If you are part of the shrinking minority who still believe that the United Nations has any relevance (or sanity) in the modern world, perhaps today's headlines will finally disabuse you of this notion. U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto announced today that he had chosen Canadian activist Maude Barlow to be his advisor on global water-use policies, a position the media has dubbed "Water Czar". Even if we stipulate that the UN has the authority to even bother with such policies - a position that is far from universally stipulated - this appointment makes about as much sense as naming Osama bin Laden to head a committee on comparative religion.
Where to begin? Well, the first thing you might be wondering is just who in the world is Maude Barlow? I know that was my first question. I'm a political junkie and I had never heard of the woman. So I did a quick Google search and it turns out there is a good reason I had never heard of her. Apparently the only person who has spent any significant amount of time talking about Maude Barlow in the past is Maude Barlow. I'm not kidding. Go look for yourself. There's not much out there except what she has said, herself.
And it turns out there is good reason for that too. Maude Barlow is a hardcore activist, the kind that, ordinarily, no one listens to. We're talking far fringe activism here. Barlow believes that all fresh water sources on the planet should be nationalized, that private enterprise should not be a part of the equation, and that access to fresh water is a basic human right. This begs an obvious question: Of what use is an advisor who is obviously biased toward only one side of an issue? I'm not exaggerating here. One of Barlow's supporters, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch (of which, Barlow is a board member), describes her as "probably the most outspoken and well-known advocate in making water a human right and making sure that water is in public control ..." Talk about a ringing endorsement for open-minded policy advice.
Barlow has no scientific background and, aside from an assortment of activist committees, no political background. Yet she is somehow qualified to offer advice on global water policy. Barlow maintains that sources of fresh water are shrinking yet would remove from the field the very people who have the greatest ability to improve access and distribution. Barlow claims that access to fresh water is a basic human right and yet ignores the fact that this "right" would require someone else to provide it. Does this make sense to anyone else?
I have said for years that the United Nations is a bloated bureaucracy, incapable of fulfilling its basic function and yet greedy for power beyond its charter, and I couldn't ask for a better example of this fact than has been provided today. This should be a laughing stock moment, but just wait. No one will be laughing, at least not for long.