “So it is just simply, as I stated, breathtaking in the scope and the sweep.”

Breathtaking in its scope, Aho says, because of its wide implications for sewer districts, paper companies and other discharge licensees.  She says the EPA has not defined what it means by waters in Indian territory.  Nor, she says, has the agency indicated how it wants the state to revise the standards and on what scientific  basis.

“It’s asking us to redo something, but not telling us to what standards,” she says. “They’re not telling us which waters in the state, or what parts of those waters, we are to redo these standards.”

“We’re talking only about the waters within tribal reservations and trust lands,” says Ken Moraff. “We’re not talking about the waters upstream or downstream, although there could possibly be an effect on upstream dischargers.”

Moraff is the director of the Office of Ecosystem Protection for EPA. He says existing permit holders will not be affected by the decision. But when new water quality standards are adopted in the future, any new or re-issued permits would have to meet the new standards, which have yet to be established.

Moraff says the decision is significant from the EPA’s point of view, too. That’s because this is the first time the EPA has determined that state standards are inadequate for uses in tribal waters, including sustenance fishing.

Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Indian Nation couldn’t be happier.

“For the first time ever, what the EPA has said is that tribal subsistence and sustenance-based rights are a determinant factor under the Clean Water Act,” Francis says. “So you have to acknowledge those differences while setting your standards within Indian territory. You have to respect those practices. You have to respect the human health issues and the cultural identity of the tribes within those areas where the standards are being set.”

As part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the state against the EPA over jurisdiction to set water quality standards, the EPA has concluded that the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which extinguished certain tribal rights, allows the state authority to set water quality standards in tribal waters.

But Matt Manahan, an attorney representing discharge license holders along the Penobscot River, says what the EPA is also doing is setting up a two-tiered system for the tribe.

“What this is saying is, notwithstanding the fact that the Settlement Act treats them just like any other citizens of the state, we’re going to carve them out and say because they would like to have standards that are more stringent than the standards that apply to everyone else in the state, even though the science doesn’t support that, we’re going to basically carve that out and give them special treatment for purposes of water quality standards,” Manahan says.

The EPA has given the state 90 days to establish new standards for tribal waters. Commissioner Aho says she’s working with the Attorney General’s Office to determine a response.

Companies proclaim water the next oil in a rush to turn resources into profit

Nestle leads the way as…

Companies proclaim water the next oil in a rush to turn resources into profit

Mammoth companies are trying to collect water that all life needs and charge for it as they would for other natural resources

….This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity.

At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.

In his view, citizens don’t have an automatic right to more than the water they require for mere “survival”, unless they can afford to pay for it.

Link to full article

 

Governor LePage Signs Agreement with New Brunswick Premier

July 21, 2014

Link to Original Press Release

For Immediate Release: Monday, July 21, 2014
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage signed a memorandum of agreement today with Premier David Alward of New Brunswick to encourage economic development and support job creation between Maine and the Canadian Province.

The agreement, also referred to as a Memorandum of Understanding, is designed to strengthen relations between the two regions by working together to create jobs and cooperate areas of trade development, tourism, transportation, energy, culture and emergency preparedness.

“We are pleased to continue our strong working relationship with New Brunswick,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “We have a history of cooperating with each other, and this agreement further strengthens our commitment to regional efforts that will create economic development, improve government efficiencies and promote tourism and commerce between our state and the province.”

Governor LePage has met with New Brunswick Premier David Alward several times since 2011 to discuss economic opportunities between Maine and the Canadian Province. This is the first time such an agreement has been signed with New Brunswick. A New Brunswick-Maine Joint Committee will be responsible for implementing the agreement.

“Our government is proud to continue working with the State of Maine. This agreement will improve the quality of life in the entire region”, stated Premier Alward. “This complements several other initiatives already underway in our province. Whether it’s through increasing tourism, improving emergency management services, or strengthening the regions infrastructure, our joint efforts are vital to social and economic growth”, added Alward.

The agreement encourages Maine and New Brunswick to coordinate with their business communities to set up partnerships and implement economic development initiatives. The agreement also encourages an exchange of cross-border solutions for clean energy, such as hydropower and bioenergy, which could lower home heating costs for the people of Maine.

In April 2013, Governor LePage signed a similar agreement with Premier of Quebec Pauline Marois.

 

Conflict over water rights in Ecuador

Indigenous people protest over water rights, as Ecuador’s government continues to ignore their demands.

