From IBON International
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, June 16, 2012 — “Water is life! Not for profit!” was the resounding message of the water warriors gathered at the plenary discussion on Water as Commons in Countering Green Economy, Privatization and Commodification during the opening of the Cupula dos Povos in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Around 100 participants attended the plenary discussion at the Blue Pavilion. The first session was devoted to analyzing the structural causes of the lack of access to water due to privatization.
Maria Teresa Lauron of IBON International traced the history of water privatization at the international level and shared Manila’s own experience with water privatization. According to Lauron, “the World Bank’s policy shift from the promotion of public water to privatization began n the 1970s to widen the access of investments for surplus capital from highly industrialized countries which were experiencing falling rates of profit at that time.”
This policy shift was implemented through conditionalities attached to loans from international financing institutions (IFIs). Since then, the commodification of water demanded that it be bought and sold in markets. Water no longer belonged to the commons. Access is available only to those can afford to pay.
“Manila now has the highest water rates in Southeast Asia after the privatization of the Manila Water and Sewage System. Waterless communities still exist. Workers were retrenched. New employees received lesser wages and hardly any benefits and were hired on a contractual basis,” said Lauron.
Speakers from Bolivia, Argentina and Senegal shared country experiences on water privatization.
Elizabeth Peredo of Fundacion Solon talked about how the glaciers in Bolivia are disappearing because of climate change is causing water supply shortage that causes severe hardships to the rural folk and threatens the urban areas and how water privatization worsens the impact of the glacier retreat.
In Senegal, foreign land deals resulted also in grabbing the already scarce water resources for small farmers according to Diery Gaye of the East & Southern Africa Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) and People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS).
Anibal Faccendini of Catedra da Agua da Universidade Nacional de Rosario shared how water rates increased in Argentina after the privatization of water.
The second session of the plenary was devoted to the new solutions and paradigms to replace water privatization. Javier Marquez and Lourdes Martinez said that “Public-public and public-community partnerships are solutions to implement sustainable water management.” Unlike Public-private partnerships that allows private control of water resources, public-public and public-community partnerships up to some extent, bring back water into the realm of the commons by placing water resources under the control of communities which puts the needs of the people first, unlike private water concessionaires who se primary concern is increasing profits.
Ricardo Petrella exposed that the green economy is yet another move to expand corporate investment areas, including water resources. Petrella called for the stopping of the privatization commons, abolishment of the monetarization of water resources and declare illegal the monetarization of life itself.
The Cupula dos Povos or the People’s Summit in Rio+20 is an event organized by the global civil society to celebrate people’s struggles for sustainable development and reject green economy being promoted in the official process of the UNCSD.