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Water workers delivered a strong pro-public message at a press conference inside the World Water Forum.

Speakers from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Argentina and Uruguay outlined the problems with privatization and the central role of water workers in building and delivering public alternatives. All were members of the Public Services International’s 55-member delegation at the forum.

Forum organizers denied PSI a space in the official press conference facility, in yet another attempt to silence critical voices at the event.

What kind of debate is that,” said Steve Bloomfield of UNISON, who moderated the event. “ It is the debate of closed minds.”

Zimbabwean trade union leader Moses Mahlangu linked bad governance and lack of funding with 4,000 preventable deaths in the recent cholera outbreak.

While water is back under local community control, Mahlangu says rebuilding the country’s water and sanitation systems is the only way to stop future cholera outbreaks. He emphasize that funding must flow from the international community to fix broken pipes and stop the spread of disease.

Adriana Marquisio described the vibrant water justice movement in Uruguay. Workers have helped lead fights to stop privatization, recognize the right to water and develop a new model of community-controlled water and wastewater systems – all in coalition with citizens. “We are the voices of real experience,” said Marquisio, president of the Uruguayan water workers’ federation.

International financial institutions are still pushing privatization, even though it is a failed model. The World Bank is putting pressure on Malawi, says Olivia Kunje, general secretary of the country’s water workers union.  “We are still facing pressure for public private partnerships. So we are campaigning in coalition to say we don’t want privatization, what we want is public public partnerships.”

Water workers were at the heart of the solutions to Argentina’s failed water privatization. Jorge Javier Gonzalez  Fazio described how his union is working to build the next generation of public sector water workers, developing expertise and passing on knowledge.

None of these stories are being told in the tightly-controlled discussions at the official forum. The Forum’s focus on privatization ignores proven public solutions that are already working in countries around the world.

The Public Services International Research Unit has tracked the corporate forces behind the World Water Forum

“This must be the last World Water Forum,” said Bloomfield. Next time it must happen within the United Nations, with a not-for-profit agenda,  and open to everyone in the community whose voices must be at the forefront of discussions about water and wastewater.”

CUPE Manitoba president Kevin Rebeck, CUPE 1978 Keep it Public campaign coordinator Kim Manton and staff members Rhonda Spence and Karin Jordan are representing CUPE in the PSI delegation and working closely with water activists from around the world.