EU should end push for global water privatisation, say activists and utility managers

European governments should stop imposing water privatisation and switch to supporting the expansion of the public water supply in developing countries, a new book has concluded.

Launched during a seminar at the World Social Forum, Reclaiming Public Water challenges what it sees as widespread prejudices and presents a wide range of examples of how public utility reform has resulted in major improvements in access to clean water and sanitation, not least for the poorest.

Written by water utility managers and civil society campaigners from more than twenty countries, the book highlights the bias against public utilities in the policies of international financial institutions and donor governments as one of the most serious obstacles to expanding public water delivery.

"The European Commission and many European governments use international aid and trade policies to encourage privatisation," says Satoko Kishimoto of the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute, co-author of the book. "It is high time for European governments to acknowledge the failure of privatisation and start providing ambitious support for public sector options."

(see related story).

The book cites numerous examples of multinational water corporations failing to deliver their promised improvements while raising water tariffs far beyond the reach of poor households. It concludes that the EU should end its push for including water in international trade agreements, such as the WTO GATS talks, and instead work to enshrine the human right to water in a legally binding UN convention.

By David Hopkins



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