4th World Water Forum, Mexico City, 2006

16 March 2006
The World Water Forum is taking place in Mexico City, 16-22 March. The Forum has one agenda: to shape global water policy in favour of corporations. War on Want and other civil society organisations are going to the forum to challenge this showcase for the corporate takeover of water and to debunk the myth that water privatisation will solve the global water crisis.

The World Water Forum (WWF) was set up by the World Water Council - a think-tank with major corporate links. The Council is making sure that the world’s dwindling fresh water resources are put firmly in the hands of corporations and it pushes this policy through without any form of accountability or public scrutiny.

The WWF has been held every three years, Marrakesh (1997), The Hague (2000) and Kyoto (2003) and they are rounded up with a pre-drafted Ministerial Declaration. This is the grand stitch-up. The declarations hail the privatisation of water as the only answer to the global water crisis and alternatives such as improving existing public services are ignored. Although the World Water Forum is not a United Nations ministerial, it is this declaration that gives the talks official status.

In 2003 at the last World Water Forum in Kyoto, the Council presented a controversial, pro-privatisation financial plan, called the Camdessus Report that was written by the former head of the International Monetary Fund. This report laid the basis for more privatisation of water systems in developing countries. We can expect more of the same this time around.

Civil society organisations are going to be asking for key demands to be inserted into this year’s Ministerial Declaration including the recognition of water as a human right; the acknowledgement that water privatisation has failed the poor and to cut all the strings attached to aid or trade agreements that force developing countries to privatisation their water. I’ll be on the inside of the forum and will keep you updated on how successful I am at pushing these demands.

The disastrous wave of privatisation of the 1990s, from Bolivia to the Philippines and Tanzania, has proved without a shadow of a doubt that the water needs of the poor should not be put in the hands of corporations. In an attempt to avoid the wrath of campaigners, the World Water Council has learnt to not say the p-word. Instead of privatisation it promotes “public-private partnerships” (PPPs) which is essentially the same policy with a different label. We are not fooled by this weak ploy.

Coca-Cola is leading the charge in the corporate takeover of water. At major events outside of the conference War on Want will be launching its Alternative Report on Coca-Cola. The company is a major sponsor of the World Water Forum whilst it is being accused by communities around the world of depleting and contamination of water systems. War on Want is bringing together inspiring activists to talk about the devastating impact Coca-Cola has had on local communities, their resistance and the role that we can play in supporting their struggle.
So I will be speaking up against the stitch-ups at policy-wonky conferences inside the World Water Forum and will be involved in ‘outside events’ including rallies, tribunals, demos, cultural events and media actions. Civil society organisations, activists, indigenous groups, environmentalists, trade unions and women’s organisations, particularly from the global South, are descending on Mexico to send a strong message that their water is not for sale.

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