While water privatisation continues to be imposed throughout the world, particularly in the Global South, more and more communities are demanding public management of water and wastewater services and forcing out private actors. On World Water Day we bring you 10 inspiring stories of communities and cities working to reclaim control over this essential resource.
Spain maybe on the edge of a remunicipalisation renaissance, with all the relevant legal, financial and technical issues attracting surprisingly intense interest throughout the state. These trends in Spain provide inspiring examples for other countries too, in Europe and worldwide. On 1st December Barcelona City Council organised a remarkable conference on the topic.
The first CITIES FOR PUBLIC WATER MEETING took place on 3rd and 4th November, 2016 in Madrid, convened by La Red Agua Pública/the Public Water network in collaboration with the Municipal Council of Madrid. The event can be considered a milestone in the public water movement as it has strengthened the alliance of different actors involved in the defence of the public management of water, from a perspective of common good and human rights and will permit a closer collaboration with municipal councils and other public institutions (universities, professional colleges, cultural entities, etc.) in the future.
A few weeks after the May coup against Dilma Rousseff by conservative parties backed by the country's largest corporations, Brazil's “interim” government, led by Michel Temer, signed an emergency loan to the State of Rio de Janeiro to help finance infrastructure for the 2016 Olympics – in particular for a subway line connecting the sports venues. The bailout was conditional to selling off the State's public water supply and sanitation company, the Companhia Estadual de Águas e Esgotos (Cedae)
International Water Justice community sent the petition to the Supreme Court of Indonesia. Residents of Jakarta filed a citizen lawsuit against water privatisation in Jakarta at Central Jakarta District Court in November 2012. They argued in the lawsuit that water privatisation failed to fulfil the residents’ access to safe water, caused a series of corruptions and financial harm to the public budgets. In March 2015, the court ruled in favour of the residents, annulling the contract agreement with two private water operators. It was a significant victory of people. The decision, however, was challenged by these private companies and other defendants. Unfortunately the residents lost in the High Court in February 2016. Jakarta people decided to challenge the High Court ruling at the Supreme Court.
Water Justice organisations from around the world jointly produced an online water justice toolkit to consolidate our knowledge base and support local campaigns against the corporate takeover of water.
The New Urban Agenda will be adopted in the UN-Habitat Conference III in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016. Water Justice groups submitted the proposals to the Global Water Operators Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA) secretariat, which coordinates a consultation for Water for Water Stakeholders Stakeholders.
After 18 years of underperforming private management, water services in Jakarta could be returning to public management to guarantee the human right to water in accordance with the Central Jakarta District Court ruling of 24 March 2015, which annulled the current contract agreements.
The water management situation in the region of Catalonia, Spain is catastrophic. The omnipresence of the private water sector is creating hugely negative impacts at the economic, social and environmental levels. As a result, Catalan municipalities are being swept by the wave of water remunicipalisation that is taking place across the globe, and the drive to recover public management of water systems is gaining force.
Public water operators and social movements from 90 countries gathered in Barcelona in mid-September to reflect on how to consolidate a public model of water provision and how to address critical issues of financing clean water for all.
At UN meetings in Addis Ababa, private finance has been touted as key to achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals, but campaigners argue that public finance is more reliable and more likely to secure the human right to water for all.
While TTIP is currently attracting the most attention, more trade agreements are looming. In July, world leaders holed themselves up in back rooms to discuss TiSA, an extensive service agreement intended to put (public) services, like the water supply, in the hands of the international market.
The question of how to finance water and sanitation is crucial. Leading international institutions emphasise the role of private finance despite major concerns. The idea that private finance can bring the needed investment is remarkably persistent in global policy circles and leads to a dangerous lack of attention to the far more realistic option of mobilising public finance for infrastructure to provide essential services for all.
Public-private partnerships were heralded as a solution to the millions who still lack access to water, but after two decades the evidence is in: they have failed. An unprecedented surge of cities is now bringing water back under public control.
We commemorate World Water Day 2015 by celebrating the struggles and victories of the global water justice movements. These achievements are a testament to the strength of our ties of solidarity and the resolve of communities to protect watersheds and maintain control over water services.