Italy Withdraws From Controversial World Bank Privatisation Fund
Campaigners today celebrated the decision by the Italian government to withdraw its support from the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), a highly controversial element of the World Bank’s water privatisation agenda, on the eve of PPIAF’s annual meeting of donors in The Hague, the Netherlands.
Announcing Italy’s withdrawal in a message to the International Civil Society Forum Stop water privatisation - Alternatives to the PPIAF, Vice-Minister Patrizia Sentinelli of the Italian foreign affairs ministry said:
“Water is not a commodity and we have to work to remove it from the logic of privatisation. I think it is crucial to have an international debate on the negative consequences of the push for privatisation in sectors so sensitive that touch upon our common goods. For this, I thought it appropriate in this moment to withdraw the participation of the Italian Development Cooperation from the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility.
“I hope that this political signal will, together with that of other governments, reopen international debate on these issues. These discussions should be courageous enough to look at the effects on the ground of international policies in a world which is more and more our common world. And I hope that most of you will be open to support a broader objective such as agreeing on a universal declaration of water as a human right within the framework of the United Nations.”
Italy thus becomes the second nation in recent months to formally withdraw from PPIAF, following Norway’s exit in February. This follows a major campaign by civil society around the world. Just last week, 138 NGOs and trade unions from 48 countries issued an open letter to donors of PPIAF demanding that they withdraw funding from PPIAF’s water programme and instead fund progressive public alternatives.
Elena Gerebizza of the Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale in Italy welcoming the decision said, “We welcome the courageous move of the Italian government. There are better ways to use limited development aid resources than paying consultants to push privatisation in poor countries. We will encourage the Italian government to withdraw from other World Bank initiatives and to instead spend public funds on effective pro-poor programmes. It is outrageous that donors continue to channel public aid money into initiatives that promote private sector interest at the expenses of the poorest in the world.”
Vicky Cann of the World Development Movement said, “Coming on the eve of the annual get-together for PPIAF donors, the importance of the Italian withdrawal is clear. Activists in 48 countries are demanding that the remaining donors to PPIAF now follow Italy’s lead, including the UK which has given it nearly £50 million from the aid budget in the past 8 years.“
Campaigners argue that PPIAF’s aid-funded consultancy programmes undermine the rights of poor countries to decide how to run their public services. PPIAF has funded projects in many poor countries where international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have attached water privatisation conditions to loans, debt relief or aid.
Campaigners are particularly critical of PPIAF’s funding for ‘consensus-building’ projects which try to persuade stakeholders in developing countries to accept water privatisation.
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Information for editors.
 The full statement (in English and Italian) by Vice Minister Patrizia Sentinelli on the Italian government’s withdrawal from PPIAF can found World Development Movement website.
 The Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) is housed within the World Bank and it funds “technical assistance on strategies and measures [governments] can use to tap the full potential of public-private partnerships in infrastructure”. It also disseminates information about “best practice” in public-private partnerships. PPIAF works in a range of sectors including transport, telecommunications and water.
 In a report published last year, campaigners found that since 1999, PPIAF has funded one or more processes aimed at developing private sector participation and / or privatisation in water and sanitation services in a total of 37 countries. In at least 16 countries, PPIAF has sought to ‘build consensus’ for water privatisation projects. ‘Building consensus’ refers to activities that promote the benefits of privatisation or particular privatisation options and/or attempt to persuade sceptical members of governments, parliaments, business, trade unions, civil society and citizens that privatisation is in their interests. In at least 18 of the countries in which PPIAF has worked on water privatisation, donors have made their support conditional on privatisation. More information can be found here.
 PPIAF’s remaining donors are: Asian Development Bank, Canada, European Commission, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, World Bank. The UK is the largest donor by far contributing over 50 per cent of PPIAF’s funds, an amount which totals £53 million from 1999-2008.
 In February 2007, the Norwegian government announced that it would no longer give political or financial support to PPIAF. More information can be found on the here.
 Activists are organising “Stop water privatisation - Alternatives to the PPIAF”
on Tuesday 22 May in The Hague, the Netherlands. Speaking are campaigners from India, Malawi and Paraguay where PPIAF has funded water privatisation consultancy studies. On Wednesday 23 May there will be a photo opportunity with activists, banners and a samba band at 10am at the Carlton Beach Hotel, Gevers Deynootweg, Scheveningen, The Netherlands, outside PPIAF’s official annual meeting.
 The text of the open letter to PPIAF donors can be found here.
It includes a link to the authoritative WDM/ FIVAS report Down the Drain and a full list of the participating organisations.
For further details on the PPIAF click here.