Link to Original Article

by Manuela Picq | July 16, 2014

Ecuador’s indigenous movement organised a 12-day march for water rights [Getty Images]

If you are going to pass unpopular legislation, you may as well do it while everyone is watching the World Cup. When Ecuadorians were focused on soccer, the government fast-tracked a new water law, endorsing the privatisation of water and permitting extractive activities in sources of freshwater. The controversial law was approved without a fuss in four days by a governing party that controls about two-thirds of legislative seats.

Social sectors reacted with a cross-country walk of protest. Strong resistance came from the indigenous movement, which has demanded equal access to water for nearly two decades. Many other sectors joined in disapproval of a government increasingly perceived as anti-democratic. About 20 organisations allied in a Front of Resistance and set off to walk from the Amazon to Quito. It was the second large mobilisation to defend water rights against extractive industries. This time, however, it was a broader coalition calling for civil disobedience against a state that regularly ignores constitutional rights.

Walking for water

The Walk for Water, Life and People’s Freedom started on June 21 in the Amazon province of Zamora Chinchipe, where Ecuador’s first mega-mining project is planned to open in the hills of Condor Mirador. About 100 participants walked, and at times, drove some 960km in a 12-day journey to the capital in the highlands. They were teenagers and elderly women, lawyers and peasants, over a third of them Amazonian. Many more people joined irregularly for shorter distances. The walk counted over 1,000 people when it reached Cuenca’s cathedral, where the bishop held a mass for water. In the rural province of Canar, thousands of indigenous people took to the roads to support demands for water rights.

Activists carried a 25-metre long blue flag with the words “we are water”. They chanted that water should be defended, not sold out to corporations, with slogans such as “go away Chinese mining” and “down with the socialism of the 21st century”. The political protest counted with the tunes of singer Rosa Lanchimba, who revamped traditional songs into water demands, and the Amazon rap composer Jota Al Cuadrado, who used his mic to reveal an artificial socialism that encourages extractivism.

The last-minute mobilisation was a collective effort that thrived on solidarity. Bystanders offered food supplies such as potatoes, oranges, and even a live cock, which became a mascot. Villagers welcomed participants with pampamesas, the Andean form of sharing food on a long stretch of fabric in open fields, opened their communal houses and provided shelter. Twice, pastoral organisations hosted the march. Zamora Council members secured a portable kitchen, men rolled up their sleeves to cook with women, and learned to peel potatoes and sang love songs at the same time.
Ecuadorean villagers fight against rainforest pollution

The most difficult part of the journey was not the lack of running water or the cold nights on concrete floors. It was the constant police surveillance.

Police harassment set the tone from the start. Since the start, police blockades tried to stop or slow down the walk. Police forces permanently followed and photographed participants as means of intimidation.

Traffic officers demanded special authorisation or commercial permits from participants. Tensions rose and ebbed. Special police forces threatened to disperse the crowd with tear gas one day, then squeezed in with protesters in a small store to watch their soccer team play its last World Cup game the following day. At times, cordial police officers blocked intersections to facilitate the passing of the caravan, making it feel like a presidential escort. Other times, police officers who had previously arrested water activists would stop the caravan for an hour without justification.

Demands raised

The mobilisation was not overwhelming in numbers, but the breadth of its coalition merits political attention. It included powerful indigenous organisations such as the Confederation of Peoples of Kichwa Nationality (ECUARUNARI), the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), and their political branch Pachakutik. Salvador Quishpe, Zamora’s governor, was one of the walk’s most illustrious participants.

The protest demanded not only water rights but pushed further. Communal organisations asked for the payment of the agrarian debt, peasant welfare and the re-establishment of bilingual education. The National Federation of Secondary Students denounced entry requirements that impeded hundreds of thousands of students from attending university.

There were labour unions and teachers’ organisations concerned with laws forbidding workers to unionise – one of the five criteria for decent work according to the International Labour Organization. Medical doctors demanded the decriminalisation of malpractice; the families of political prisoners like Clever Jimenez called for the respect of decisions issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

All sections denounced the criminalisation of social protests. All unanimously rejected the proposed law on “indefinite re-election” that would keep the president in office for a long, indefinite period.

Water inequalities

Today’s water law is an offspring of the 2008 constitution. It has been heavily contested by indigenous sectors seeking to protect traditional systems of water management against further privatisation for the agribusiness and mining industries. Part of the problem is the large inequality in access to water. Indigenous leader Perez Guartambel has claimed that Ecuador’s wealthiest one percent controls 64 percent of freshwater.
Inside Story Americas – Holding Chevron accountable

Indigenous mobilisation hoped to influence the law in two ways. First, water defenders wanted to ban extractive activities like mega mining at water sources. Second, they wanted a Plurinational Council on Water to secure indigenous participation in decision-making processes.

