World Water Forum "fails"

Numerous activist groups and NGOs have jointly condemned what they describe as the "failure" of last week's World Water Forum in Mexico City, saying that its closing declaration offers proof of its incapacity to tackle the world's water crisis.

"The emptiness of the closing declaration is demonstrated by the absence of fundamental principles, especially the recognition and enforcement of the human right to water" said Anil Naidoo of one such group, the Blue Planet Project.

This failure to provide real solutions should be no surprise, given that the World Water Council, which controls the World Water Forum, exists to promote private sector water management. Activist groups campaigning to defend the public's right to access to usable water have call for the failed World Water Forum to be replaced by a UN-hosted process.

"The forum organisers, like the World Water Council and the World Bank, have been determined to keep private sector management on the agenda. There has been no serious assessment of the privatisation debacle, and poor countries continue to be at the mercy of international financial institutions with a strong pro-privatisation agenda," said Vicky Cann of the World Development Movement.

Despite the efforts of the Forum organisers and Mexican government to stifle debate, deep splits between governments emerged. A bloc of Latin American countries has challenged the imposition of a false consensus, for example by expressing strong concerns about the inclusion of water in free trade agreements.

By contrast to the vacuous WWF closing declaration, parallel events made clear proposals on how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals on water, which are to halve by 2015 the proportion of people who are unable to reach, or to afford, safe drinking water, and to stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources, by developing water management strategies at the regional, national and local levels, which promote both equitable access and adequate supplies. They emphasised the recognition and enforcement of the human right to water delivered by publicly managed utilities, and urged governmental support for the development of public-public partnerships.

A growing number of developing countries' governments are already embracing ambitious public sector water programmes. The latest to do this, Argentina, this week announced its complete departure from the failed public-private partnership model of the last decade and its choice for progressive public water reforms.