Last month I was in Istanbul to participate in the People’s Water Forum that was being held simultaneously with (and challenging) the World Water Forum. The latter is organized by water corporations through their front, the World Water Council, and with the support of multilateral financial organizations like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.
During the course of the week I spent learning from a wide range of movements and organizations mobilized around the right to water, water justice and keeping water in the public commons. There were three broad sectors within the water world that came to Istanbul (as they have been mobilizing before at previous WWF’s in Mexico City, Kyoto, The Hague and Marrakech). One was movements and organizations (including those of peasants and indigenous peoples) that are mobilizing against ecosytem and watershed destruction, privatization of rivers and aquifers, mega dam projects for hydroelectric power, diversion of water for industrial agriculture including agrofuels, etc. Another was movements and organizations of primarily indigenous peoples from around the globe that are fighting to preserve both the sacredness of water as a right and common good and to protect indigenous sovereignty over their water resources within their territories. And the third was movements and organizations, primarily urban and peri-urban bringing together communities impacted by the privatization of water delivery and sanitation systems utilities including both community groups and labor.
The international groups worked closely with local Turkish organizations and movements over the course of a year culminating in the People’s Water Forum in Istanbul last month, during which time they released the Istanbul Declaration that delegitimized the corporate driven World Water Forum and sought to give voice to the positive agenda of the global water justice movements.