Water justice movement meets in Barcelona

18 December 2013
group photo
PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli and Deputy David Boys were in Barcelona at the beginning of December, for a meeting with water justice activists, trade unionists, researchers and water operators from 29 countries who had gathered to share analysis and strategies aimed at promoting democratic public water and sanitation services. The participants were linked through the Reclaiming Public Water Network, which met previously in 2011.

According to the Public Services International Research Unit, in the last 15 years, 86 communities have taken water and sanitation services back from private to public hands. This has meant greater public control and often more democratic, equitable and transparent management of water and sanitation services. Despite ongoing pressure from International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and right-wing governments to privatise, the global trend is towards publicly financed and operated water and sanitation systems.
 
Most recently, Jakarta announced it would buy back its water services. According to Nila Ardhianie of the Amrta Institute for Water Literacy in Indonesia, decades of private sector concessions in Jakarta had led to steep rate hikes, lack of access for lower income households and public outrage.   
 
The meetings in Barcelona reflected a marked shift towards a more proactive discussion on how to promote better public water and sanitation systems and strengthen the resistance to new forms of neoliberal water policy within the public sector.  

Among the strategies, being pursued by communities promoting public operation are public-public-partnerships (PuPs) -- the public sector's response to privatization under the guise of private-public partnerships (P3s). PuPs are designed to take advantage of the innovative, groundbreaking solutions existing within the public sector. Through PuPs water operators are able to train each other, share resources and public sector know-how on a not-for-profit basis. Marcela Olivera and Adriana Marquisio of the Plataforma de Acuerdos Publico-Communitarios de las Americas shared successful models for public-community partnerships being used in Bolivia and Uruguay to enable communities to cooperate and support each other in the management of water and sanitation services.
 
In Canada, where the right-wing government is using its fiscal transfer powers to aggressively promote privatization, the Council of Canadians and Canadian Union of Public Employees has been working with community activists to provide municipalities with tools to defend public water and sanitation systems through the Blue Communities Project.
 
In Greece, where the EU Troika has pressured the government to sell public assets as part of its austerity package, an upcoming Supreme Court decision may reverse plans to transfer two major state utilities to private hands on grounds that water is legally a public good -- a hard-won victory for the Save Greek Water Coalition, a citizen and worker-run initiative against privatization of water in Greece.
 
After two days of strategizing, members of the Reclaiming Public Water Network took its messages to a broader platform by attending meetings of the Global Water Operators Partnership Alliance, a United Nations- led network of public water operators.

Read more here: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/making-waves/2013/12/water-justice-movem...

Click here to see David Boys' input to the discussion at the GWOPA forum.

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