This month around 80 Brazilian non-governmental organizations launched a platform defending everyone’s right to water and sanitary services. The document, better known as the Global Water Struggle Platform, contains ten demands directed at international agencies and governmental bodies.
The United Nations is asked to recognize water as a human right. Federal governments are urged to pay attention to native and rural populations.
The platform, which was drafted during the V World Social Forum, in Porto Alegre, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, south of Brazil, underscores the risks of granting private companies control over public water supply and sanitation services.
“The privatization of water has proved negative in various countries. In Latin America we have two good examples of failure: Bolivia and Argentina,” declares Jocélio Drummond, represent of the Public Services International (PSI), a organization made up of civil servants.
According to him, the Bolivian government, under public pressure, cancelled the contract with a transnational corporation. The Bolivians were dissatisfied with the rate hikes.
In Argentina, on the other hand, it was the same transnational corporation that took the initiative to break the contract. Its reason: with the devaluation of the peso, profits declined, even with rate hikes.
“Where privatization of water occurred, the number of people with access to quality water fell, there were rate hikes, and a large part of the population, unable to pay, had these services cut off,” Drummond reveals. In the platform, the organizations name the World Bank as one of the instigators of concessions to private firms.
But the PSI representative admits that the Bank has changed this policy in recent years. “The World Bank no longer defends privatization at any cost, as it did in the ’90’s. It now suggests partial participation, with well defined regulation.”
According to Drummond, the Brazilian entities are going to demand that in international negotiations, especially with the European Union, Brazil exclude water supply and sanitation services as an area of investment for European companies.
In the coming months the organizations also plan to mobilize other non-governmental groups to adhere to the platform. Especially those that represent Indians and women, domestic water managers.
“This population is severely affected by the lack of water. It is necessary to place the priority on the supply for humans, not businesses,” the PSI representative contends.
“Many people think about the jobs a company can bring to a region, but they forget that water is a public good.”
Translation: David Silberstein
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