Both demands fell upon deaf ears. The law permits mining in freshwater sources and the Plurinational Council is rather decorative, having a voice but no vote. The beautiful Article 6 forbids all forms of privatisation. Yet Article 7 “exceptionally” authorises private initiatives in the cases of a) state of exception, b) state of emergency, and c) when local authorities have insufficient technical or financial means. The state has full control over the privatisation of water resources. Indigenous and peasant communities, in turn, will easily be labelled as technically or financial inept to control their water systems.

Resource conflicts are spreading. In 2000, Bolivia went into a water war. Today, Mexican residents clash with the police to defend their access to fresh water.

The irony in the Ecuadorian case is that its 2008 constitution was internationally acclaimed for declaring water as a human right and establishing the rights of nature. Such laws are losing their meaning as the government grants deals to Chinese extraction industries in important ecosystems. Now, the state is considered the exclusive competent authority to control hydric resources (Article 1 of the law) and guarantees the rights of nature (Article 3).

Yet civil society seems to disagree that the state is nature’s best care-taker. Upon arriving in Quito, the walk created a Peoples’ Parliament to defend constitutional rights against a congress increasingly willing to bypass them. Theirs was a call to civil disobedience.

As the elderly indigenous leader Nina Pacari read parliament’s declaration, she reminded us that this march would not end there. Around the world, the struggle for water is an affirmation of individual and collective rights in the face of abusive states.

Manuela Picq is a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) and Professor at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador).

Terrifying Worldwide Water Privatization Strategy

Back in 2011, we were made aware of this article which links the World Bank with several transnational corporate entities, including Nestle, to private water worldwide, but especially targeting countries with a lower socioeconomic status.  I was then informed by an expert source that it was not being spearheaded by the World Bank, but rather the World Economic Forum.

Then the other day, Nickie Seckera of Community Water Justice, who has been resisting Nestle’s expanding empire over the water in Fryeburg, sent along this information:

The Alliance for Water Stewardship offers a partnership with founding members as Nestlé, Unilever, Veolia and many more to help secure the multinational corporate agenda of controlling groundwater resources.

Beware of organizations as this who claim to protect global water resources. For whom are they protecting it? Corporate-backed organizations as this are out for protection of their future profits in securing water sources all over the world for their dominance over local people. The prospects of commodification and control could change how we access drinking water for all future generations. As we know, they are not out for the common good but for profit – and the highest bidder will win access to life.

“The Alliance for Water Stewardship is a partnership of global leaders in sustainable water management who are dedicated to promoting responsible use of freshwater that is socially, economically and environmentally beneficial. AWS drives collective responses to shared water challenges through its stakeholder-endorsed international Water Stewardship Standard. AWS’s Founding Partners are American Standard, CDP, Centre for Responsible Business, Centro del Agua para America Latina y el Caribe, Ecolab, European Water Partnership, Fundacion Chile, Fundacion FEMSA, Future500, General Mills, The Gold Standard Foundation, Hindustan Unilever Foundation, Inghams, Marks & Spencer, Murray Darling Basin Authority, Nestle, Pacific Institute, Sealed Air, United Nations Environment Programme, the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, The Nature Conservancy, The Water Council, Veolia, Water Environment Foundation, Water Footprint Network, Water Stewardship Australia, Water Witness International, WaterAid and WWF.”

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/top-global-organizations-pledge-to-support-water-stewardship-2014-04-08?reflink=MW_news_stmp

Thank you Nickie for your outstanding work.

RCMP bombed oil site in ‘dirty tricks’ campaign

CBC News : Posted: Jan 30, 1999 11:08 AM ET

The Mounties bombed an oil installation as part of a dirty tricks campaign in their investigation into sabotage in the Alberta’s oil patch.

The revelation came at the bail hearing Thursday of two farmers who the Crown says have turned their complaints that oil industry pollution is making their families ill into acts of vandalism and mischief.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/rcmp-bombed-oil-site-in-dirty-tricks-campaign-1.188599

NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It’s Not Looking Good for Us

Tom McKay  March 18, 2014 , PolicyMic  

Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn’t it? Too bad it’s not going to for much longer. According to a new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, we only have a few decades left before everything we know and hold dear collapses.

The report, written by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center along with a team of natural and social scientists, explains that modern civilization is doomed. And there’s not just one particular group to blame, but the entire fundamental structure and nature of our society.  Read more:

http://policymic.com/articles/85541/nasa-study-concludes-when-civilization-will-end-and-it-s-not-looking-good-for-us