Citizen struggles in energy and water can beat back privatisation

19 October 2012
Social movements have been successful in beating back the tide of water privatization. With global temperatures rising, unions in the energy sector can learn from these struggles.

“Water will be to the 21st Century what oil was to the 20th, ” writes Fortune Magazine. And if the big water companies get their way, this may become true, according to the briefing note "Oil and Water do Mix: Citizen Struggles in Energy and Water".

Social movements have been successful in beating back the tide of water privatization that swept the world in the 1990s, forcing the retreat of water multinational companies in the poorest countries of the global South.

With global temperatures rising, unions in the energy sector can learn from these struggles – many of which were worker-led – to give rise to a strong counter-movement for energy democracy. While the political economy of the energy and water sectors are different, we can build on water justice victories and draw lessons on: how to frame our demands for local control over the commons; the importance of building broad coalitions with unlikely allies; and how to practice internal democracy in our movements.

"Oil and Water do Mix: Citizen Struggles in Energy and Water" is written by Susan Spronk. She teaches international development at the University of Ottawa. She is an active trade unionist and research associate with the Municipal Services Project. 

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