World Water Day statement criticises EU aid and trade policies

In the run up to World Water Day on 22 March, over sixty civil society and labour organisations from Europe and around the world have published a critical statement about the policies of the European Commission regarding water and sanitation in developing countries.

The statement notes that during the last decade the Commission "has persistently promoted increased private sector participation in water and sanitation services," despite the fact that "experiences from Bolivia, Guyana, Tanzania and elsewhere demonstrate that privately-operated water services do not bring the necessary investment or efficiency gains to deliver affordable water to the urban poor."

The signatories, which include professional bodies such as the Association of African Engineers and Scientists International, international trade union federations as well as national trade unions from the Netherlands, the UK and Thailand, development NGOs, environmentalist and international solidarity organisations and church groups call for a recognition that "access to water (is) a human right and which give poor countries the support needed to make this right a reality."

Worldwide, 90% of piped water provision is publicly provided, with strong public utilities in Brazil, India, Uganda and elsewhere delivering water and sanitation services to increasing numbers. The challenge, the signatories argue is to "scale-up this good performance by improving other public providers."

The statement concludes by welcoming recent statements in which the Commission has said that it will look to introduce ‘smart aid’ policies. In relation to water and sanitation, this should mean that the EU:

•Stops using aid money to facilitate private sector involvement.
•Drops requests for market access within trade talks.
•Greatly increases aid and public investment in the sector.
•Supports the development of strong public utilities in the Global South through ‘public-public partnerships’ that enable the exchange of expertise between public providers, working hand-in-hand with local communities

Read the full statement. list of signatories and background information on the World Water Day website