|Water for the People Network at the Alternative World Water Forum|
|Written by Administrator|
Water for the People Network (WPN) joined 4,200 water justice activists who have gathered at the Alternative World Water Forum (alternately called, Forum Alternatif Mondial de L'eau or FAME) that took place from March 14-16 at Docks des Suds in Marseille, France. Under the overarching theme, “Resistance against Neoliberal Reforms,” WPN facilitated two workshops: (i) resource grabbing through water bottling, where the session presented case studies of the ill-effects of water bottling industries in China, Indonesia, Italy and Morocco; and (ii) local struggles against water privatization and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in Chile, Spain, Ecuador, Nepal, Indonesia and the Philippines, where Maria Theresa Nera-Lauron of IBON International was one of the speakers presenting the case of Manila.
The key findings from the first workshop were: (i) bottled water is not necessarily better than tap water and at times could even be hazardous to health; and (ii) the proliferation of bottled water may allow water-scarce areas to access this precious resource that can deprive local communities which depend on these water resources for their daily living and livelihood.
These gave way to proposals/calls for: (i) governments to not abandon their responsibility of providing basic social services such as water provision, which is then handed over to corporations that prioritize profit over the public good; (ii) governments to take a central role in rehabilitating and protecting watersheds and ecosystems instead of fully relying on infrastructures and technologies proposed by the private sector to purify polluted water and thus encourage the unbridled degradation of our environment for the sake of profit; and (iii) the need to inform people, especially consumers, on the reality behind the bottling water industry and how the simple act of buying bottled water at times stemming from the desire for prestige (as the case of Pellegrino as it is associated with high social standing) can have disastrous effects on local communities.
Meanwhile, the second workshop rendered these conclusions: (i) privatization, private sector participation and public-private partnerships may have different meanings but they are essentially the same as they are founded on the premise that water is an economic good and thus operate within the logic of profit maximization; and (ii) as such they have led to similar results across the world: continuous water price hikes, disconnections regardless of one’s age or economic status, lack of transparency, accountability and democratic participation, and failure of concessionaires to deliver on their commitments.
Confronting such harsh conditions, the presentations also showed the people's response on these forms of injustices through a combination of inside and outside strategies. The “inside strategy” is where the people engaged in legal processes such as filing a lawsuit against government bodies in the case of Jakarta or conducting a municipal legislative initiative against further privatization in the case of Madrid.
But in situations when not much political space is given to civil society and so-called democratic institutions are not effectively functioning, the people must assert themselves through extra-legal advocacy that basically entails social mobilization. This has been done through prayer rallies, fluvial protests, petitions and other demonstrations. Each has attained its own level of success, but the fact is resistance and collective struggle continue and have become the life-giving force in pushing for democratic governance of water and water resources. This inspite of political killings and intimidation of those who dared to fight for what is right. Thus, WPN asserted that the protection of the rights of human right to water and sanitation defenders be included in FAME’s outcome declaration.
WPN also contributed to the People, Planet, Water Conference organized by France Libertés by facilitating the workshop, “Governance, Democracy and Territories in View of Natural Resources Exploitation” and providing inputs on the drafting and refinement of its Civil Society Declaration. WPN was also able to bring its message inside the World Water Forum as Lauron participated in the "Private/Public Involvement in the Provision of Water and Sanitation Services” debate, exposing the ill-effects of privatization in Metro Manila and refuting the main arguments being put forth in defense of private control of water and sanitation services.
During FAME’s final day, a session on the future of the water justice movement was conducted to discuss issues and challenges of the movement and the broad and specific proposals to address them. Afterwhich, 5,000 people marched to the streets during the FAME Manifestation, pronouncing, “Water for life, not for profit.”
WPN took part in interviews to bring the message to a wider audience beyond the World Water Forum and FAME that highlights the issue of water not only in the backdrop of privatization but also the Green Economy architecture. This will be deliberated at Rio+20, which may give way to further commodification not only of water but whole ecosystems.
Meanwhile, you may download the workshop presentations presented at FAME here.