March 20th, 2012

Why the Water Justice Movement Was Denied Equal Press Access at the World Water Forum

By Wenonah Hauter

Last week, we sent a letter to World Water Forum organizers asking to hold a press conference there about the fact that Veolia, Suez and Saur—among the biggest private water corporations globally—are being investigated for price fixing in the EU. After all, the forum organizers claimed that their space is open to all opinions. We believe that it’s important the attendees know that Veolia, Suez and Saur have longstanding ties with the World Water Council, the force behind the Forum. And after all, AquaFed, the lobbying group for private water companies, along with dozens of other economic interests at the forum held official press conferences.

Of course, it’s no big surprise that we were denied access to the forum infrastructure for our press conference.

Their answer as to why our request was denied was somewhat entertaining. They said it was “unethical”.

At the end of his letter, Mr. Benedito Braga, President of the International Forum Committee, called our attempt to use the Forum’s  “infrastructure” “unethical” on the grounds that Maude Barlow and I refused to participate in the debate on public/private involvement in the provision of water services. It’s true that we declined to debate, telling them that they needed to hear from someone representing the Global South whose community had been impacted by privatization first hand, and we suggested an activist from the Philippines, Maria Theresa N. Lauron (who did a great job at the debate).

As expected, the forum turned us down because they are not a legitimate or participatory body on global water policy. They have an agenda, and our message undermines their plans to profit from water services.

If our effort to show the forum’s true colors was “unethical”, then the water industry’s use of the forum to make profit off of the billion people that lack access to clean water is a downright travesty.

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