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5th World Water Forum, Istanbul

Notes from the 5th World Water Forum March 16-22, 2009 Istanbul, Turkey

The fifth World Water Forum has just begun in Istanbul and water justice activists from around the world are saying it should be the last. The forum is organized every three years by the World Water Council, an organization comprised of powerful transnational water corporations and international financial institutions. It is aimed at enabling corporations like Veolia and Suez to influence public policy regarding water resources and services.

Maude and I landed in Istanbul around 1pm today. We are here to join Blue Planet Project organizer Anil Naidoo and hundreds of other activists from around the world who are here to expose the forum’s illegitimacy and oppose its agenda.

I gave a live interview to Radio Canada from the cab on the way to the hotel for the Ottawa morning show Bernier et cie. They had just spoken to Loic Fauchon, President of the World Water Council, who had told them the forum was to address the water crisis caused by excessive waste. I told them the real crisis was the 1 billion or so people who lack access to clean safe drinking water and that  the solution proposed by Mr. Fauchon and the corporations whose interests he represents will only make the situation worse.

Turkey was not a random choice. Turkey’s Environment Minister recently called on foreign investors to invest in dams and water services in the country. According to the Minister, there is a potential market  for investments in dams and water services is about 60 billion euros.

According to the government there are currently 600 dam projects under way and approximately 14,000 licenses for dam projects being considered. Earlier today, activists from around the world joined Turkish anti-dam activists and were met with brutal violence. Many Turkish comrades were arrested and injured.

Maude was invited to speak at a press conference in the evening by Turkish activists to denounce the police violence. She told Turkish media: “I have been at every World Water Forum meeting and we have protested at every single one because the WWF pretends to be a UN conference, but it is not. We call the World Water Council the lords of water. Although unelected they have taken for themselves the role of speaking for the whole world. They are pushing one development model a model through which all water is privatized and the market  determines allocation. Unfortunately for them there is a a powerful group of international activists who have come to speak for the people of the world. We speak for the majority when we ask for water to be considered a human right and public trust. We stand in solidarity with Turkish activists who oppose the WWF and we stand in solidarity with the people who protested peacefully for something we all believe in.”

International organizations have produced a joint statement drawing attention to the message this sends about the oppressive nature of the World Water Forum and the relationship it seeks to create between people and their governments.

Earlier in the day, at a strategy session for activists, Maude also had a message of hope: “My feeling is that we are winning around the world. Between our work and the collapse of the financial system, they are up against a wall. This  is an opportunity for us to be heard over them. We. call for this to be the last world water forum. The self-appointed lords of water are not legitimate and they should not meet again. This should be the last one!”

And we will spend this week trying to make that happen