About 85 people from at least 23 different countries came together for a ‘Roundtable on water as a human right and a commons’ at the World Social Forum in Tunisia earlier today.
The 3-hour session began with three presentations.
A community leader from Peru highlighted the impact of mining in his country on the right to water. He noted that all mines in Peru are located near water sources and that they will pollute downstream. He also noted that there had been the large ‘March for Life’ in Peru a year ago, a march that demanded a stop to mining in the basin headwaters and a declaration recognizing water as a basic human right. He said the very last thing they can do is lose their water, because its water or death. He called on everyone to unite to defend land and water.
An activist from Thessaloniki, Greece then noted that water is under threat in his country from a mine now under construction near his city. He said the Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold-owned gold mine would be the biggest open-pit mine in Europe. His city is also facing the privatization of its water system under austerity measures, as is Athens. He stated that water needs to be recognized as a commons, in that a public service may be privatized, but a commons is different.
And then a union leader from Tunisia talked about how water service is excellent in his country (90 percent access in cities, 80 percent in rural areas) and that it is publicly-owned. But he highlighted that the water utility is being targeted by transnational corporations that seek to profit from it. He also noted that by 2025 Tunisia will experience severe water shortages. He called for an international day of water cooperation between water utilities to challenge private water companies.
Blue Planet Project water campaigner Meera Karunananthan then talked about the major wins of the global water justice movement – notably the breaking of the consensus of the corporate World Water Forum and the recognition of the right to water and sanitation by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2010.
The participants were then asked for their ideas and recommendations on how to advance water justice. Some of the ideas put forward include:
– regional peoples forums on the right to water and the commons that could culminate in an international forum
– water must be recognized as a commons
– we need to be united with nature, not divided from it as we are now
– a team of volunteer translators is essential so that the water movement can talk with each other
– the World Social Forum is a great space for the movement to continue to come together
– an international law that would criminalize the non-respect for the right to water
– engagement in municipal elections to promote the right to water
– a global campaign on water democracy
– a Blue Water Fund to assist communities in need
– youth be mobilized in this work
– an independent Water Authority be created under the auspices of the United Nations.
The people participating in today’s roundtable discussion came from Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Greece, Ghana, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Romania, Rwanda, the Netherlands, Tunisia, United Kingdom, and United States.