Maude Barlow is a water rights activist and formerly served as the UN's Senior Advisor on Water.
Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization with 65,000 members. She was a founding member of the Council in 1985 and has served as its voluntary chair since 1988. During these years, the Council of Canadians has become a leading voice in Canada and around the world for social, environmental and economic justice. The Council fights to protect Canada’s public social programs, natural resource heritage, and food security. It also advocates for fair trade and sustainable economic policies, in Canada and around the world, and promotes a peacekeeping role for Canada’s armed forces.
Barlow is also a founding board member of the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), a San Francisco-based think-tank made up of international activists, scholars, writers and economists dedicated to creating sustainable alternatives to economic globalization. She is a contributing author to the highly acclaimed IFG report, Alternatives to Economic Globalization, which has been studied by scholars and politicians around the world. In 1997, she led a global fight with other members of this group to defeat the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, a proposed global treaty that would have given transnational corporations immunity from nation-state laws. Barlow is also a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council that brings the interests of future generations to the center of policymaking.
Barlow is an acknowledged leader in the international water justice movement, often called the “Al Gore of water.” She founded the Blue Planet Project, a Council of Canadians project that works with grassroots groups around the world to stop the commodification of the world’s freshwater resources. She is a founding member of Friends of the Right to Water, a North-South Coalition seeking a UN Convention on the Right to Water. Barlow is currently chairperson of the board of Food and Water Watch, the foremost U.S. organization fighting for the right to water. In 1998, she wrote a ground-breaking analysis on the global politics around water for the International Forum on Globalization and is the co-author of the 2002 book, "Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop Corporate Theft of the World’s Water," which is now published in over 40 countries and 15 languages. Her 2007 book, "Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water," is also an international bestseller. Barlow's work on this issue has taken her to every continent where she stands with local indigenous and community groups to defend their right to water.
In 2008 and 2009, Barlow served as the Senior Advisor on Water to Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockman, the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly. On Earth Day, April 22, 2009, Barlow addressed the UN General Assembly and called for a global plan of action on water based on the principles of watershed protection, public trust and the right to water.
Before founding the Council of Canadians, Barlow was a leader in the women’s rights movement in Canada. In 1975, she co-founded a consultancy group that worked at every level of government to promote equality for women. In 1980, Barlow became the Director of Equal Opportunity for the City of Ottawa and in 1983, Barlow became the Senior Advisor on Women’s Issues to then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau; in this capacity, she advised the Prime Minister directly on all aspects of national equality initiatives for women.
Barlow was one of the “1000 Women for Peace” nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. In the same year, she received the prestigious Lannon Cultural Freedom Fellowship as well as the Right Livelihood Award. Known as the “Alternative Nobel” and given by the Swedish Parliament, the Right Livelihood Award cited her ”exemplary and longstanding worldwide work for trade justice and the recognition of the fundamental right to water.” She also won the Citation of Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2008 Canadian Environmental Awards and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award, Canada’s highest environmental honors.
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