Former Heads of Government: World Needs Water Leadership

May. 31 / 2011

Former heads of government from around the world today agreed at a meeting in Canada to establish a new panel to help fill a serious void in leadership related to global water issues.

Saying that "international water leadership is virtually nonexistent," the retired leaders say the panel will work to elevate the issue's political prominence in an effort to avert a looming "water crisis."

The 20 members of the InterAction Council attending this year’s three-day annual meeting in Quebec City, include former US President Bill Clinton, former Mexican President Vicente Fox and former prime ministers Yasuo Fukuda (Japan) and Gro Brundtland (Norway).  Co-chairing the meeting: former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and former Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky.

At today's conclusion of the meeting, the group urged a new international water ethic and offered political office-holders today some 21 recommendations for world water management moving forward.

Recommendations include "placing water at the forefront of the global political agenda," linking climate change research and adaptation programs to water issues, making the right to water legally enforceable, raising the price of water to reflect its economic value while making provisions for people in poverty, preferring the growth of food over biofuel crops in places where water supplies are threatened, and encouraging the UN Security Council to take up water as a security concern.

They also welcomed a high level of dialogue and cooperation on water-allocation in the Mekong River delta between China and Indochina states and the work done by the Clinton/Bush Haiti Fund, which aims to rebuild housing in Haiti with adequate sanitation to avoid public health disasters through water contamination.

In addition to the water crisis, the Council touched on other environmental topics, warning of the "intensification of natural phenomenon caused by climate change as demonstrated by floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes ravaging the globe."  

The Council especially expressed its deep condolences to the Japanese people who have been the victims of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

With respect to other issue areas, they warned of potentially "prolonged instability" in North Africa and the Middle East and of inflationary dangers caused by escalating government debt loads.  

And they called on governments to eliminate nuclear weapons of mass destruction, the theme of the Council's 2010 meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, saying "the continuing existence of nuclear weapons is an unacceptable and disproportionate threat to every living thing on the planet. The only enduring solution to this threat lies in the verifiable and irreversible elimination of these weapons.” 

"As long as nuclear weapons exist in the hands of any state, they will be sought also by others. As long as nuclear weapons exist they will be used one day, either by deliberate action or by accident. Any use of nuclear weapons would be a human, ecological, economic, political and moral catastrophe. States continue to seek nuclear weapons for a number of reasons. The question of proliferation needs to be recognized and addressed."

The full text of the 2011 communiqué is available at www.interactioncouncil.org.

Established in 1983, the InterAction Council of Former Heads of State and Government is an international organization whose objective is to address long-term, global issues facing humankind. Co-Chaired by the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister of Canada, 1993-2003) and Dr. Franz Vranitzky (Chancellor of Austria, 1986-1997), the Council’s membership is comprised of more than thirty former heads of state who jointly develop proposals for action and submit them directly to national and international decision-makers. In April 2010, the Council held its 28th Annual Meeting in Hiroshima, Japan on the theme of “Abolishing Nuclear Weapons.”

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For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:

Mrs. Tanya Guy, +1-647-224-0422, canadiansecretariat@me.com  

Mr. Terry Collins, +1-416-538-8712; +1-416-878-8712; tc@tca.tc