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CUPE has added its voice to the global outrage over a controversial fund that pushes privatization in the global South. The Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) has funded water privatisation consultants working in a total of 37 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia since its creation in 1999.

Public water advocates from 40 countries signed an open letter to the PPIAF’s donor countries in a campaign targeting the fund’s annual meeting, held in the Hague in late May. The letter called on donor countries – which own and direct the fund – to withdraw their support.

Canada is one of 15 donors to the PPIAF, through the Canadian International Development Agency. CUPE, Oxfam Canada, the Council of Canadians and Friends of the Earth all signed the open letter and delivered the message to key politicians and civil servants who work on water and development issues.

PPIAF’s mandate, as outlined in its 2006 annual report is “helping to eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable development through public-private partnerships in infrastructure.”

The PPIAF describes itself as a ‘technical assistance facility’ – translation: a facilitator or middle person for privatization. The fund engages in ‘consensus building’ and ‘knowledge management’ about the ‘essential’ role of the private sector in delivering water infrastructure.

Earlier this year the Norwegian government cancelled future support for the PPIAF, arguing the fund is not increasing access to water for people living in poverty. In the lead up to the fund’s general meeting, Italy also withdrew its support .

Patrizia Sentinelli, the Italian vice-minister for development cooperation and Sub Saharan Africa, said that “water is not a commodity and we have to work to remove it from the logic of privatization. I think it is crucial to have an international debate on the negative consequences of the push for privatization in sectors so sensitive that touch upon our common goods.”

Between July 1999 and June 2005, Canada donated a total of nearly $1.6 million. Japan, Britain and the World Bank are the fund’s largest donors.

CUPE will continue to work in coalition to end Canada’s participation in this fund, and to instead spend Canada’s aid supporting public solutions to the world’s water needs, ones that build and strengthen public water systems around the globe.

Public Services International, a global union federation made up of more than 600 unions, including CUPE, representing more than 20 million workers who deliver public services in 160 countries around the world, has also been campaigning against the PPIAF, including the European Commission’s recent decision to become a donor.

British NGO the World Development Movement has an excellent resource centre on the PPIAF here