The Hague Trade unions from around the world are furious at the pro-privatization agenda that has dominated the entire World Water Forum.
“We cant believe the arrogance of the multinationals in pretending they are part of the solution when in fact they are increasingly part of the problem,” said Hans Engelberts, General Secretary of the trade union umbrella group Public Services International (PSI). “When you look at these companies and who theyre targeting, its colonialism all over again.”
“We had to fight tooth and nail to even be allowed to speak to the ministers. Not one space was reserved for the voice of working people until we forced the issue,” said Engelberts.
“This forum was set up as a bazaar for corporations. No-one wanted to talk about public sector solutions for our water and sanitation services. No-one was prepared to tackle the question of corruption, which is a systemic problem in privatization schemes,” said David Hall, Director of the Public Services International Research Institute.
The forum was littered with workshops, plenaries, declarations and visions all limited by the tunnel vision of privatization. Dissenting delegates intervened at every turn, and with each day that passed a growing number of delegates questioned privatization. The forum marks the emergence of a new international movement to defend public water.
“Were here to join with other communities and organizations around the globe to protect public water from multinationals. Those corporations cant buy the air we breathe, so they want to buy the water we drink. Were not going to let that happen. Water is a basic human right, not a commodity to be bought, sold and traded,” said Claude Gnreux, General Vice-President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, a PSI affiliate.
And many are concerned another pressing issue didnt even make it on the agenda. International trade agreements such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) threaten to pry open the water services market for multinationals, leaving governments powerless to defend their water.
“The GATS talks put water services squarely on the table. If corporate interests get their way, it will unleash a tidal wave of privatization around the world and the GATS will tie the hands of citizens and governments who want to defend public water,” said Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians. “Combine that with schemes for the bulk export of water that also could see nations forfeit control of their water, and its a recipe for disaster.”
PSI represents 20 million public sector union members in 145 countries around the world. The Blue Planet Project is a global coalition fighting to stop the privatization and trade of water, headed up by the Council of Canadians.
For further information, contact:
David Boys, cell 00 33 6 0709 2647 or
Karin Jordan, cell 011 31 616 404 355