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Water warriors from around the globe entered the 4th World Water Forum (WWF) Sunday to protest water privatization and to demand water as a basic human right.

At 2 p.m., about 50 water campaigners unfurled two large banners in the central lobby where the WWF is being held, and rattled plastic water bottles filled with coins to represent the corporate profits from water resources.

The action briefly disrupted WWF proceedings.

Statements in support of public water and the right to water were then made by Ana Maria Martinez of the Mexican coalition C.O.M.D.A.; Lidy Nacpil of Jubilee South, Phillipines; Andrew Mushi of the Tanzanian Association of NGOs; Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Centre, U.S.A.; Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians; and Joe Zacune from War on Want in the U.K.

Following the statements, Chief Gary John of the St’at’imc First Nation in British Columbia led protesters through the halls of the huge Banamex conference centre while singing and playing his drum.

The World Water Forum is being held in a massive, inaccessible conference centre called Centro Banamex on the far outskirts of Mexico City and within a military zone. There is a heavy security presence at the Centre, so it was a victory for activists to get inside and to peacefully, yet forcefully, give voice to the need for public water.

Following the protest, the Blue Planet Project hosted a workshop as part of the official program of the WWF entitled “Securing the Right to Water; From the Local to the Global, Civil Society Perspectives”. Panelists from India, Venezuala, Mexico, Canada, South Africa and the U.S. all spoke to different aspects of public water success, the failures of privatization and the right to water.

CUPE Regional Vice-President Frank Mentes was invited to join this panel to address the issues from a trade union perspective. Brother Frank described CUPE; the interests of our members who work in the water and wastewater sector; our strong opposition to privatization; the threats to public water and water quality in Canada (particularly within First Nations communities); our union’s strong support for coalition work; our involvement with P.S.I.; and our strong commitment to international global justice. He drew links between our struggles against water privatization in Canada and the struggles of our allies in the South. Several Forum participants came up to Frank after the workshop to congratulate him on his presentation and to arrange for follow-up work.

Meanwhile, the alternative International Forum in Defense of Water wrapped up its three days of deliberations on Sunday and released a public statement.

Full text of the statement is as follows:

We, participants of the Mobilizations for the Defense of Water, from various regions of the world, including rural and urban communities, indigenous peoples, trade unions, social movements, women´s groups and NGOs, are here to deliver a message to the Fourth World Water Forum.

Water is essential to life. Therefore, access to clean and safe water is a fundamental human right. The paradigm and policies that dominate the World Water Forum, headed by the President of a private water company, are in direct subversion of this right. This has been proven time and again by the impact and results of policies that surrender the control of the world’s water to global corporations and allow commercial interests to determine who will have access.

The example of the people’s uprising in Cochabamba is a testimony to the growing global resistance to water privatization.

International financial institutions and private water corporations claim they stand for “Water for All”. This is the height of duplicity and hypocrisy. We call on all independent experts, journalists and delegates mobilized for this 4th World Water Forum, to refuse to take part in an illegitimate process that cannot deliver on its promises. These institutions and corporations should no longer be allowed to determine global water policies.

We urge all governments to place the interest of humanity and the ability of our planet to sustain life well above the drive for profit and power.

Keep water in public hands!

Democratic management of water!

Water for life, not big business!