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Why are so many cities choosing to end privatisation and return to public water services?

08 April 2015
Our public water future
In the run-up to the 2015 World Water Forum in South Korea on April 12, Transnational Institute with four organisations[1] have released new research on the growing wave of cities worldwide that are taking previously privatised water supply and sanitation services back under public control, in a process called remunicipalisation.

The report reveals that over the last 15 years, 235 cases of water remunicipalisation have been recorded in 37 countries, impacting on more than 100 million people. Moreover the pace of remunicipalisation is accelerating dramatically, doubling in the 2010-2015 period compared with 2000-2010.

The launch of the book Our public water future: The global experience with remunicipalisation comes in the wake of Jakarta’s decision in March 2015 to annul its privatised water contracts citing the violation of the 9.9 million residents’ human right to water. This is the largest remunicipalisation in the world.

Cases are currently concentrated in high-income countries, with 184 remunicipalisations compared to 51 in low- and middle-income countries. The great majority have taken place in two countries: France (94), home of two of the world’s private water companies, Suez and Veolia, and the United States (58).

PSI Deputy General Secretary David Boys said, “This new report confirms the acceleration of remunicipalisation in the past five years. We ask the World Bank and other development actors to integrate these findings into their policies and programmes and to immediately stop imposing failed privatisation around the world.”

Lead editor and Transnational Institute water expert Satoko Kishimoto said: “This report shows that water privatisation, which has been promoted so heavily in recent years, is increasingly being rejected by cities worldwide after years of failed promises, poor services and high prices. The pendulum is swinging back in favour of public water, because of the strong evidence that remunicipalisation brings immediate cost savings, operational effectiveness, increased investment, higher levels of transparency and accountability.”

“Remunicipalisation offers opportunities for developing socially desirable, environmentally sustainable and quality water services benefiting present and future generations – issues that receive little attention by private water operators concerned with profits and shareholders,” adds the former Deputy Mayor of Paris Anne Le Strat, who was behind the flagship 2010 remunicipalisation of water in the French capital. “Moreover, public water operators are now joining forces within and across countries to support and learn from each other so we can achieve the human right to water for all.”

The book Our public water future: The global experience with remunicipalisation comes out as global leaders are gathering for the World Water Forum, which is dominated by private water operators and has been a key proponent of water privatisation in recent years.

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For more information, please contact Satoko Kishimoto, Transnational Institute (GMT+1 email: satoko@tni.org; telephone +32 474486268) or Emanuele Lobina, PSIRU (GMT0 email: e.lobina@gre.ac.uk; telephone +44(0)2083318476)

Notes:

  1. Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), Multinational Observatory, Municipal Services Project (MSP) and European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU)
  2. The report can be downloaded at http://www.tni.org/briefing/our-public-water-future from April 9. If you want an embargoed copy, please email [satoko@tni.org]
  3. For an interactive world map, visit: http://www.remunicipalisation.org


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