Nikhil is reporting from the World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey.
One of the events organized by civil society during the corporate-driven World Water Forum in Istanbul was “International Day” on March 19th. Various members of the anti-privatization sector of the global water justice movement organized this in collaboration with Turkish civil society representatives. For example, Our Water Commons, the Trans National Institute, Food & Water Watch, and regional networks like Red Vida (Latin America) and the African Water Network.
People from across the world presented on various problems they were confronting with regard to their right to water being denied or violated, or the threats they faced in terms of water (a public good and part of the commons) being privatized. And they spoke about how they were mobilizing and resisting it.
Throughout the time we were in Istanbul, we had been concerned with how official government delegations (with few notable exceptions like Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, etc.) were seemingly caught up in the web of the corporate agenda. But then we had been mostly focused on the ministerial delegations. There were also separate delegations from local governments and legislators from across the world from who we heard a great deal of support for civil society positions, including two Bolivian senators.
Another person we heard from was Miguel-Esteban Martin Monteiro who is vice president of the city government of Malaga, Spain. He noted that he had participated in strategy meetings with over a thousand mayors, governors, and mid-level officials in Belem, Brazil at the recent World Social Forum on the right to water. He reported how they were concerned with going beyond the affirmation of the right to water to making sure that the right was actionable through legislative and judicial means; pushing for a global pact on water under the UN’s aegis.
Most of these local and state-level elected officials and bureaucrats are part of a network that emerged in the first World Social Forum in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil – the RedFAL which brings together local and state officials for peace. Acknowledging the global water, economic, climate, financial and food crises, he declared that “It is politically, ethically and morally unacceptable that States provide billions of dollars to banks [and financial institutions] and not for the public good.”
Monteiro observed that “we will see [as these crises unfold] Market against State, private against public, commodity against right, selfishness against solidarity, individual against community, and consumer against citizen.” But, he encouraged civil society activists to keep up the struggle noting that of the more than 300 municipal and local government officials participating in Istanbul only 30 had endorsed the official positions of the World Water Forum that he described as a tradeshow for the multinational corporations like Suez and Veolia.