Activities 2012 Water Justice

31 August 2013
Article

TNI plays an important role in supporting coalitions resisting water privatisation across the globe.

In 2012, the global water justice movement came together in a 4,000-strong mobilisation against the World Water Forum in Marseille in March, aimed at exposing the forum as an illegitimate body that is in reality run by and in the interests of transnational corporations.

TNI played a significant role in preparing the Alternative World Water Forum, also convened in Marseille. TNI’s particular contribution to the forum focused on community water partnerships, how communities, workers and water managers can work together to provide better public water services.

This included bringing practitioners from Europe to share their experiences of transnational public- public partnerships, involving both utility providers and communities, with counterparts from around the world. Ninety percent of water worldwide is still delivered by the public sector, making it by far the largest pool of existing expertise.

By seeking to put this expertise at the service of people, TNI aims to help make the human right to water and sanitation a reality for all. TNI believes that the struggle for good public water services is essentially a struggle for democracy. The universial provision of water and sanitation to all is not just a ‘technical’ or charity issue – it is fundamentally political.

The policy choice of privatisation is a demonstrable barrier to access to water for all, with the emphasis shifting from provision of an essential service to promotion of a water market accessible only to those who can afford to pay. This links with TNI’s work on ‘water grabs’.

Confronting privatisation

TNI plays an important role in supporting coalitions resisting water privatisation across the globe. For example, in Jakarta, TNI supports Amrta Institute, which is leading the campaign against one of the largest water privatisation projects in the world.

Privatisation has resulted in Jakarta’s water being both unaffordable and unsafe to drink. A combination of public education, campaigning and legal action by Amrta has resulted in the establishment of KMMSA, a citizen coalition. They have accused the French company Suez of a breach of contract and called for the city to remunicipalise the public water utility. A major obstacle is the fear of the cost of arbitration lawyers should Suez declare an investment dispute (see TNI’s work on investment arbitration). The Reclaiming Public Water network has been an important means of mobilising international solidarity for the struggle in Jakarta.

TNI monitors cases of remunicipalisation around the world, and in 2012 co-published a booklet, Remunicipalisation: putting water back into public hands, together with Corporate Europe Observatory and the Municipal Services Project (MSP, a South Africa–Canada co-ordinated university project also involving TNI and a number of its partners in the Reclaiming Public Water network). The booklet showcases five cities which have taken water back into public hands, demonstrating not only what is possible but what is actually being done.

TNI also translated into Spanish and co-published with MSP an edited volume, Alternatives to Privatisation, which focused on three sectors: water, electricity and health. Many of the water and electricity cases were contributed by TNI researchers, with TNI Fellow Dr Daniel Chavez playing a significant role as both researcher and coordinator in respect of the electricity sector.