Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Laliberte has announced the official launch of the ONE DROP Foundation to fight poverty in the world by giving everyone access to water. Laliberte will contribute $105 million to fund projects to rebuild water wells and provide drinking water in poor countries. He made the announcement alongside Prince Albert of Monaco, whose environmental group joined ONE DROP. The ONE DROP Foundation is based at the Cirque du Soleil International Headquarters in Montreal.

“No one can remain indifferent when we know that at least every eight seconds, a child dies from a disease caused by drinking contaminated wa-ter,” says Laliberte. “With the creation of ONE DROP, we want to mobilize people everywhere in the world to find sustainable solutions to the problem of access to water, and to adopt better practices for the use of this precious resource.”

Access to water is one of the planet’s most pressing issues. More than a billion people do not have access to water in sufficient quantity or adequate quality. Almost half of the world’s population drinks untreated water.

Inspired by the creative experience of Cirque du Soleil and its international program for street kids, Cirque du Monde, the ONE DROP Foundation makes use of the circus arts, folklore, popular theatre, music, dance and the visual arts to promote education, community involvement and public awareness of water issues. Technical projects in developing countries will improve access to water, ensure food security and promote gender equal-ity in communities. The Foundation will unveil its program for developed countries in 2008.

The operating costs of ONE DROP will be covered by the $105 million contribution from Laliberte over 25 years. Field activities will be financed by donations from the employees of Cirque du Soleil and from the public, as well as through funding commitments by Canadian and international partners.

Oxfam International, through Oxfam-Québec, has been associated with ONE DROP since 2005 in a three-year pilot project in Nicaragua. A leader in development aid, Oxfam brings expertise in selecting and implementing field projects. “Water is central to many health and agricultural issues and to the development of communities throughout the world,” says Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International. “Our involvement with the ONE DROP Foundation is based on a common desire to support sustainable development with concrete actions and in collaboration with local partners.”

RBC Financial Group announced a $10 million commitment over 10 years to support ONE DROP projects both in Canada and abroad. A leader in Canada’s financial services sector, RBC employs approximately 70,000 people in North America and 34 countries around the world. This is the largest donation ever announced in RBC’s 138-year history. “ONE DROP is the first recipient of the RBC Blue Water Project, a commitment to support projects that will improve water access, conservation, watershed protection and education,” notes Gordon Nixon, RBC’s president. “We are proud to be associated with the ONE DROP Foundation to develop projects that will promote a better quality of life for communities, and better water management, throughout the world.”

Active in the fields of climate change, biodiversity and water, the Prince Albert II de Monaco Foundation is the first international organization to sign a collaboration agreement with ONE DROP. “Water issues transcend the boundaries of countries and affect the whole of humanity,” says the prince. “This is a major challenge of this century and it is essential that organizations throughout the world come together in a global movement of solidarity to ensure the preservation and better management of a resource that is both irreplaceable and fundamental to life.”