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Saturday January 20th
The launch of this year’s World Social Forum (WSF), and the first meeting of global water networks.

The overall theme for this year’s World Social Forum (WSF) is “People’s Struggles, People’s Alternatives. The WSF website expands on that theme, saying:

WSF Nairobi 2007 will be an opportunity to showcase Africa and her social movements; Africa and her unbroken history of struggle against foreign domination, colonialism and neo-colonialism; Africa and her rich heritage of natural wealth, cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity; Africa and her reputation for embracing communities from around the world; Africa and her contributions to world civilization; Africa and her role in the quest for another possible, more progressive global human society.”

Both self-organised and co-organised activities will focus on the follow 9 “thematic terrains”:

1.    Building a world of peace, justice, ethics and respect for diverse spiritualities
2.    Liberating the world from the domination of multinational and financial capital
3.    Ensuring universal and sustainable access to the common goods of humanity
4.    Democratizing knowledge and information
5.    Ensuring dignity, defending diversity, guaranteeing gender equality and eliminating all forms of discrimination
6.    Guaranteeing economic, social and cultural rights, especially the rights to food, healthcare, education, housing, employment and decent work
7.    Building a world order based on sovereignty, self-determination and rights of the peoples
8.    Constructing a people-centered and sustainable economy
9.    Building real democratic political structures and institutions with people’s participation on decisions and control of public affairs and resources

After the launch of the event, an international network on the right to water converged to plan for the upcoming days, with the objective to assist one another to launch an African water network.

Despite the disastrous record of water privatizations in Africa, international aid donors and governments continue to promote ‘private sector participation’ and commercialization as the solution to Africa’s water crisis. Civil society groups from across Africa and other parts of the world will use the WSF to announce a plan of action to counter this misguided push for water privatization.

CUPE has been participating in this international coalition since 2005.

Privatization has resulted in higher water bills and, in some cities, these have been compounded by large-scale disconnections of those who cannot pay,” argues Al-hassan Adam of the Ghana Coalition against Privatization of Water “Yet the World Bank and donor governments stubbornly continue to promote privatization by attaching conditions to debt relief, aid and loans.”

The report “Pipe Dreams”  documents that in every case where the private sector has been responsible for extending water access in sub-Saharan Africa, it has failed to deliver the promised level of investment. 25 per cent of those still in need of a water connection globally are in sub-Saharan Africa, yet it has received less than one per cent of private companies’ promises of investment. 80 per cent of the major water privatization contracts in sub-Saharan Africa have been terminated or are being disputed in relation to investment issues.

During seminars on 21-24 January, speakers from across Africa will debunk the myth that ‘private sector participation’ is the way forward for improving access to clean water and sanitation in Africa.