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The G8 and millennium development goals on water

The Xinhua news service reports that, “The Group of Eight industrialized nations and poverty-ridden African countries agreed Friday to establish a stronger G8-Africa Partnership on Water and Sanitation, according to a statement issued after their meeting.”

Xinhua adds that, “The document said that under the partnership, African countries, led by the African Union, would continue working to make water-related Millenium Development Goals a top development priority.”

The G8 website had stated that, “The L’ Aquila G8 Summit held in 2009 will devote special attention to the topic of access to water and basic sanitation.”

Their website noted as background that, “The G8 Leaders launched the Evian Action Plan at the 2003 Summit, in which they pledged to step up their policies on water and basic sanitation in the poor countries. The G8 decided at the subsequent Gleneagles Summit, held in 2005, to increase development aid allocated to that sphere. Water was (also) a major item on the agenda for the Hokkaido Summit, held in 2008…”

How should we consider the UN Millennium Development Declaration, specifically its goals on water, that the G8 adopted at the Millennium Summit in September 2000?

Maude Barlow writes in ‘Blue Covenant‘ that the “appalling disparities” in access to water “have rightly created a demand and a commitment to providing water for the 1.4 billion people currently living without it.”

“The UN Millennium Development Goals include reducing by half the proportion of people living without safe drinking water by 2015. While laudable, this initiative is failing not only because the UN has worked with the World Bank to promote a flawed model for water development, but also because it assumes that there is enough water for everyone without seriously addressing the massive pollution of surface waters and the consequent massive overmining of groundwater supplies.”

“Although it had been promoting water privatization as one option several years prior to 1993, in that year, the World Bank adopted the Water Resources Management policy paper, which noted the ‘unwillingness’ of the poor to pay for water services and stated that water should be treated as an economic commodity…”

“Water privatization also became a key component of the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPS), the primary strategic and implementation vehicle used to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals and the framework agreements through which developing countries receive international aid.”

“Since the (UN conference in Dublin in January 1992), the United Nations, under former secretary-general Kofi Annan, has promoted private sector involvement in water services in a number of ways.”

Writing about the World Summit on Sustainable Development, that took place in Johannesburg in August 2002, Barlow notes, “The water companies wanted to cash in on the lucrative contracts that would open up if the summit endorsed private-public partnerships as the main delivery model to implement the UN Millennium Development Goals and they wanted this access sanctioned by the United Nations and the 189 governments present at the Johannesburg gathering.”

“So it can come as no surprise that the UN Millennium Development Goals …were flawed from the beginning because of the deep involvement of the water transnationals. The freshwater component of the MDGs …is now further away than ever.”

Barlow concludes, “If the World Bank, the United Nations and northern countries were serious about providing clean water for all, they would cancel or deeply cut the Third World debt, substantively increase foreign aid, fund public services, tell their big bottling companies to stop draining poor countries dry and invest in water reclamation programs to protect source water. They would also tell the water companies that they no longer have any say in which countries and communities receive water funding.”

“Citizens in First World countries need to recognize and challenge the hypocrisy of their governments, many of whom would never permit foreign corporations to run and profit from their water supplies, but who continue to support the global financial and trade institutions that commodify water in the Third World. Many in the water justice movement work with fair trade groups to create a whole new set of rules for global trade based on sustainability, cooperation, environmental stewardship and fair labor standards. They also promote a tax on financial speculation; even a modest tax could pay for every public hospital, school and water utility in the global south.”

The Xinhua news report is at

The G8 web-page that notes its water agenda is at

The excerpts from Blue Covenant can be found on pages 5-6, 37-41, 44-45, 55, and 160.

To read about how the Council of Canadians intends to counter the G8 summit in Huntsville, Canada this coming June 25-27, please go to