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March 19 – Human right to water discussed as International Forum gets underway


by Blair Redlin (CUPE research staff)


CUPE delegates discussed water as a human right and options for reclaiming public water as an international civil society forum kicked off in Mexico City Friday.


The three-day meeting entitled “International Forum in Defense of Water” was created as an alternative to the corporate World Water Forum. The International Forum is organised by C.O.M.D.A., the Mexican coalition of organisations defending water rights. Some have referred to it as “the real world water forum”.

The theme of the International Forum is: No to water as a commodity. No to privatization of water.


Eminent panellists and speakers at the opening session included Danielle Miterrand from France, Victor Manuel Toledo from Bolivia, Lucha Xoxocotla from Mexico, and Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians. 


In discussing water as a human right, participants heard details on the distinctions in international law between water as a human “right” versus what the World Bank refers to as the “need” for water. A basic human right cannot be sold or traded, so the legal distinction is important in protecting water for all.


Canadian participants were dismayed when it was pointed out that the Government of Canada was the only one among 53 members of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to vote against measures that would enshrine the right to water in international convenants. Other countries with concerns simply abstained.

Our government’s damaging position on this matter will be raised at a meeting with Canada´s official delegation to the World Water Forum on Saturday evening.


CUPE delegates also participated in a workshop on reclaiming public water sponsored by the Reclaiming Public Water Network. The Network recently published an excellent book entitled “Reclaiming Public Water” with useful case studies from around the world.  

If you wish to purchase copies of the book, visit Corporate Europe Observatory or the Transnational Institute.

Visit CUPE’s photo gallery for the latest images from Mexico.


March 16, 2006 –20,000 stream through Mexico City streets in defence of water and life

 by Corina Crawley and Blair Redlin (CUPE research staff) 

An estimated 20,000 citizens flooded Mexico City’s streets Thursday in defence of public water and to protest water privatization.


Organised by the Mexican coalition C.O.M.D.A.(Mexican Coalition in Defence of Water Rights), the colourful demonstration sent a clear message that water is a human right. Protesters from throughout the country and around the world travelled to the capital for the march. Mexicans from indigenous and rural communities took part in large numbers and had a very visible presence.


The march began at the Independence Monument on the Paseo de Reforma and took several hours to reach the site of the 4th World Water Forum nearly seven kilometres away.


CUPE delegates waved their “CUPE - On the Front Line” flags proudly as they marched with other unionists from around the world behind the banner of Public Services International (PSI). Participants from a variety of global organizations such as Development and Peace, Friends of the Earth, Blue Planet Project and PSI marched as a united international contingent.


The march was peaceful, even though protesters were met by an extremely heavy police presence when they neared the site of the 4th World Water Forum. Near that site, the demonstration heard from a variety of speakers who condemned water privatization and insisted on quality, public water for all.


Earlier in the day, CUPE delegates joined Canadians from other organisations to plan for a meeting on Saturday with officials from the Canadian government delegation to the World Water Forum.


March 15, 2006 – Public-public partnerships featured at Public Water for All Symposium

by Corina Crawley and Blair Redlin (CUPE research staff) 

CUPE delegates heard about “public-public partnerships”, NOT “public-private” experiences from around the world Wednesday at a symposium entitled “Public Water for All”. This symposium was the first of a week of water-related events in Mexico City. It was sponsored by members of the Reclaiming Public Water Network, which includes groups such as the Transnational Institute, Council of Canadians, World Development Movement and Corporate Europe Observatory.


Speakers from Brazil, France, Indonesia, Tamil Nadu in India, Stockholm, Amsterdam, El Alto in Bolivia and elsewhere shared the mounting evidence that public ownership and management of municipal water systems works. Successes include reversing privatization in the French city of Varages, renewal of the public system in Tamil Nadu, and trade union-operated public facilities in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A discussion paper entitled “Water for All” was circulated that summarizes many examples of cooperatively-run public partnerships across the world. The paper and speakers notes are available at www.tni.org/.


CUPE delegates Frank Mentes (Saskatchewan) and Rodger Oakley (British Columbia) made fruitful connections with trade union leaders from Peru and Venezuela. Information about their work was exchanged with Luis Isarra Delgado, the Secretario de Defensa from the CGDP trade union central in Peru, as well as with Jose Peraza, representing water workers in Venezuela.


Meanwhile, all four CUPE delegates are helping to plan for a week of events at the International Forum in Defense of Water and at the 4th World Water Forum. Thursday will feature a major “Demonstration in Defense of Water and Life” that will see hundreds of people marching through the streets of Mexico City.