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Public-Private Partnership Debate Ends in Standoff

Civil Society, Corporate Water at odds over global water future

OSAKA, JAPAN, March 19 /CNW/ - After two days of intense dialogue and counter presentations, the most contentious debate at the Third World Water Forum has ended with Corporate Water and Civil Society presenting decidedly different perspectives on public-private partnerships (PPP). After two days, it is clear that no consensus, no agreement, and few areas of common purpose have been found. In an unprecedented move, both sides delivered separate statements to the Secretariat of the Third World Water Forum.

In fact, through the course of the debate, civil society and the private sector probably moved further apart on PPPs than they were before the World Water Forum. The vast majority of comments in the plenary sessions were critical of the corporate positions outlined by the World Water Council.

"The commodification of water is ethically, environmentally and socially wrong," says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and the PPP thematic session co-convenor along with Bill Cosgrove of the World Water Council. "It ensures that decisions regarding the allocation of water centre on commercial considerations, leaving aside fundamental environmental, social and human rights' considerations.

"We worked with our allies to try harder than ever to make the private sector understand this during the past two days in Osaka, but to no avail. It became very apparent that the primary role of business is not to provide accessible and quality water: it is to make a profit for its shareholders. Their objectives, and the needs of people and nature, are fundamentally at odds," concludes Ms. Barlow.

The rising power of water transnational corporations has threatened the power of citizens and local communities to control their own water. Corporate lobby groups exert undue influence on governments and international trade/financial institutions; where they seek financial, trade and environmental concessions that lower international standards.

The shift by governments to support PPPs was seen by civil society participants as a dangerous step toward the commodification and cartelization of the world's water. Many expressed concerns that we should not be placing our future in the hands of a small elite who will determine the future in its own interest.

The civil society's delegation at the World Water Forum demands that governments act to ensure that citizens can exercise their right to water and that there be universal exemptions for water from all trade agreements. Until then we will be continuing to challenge and fight privatization and commodization of water, everywhere in the world.

Canada NewsWire


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