Tuesday, March 18, 2003

World Needs Clean Water, Not War: PSI, Youth Water Forum

       Kyoto, March 18, 2003 (ANTARA) - Union leaders from around the world attending the Third World Water Forum (WWF) in Kyoto, expressed their outrage and deep concern Tuesday as discussion on how to ensure safe, clean water for all were torpedoed by the announcement by the US President George Bush that war against Iraq is imminent.
        A similar concerned was also voiced by young people attending the Kyoto's Yoth Water Forum. "Water, not war was the central issue today at Kyoto's Youth Forum held at the 3rd World Water Forum," said a statement issued by the Youth Forum in Kyoto Tuesday.

        "More people are likely to suffer and die this decade from lack of clean water than from all armed conflicts combined. As many as 76 million people will die from preventable water-related illnesses between now and 2020," added the Youth Forum's statement.

        Meanwhile, representatives of Public Services International (PSI), who had come to Kyoto to press for urgent global action to strengthen public water services, reject the decision to attack Iraq in the face of international support for continued pressure through the United Nations to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict, said IPS spokesman in his statement in Kyoto.

        The PSI delegation expressed concern that progress on water issues will be jeoperdized as the world's attention is drawn to war. Participation in this weekend's key ministerial meetings is likely to fall given the Bush announcement, he added.

        France-based PSI is an officially recognized non-governmental organisation for the public sector within the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It has some 600 affiliated unions in almost 150 countries.

        "It is very difficult to focus on water issues when troops are massing on the brink of war," says Blanca Tercero of SITRASANAAYS, the water workers union in Honduras. "It's far more than a distraction when you know that it could be deadly for thousands of workers and their families."

        "This war is illegal and illegitimate. It is not the political leaders or the oil company executives who will lose their lives of livelihoods. It's workers, women and children. It is their communities and economies that will be destroyed," says Claude Genereux of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

        "The attack on Iraq will destabilize communities around the world, raising insecurity and shifting resources from investment in public services to military spending. War not only sets back the goals of this conference, it puts everyone's peace and security at risk," said Victor Chiong of the water workers union in Manila, AGWAAS.

        To anticipate participants from leaving the Forum or having to stay longer in Japan because a possible war in Iraq, the organizing committee of the World Water Forum has set up a special information desk to assist them when needed.

        Hideaki Oda, secretary general of the Forum organizing committee said that Iraq has registered to send a five-member delegation to be headed by Iraqi deputy minister of irrigation to the on-going Forum. "But so far we have not received confirmation whether the deputy minister will come or not," he said.

        He said there will be no cancellation of sessions or meetings during the Forum because of the US-Iraq conflicts. But he said that French President Jacques Chirac and the Djibouti president have cancelled the participation in the Forum probably to the increasing world tension.

        The official newspaper of the Forum, Water Forum Shimbun, on its first edition on Sunday, put a headline entitled "Focusing on the right war" in its front page.

        "With the world poised for war in Iraq, thousands of participants gathering in Kyoto for the 3rd World Water Forum will seek to ensure that hostilities in the Middle East do not sidetract their won battle for access to water and sanitation," it wrote.

        "Our discussion will have far more effect on humankind for the 21st Century than the current crisis in the Middle East or any other political problem of the day," said World Water Council Vice President William Cosgrove, as quoted by the newspaper.

        A lady bringing a poster saying "Stop spending $$$$ on War, Spend on Water" was also seen in front of the Forum Conference Hall Tuesday. The Italian minister scheduled to attend the on-going Forum most likely will cancel his participation. (t/f001/a/RI1/B/K004)

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