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Water Rights Activists Blast World Water Forum as "Corporate Trade Show to Promote Privatization"

Activists slammed the event as a non-inclusive, corporate-driven fraud and called for a more open, democratic and transparent forum.

AMY GOODMAN: Sunday was World Water Day and marked the close of a week-long gathering held in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss water policy at a time when over a billion people lack access to clean water and two-and-a-half billion lack water for proper sanitation.

Activists from the People's Water Forum, an alternative formation representing rural poor, the environment and organized labor, slammed the official event as a non-inclusive, corporate-driven fraud pushing for water privatization and called for a more open, democratic and transparent forum. The forum, which is organized every three years by the French-based World Water Council, is funded in large part by the water industry.

The forum opened last Monday with Turkish police firing tear gas and detaining protesters, who were shouting “water for life, not for profit.” Two activists from the non-governmental organization International Rivers were deported after holding up a banner just before the conference began that read “No Risky Dams.”

The final non-binding communiqué from the official forum describes access to water as a “basic human need” rather than a human right, despite efforts by dissenting Latin American countries, France and Spain. They were reportedly blocked by Egypt, Brazil and the United States.

Well, Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films caught up with some of the leading campaigners from the People's Water Forum -- Wenonah Hauter of Food and Water Watch, Mary Ann Manahan of Focus on the Global South, and Maude Barlow, the senior adviser on water issues to the United Nations General Assembly and Right Livelihood Award-winner -- for their thoughts on the World Water Forum. Begins with Maude Barlow.

    MAUDE BARLOW: Every time you turn around, everywhere you go, there are police. It's absolutely unbelievable. You cannot come in from the outside. There's absolutely no way. Unless you've paid a great deal of money and you've had the security screening and you behave yourself very properly while you're in there, you would not be welcome. You would be thrown out and/or arrested. And the World Water Council people, the World Water Forum, did not critique what the police have been doing here. They've just accepted it and enjoyed it and taken advantage of the tough security measures here.

    The security is tight, because what they're about is promoting privatization, promoting a corporate vision of the world, and they want to pretend to the world that that's the consensus of the world. And it isn't. And our groups are here to say it's not, and so they want to control us as much as possible.

    They basically say that they are the collection of people around the world who care about water, and they come together every three years to have this great big summit. And every single year, the police presence gets more and more like the World Trade Organization, every single year, from the very beginning, when there was none, to this. But basically, the World Water Council, which puts this on, is really the big water corporations and the World Bank and some UN agencies and some northern development agencies, some academics, the odd small NGO -- small as in, you know, NGOs, but really, it is the corporations, and it's a big trade show. That's what this is about. They'll put on sessions on gender and water, but they don't mean any of it. This is really about one development model for water, and that's the privatization model. And that's what they're promoting, and that's what their consensus is, and they refuse to include the notion of the right to water and, of course, the public trust into their documents.

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