Water Justice Works On
Water Justice works on a range of subjects and issues.
Water Justice works on a range of subjects and issues. The main issues can be summarised in the following area's:
- Citizens Alternatives
Viable alternatives to both privatised water delivery and inadequate, state-run water utilities clearly exist. The question is, therefore, not if public water can work, but how it can work. Social movements contribute actively to preserving and improving the public character of water and sanitation services around the world. By exerting public pressure on governments and utilities to change and improve access to clean water, such movements have a key role in achieving sustainable water for all. In many countries, social movements are mobilising to defend the interests of marginalised people against the neoliberal policies promoted by political and economic elites. Social justice and democratisation of water management decision-making are integrally linked.
- Financing Public Water
Financing is a key challenge for every community wanting to ensure water for all. The day-to-day running of a water utility comes at a cost and expanding access to water requires significant upfront investments. There are essentially two ways to pay for public water delivery: taxes or user fees. There is a desperate need for funding mechanisms that are without political conditions and that are oriented to serve societal goals. TNI supports progressive redistribution via taxation and cross-subsidised water tariffs, as well as exploring other local and national finance options, including floating of municipal bonds.
Due to the ideology-driven privatisation wave, the 1990s was essentially a lost decade for the struggle for clean water for all. The high-profile failure of privatisation in major cities of the South provide ample evidence that the water needs of the poor should not be left in the hands of profit-driven, transnational water corporations. Almost without exception, global water corporations have failed to deliver the promised improvements and have, instead, raised water tariffs far beyond the reach of poor households. The rise of grassroots anti-privatisation campaigns in countries around the world, increasingly linked in regional and global networks, is starting to turn the tide against free-market fundamentalism and towards more effective, democratic and participatory public water delivery.
- Public Water Sector Reform
Over the last six years, the Reclaiming Public Water network has sought to advance the debate about how to make public water utilities work better, a crucial factor for securing clean water and sanitation for all. To overcome water poverty, we believe it is of crucial importance to learn the lessons from successful public utility reforms and community management taking place in numerous countries around the world. In the last 10-15 years, a positive trend has emerged in which local communities and public utilities have introduced new approaches to achieve improved water and sanitation for the poorest. The time has come to refocus the global water debate on the key question: how to improve and expand public water delivery around the world?
- Public Public Partnerships
TNI is advocating Public Public Partnerships (PUP) as an alternative policy to privatisation or to Public-Private Partnerships in water services as well as a concrete tool to work with partners to reform public water companies/utilities, improve services and realise the right to water on the ground.
A public-public partnership (PUP) is simply collaboration between two or more public authorities or organizations, based on solidarity, to improve the capacity and effectiveness of one partner in providing public water or sanitation services. They have been described as a “peer relationship forged around common values and objectives, which exclude profit-seeking”. PUPs avoid the risks which are typically encountered in public-private partnerships: transaction costs, contract failure, renegotiation, the complexities of regulation, commercial opportunism, monopoly pricing, commercial secrecy, currency risk, and lack of public legitimacy.
In general the objectives of PUPs are to improve the capacity of the assisted partner. In practice, PUPs' work can be divided into five broad categories: training and developing human resources, technical support on a wide range of issues, improving efficiency and building institutional capacity, financing water services, improving participation.
Public Community Partnerships
Public-communitarian partnerships (PCPs) are internationally referred to as public-public partnerships but PCPs has a stronger connotation of community. While government and public water authorities should adopt and implement a water delivery policy that prioritises serving the needs of rural communities, many state-owned utilities fail to serve hard-to-reach areas. Community-based water systems are bridging the gap in water service delivery in many parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. TNI has observed new forms of partnerships between public authorities and rural communities, in which the communities are engaged in the decision-making about water solutions, supported with public funding and expertise and are empowered to take responsibility for running water systems. Such partnerships can bring rapid and lasting improvements.
In most countries, the expansion of modern water and sanitation systems happened as a result of public ownership and investment in response to increasing demand and public health concerns in urban areas. In the 1990s, however, many countries privatised their water and sanitation services, particularly in the South, as a result of strong pressure from neoliberal mindset governments and international financial institutions, to ‘open’ up national services to international corporations. Many cities, regions and even countries have since, due to the failures of water privatisation, embarked on remunicipalisation or renationalisation of water delivery, in which the aim is not to return to the pre-privatisation realities but to develop public-water systems that satisfy citizens’ needs. CSOs and communities which are fighting against privatisation can put forward these experiences from elsewhere to policy makers and public authorities as alternative policy option. TNI has created a space for learning and exchange through case studies and in-depth information sharing on remunicipalisation. Moreover, TNI directly supports advocacy campaigns for remunicipalisation.