The UN’s recognition that the right to water is a fundamental human right is an explosive victory, and this was achieved by different movements all over the world that have called for this for many years. For example, we are thinking of the water war in Cochabamba, Bolivia and many other water conflicts. This right also includes access to clean and uncontaminated water, conservation of the resource, information, and the participation of citizens in the decision-making process. It opens the way towards seeing water in an alternative manner, as a water commons, not as a water commodity.
This victory will help this right become effective worldwide, going beyond the declared intentions. The UN statement, which does not give constraints, has nonetheless already helped some populations win cases in national tribunals and make sure their right to water is respected.
The five sessions we have brought together under the theme “the right to water” will highlight testimonials and demands, analyses and strategies, various experiences, and proposals from social activists. We will discuss different movements in different places, but also the awareness that water is a common good, in face of political choices and economic priorities. The issue of the right to water will also be looked at from a legal and legislative point of view in order to create synergies which could lead to implementing constraints.
Sharing experiences about these recent major popular movements for water will also provide an opportunity to exchange ideas about strategies for the right to water, between socialization and political dynamics. We will see how water is a catalyst for demanding democracy. Finally, through different testimonials we will hear about challenges in making the right to water effective and about examples of successful citizen participation in water management.
Thursday March 15, 10am to 12.30pm
Testimonials from local activists who fight against water plundering and for the recognition of the right to water as a fundamental human right
People are rising up all over the world in order to counter the monopolization of natural resources. This monopolization threatens resources and deprives locals from water by making this essential element scarce. These movements protest the reasoning behind privatization and the economic choices and models that have been imposed on them, demanding their rights on their lands.
This session will open with testimonials about the Walk for the Defense of Water and Life that took place in Peru in February 2012. This echoes other testimonials from other movements around the world. The history of activism is rarely written by those who live through it. This initial workshop will be an opportunity to exchange experiences about struggles for local water, and it will look at resistance, strategy and the strength of different propositions.
- Thursday March 15, 1pm to 3.30pm
Water, common good and heritage of the land: defending ecosystems and the integral water cycle
We cannot defend the right to water without understanding first that water is part of everything, without taking responsibility for the consequences when the water cycle is broken, without realizing that we are appropriating an element that by nature cannot be monopolized.
Today, in face of dominant economic systems that exploit and exhaust natural resources, causing a veritable eco-cide, many people are beginning to question the choices that have been made. The occupation of territories, the production systems, the development orientations are not neutral, and they have certain repercussions on the ecosystems. Alternatives do exist, but they require larger responsibility in understanding ecosystems and a better awareness of what this common good represents.
By looking at different angles and totally distinct realities, from the Andean communities where water is managed from beginning to end to the citizens’ initiative to remunipalize water in Italy, from properties that break the physical integrity of rivers to total privatization in Chile, this workshop is about re-thinking environmental and social crises by looking at relationships that people, communities, and economic systems have with living ecosystems. The speakers, from very different backgrounds, will exchange ideas and propose alternatives.
- Thursday March 15, 3.30pm to 6pm
Water and law-breaking: using legal tools to defend the right to water and penalize irrational water use
As appalling as it is, industrial contamination is almost never sanctioned and is never fairly assessed with regards to the irreversible damage to the environment and to the destruction of the communities’ lifestyles. Throughout this session, we’ll look at a few cases of contamination that are just as criminal as they are ordinary, as exposed by the voices of those who are forced to accept the consequences without any choice or cause, simply because they happen to live there. These testimonials will lead us to reflect on how legal mechanisms are failing to protect rivers and how existing legal tools have their limits in protecting administrative and civil rights, in the sense that they are unable to discourage polluters and restore the imbalances. The speakers will make proposals about how to regulate the use of rivers and how to set restrictive sanctions against environmental offenses.
- Friday March 16, 10am to 12.30pm
“We write water, we read democracy”: citizen groups and social movements for the right to water
In face of the commoditization of common goods and the looting of natural resources, citizens have come together to defend the right to water worldwide. In some cases, the people have succeeded in implementing democratic mechanisms such as referendums; in other cases, the people have been able to directly expel private companies. In all cases, the legitimacy of the citizen’s political voice has been constructed through the structuring of these movements. From Colombia to Italy, from Morocco to Germany then to Ecuador, this session will enlighten us about the social dynamics that made water a political catalyst and that led to the structuring of resistance movements which protest imposed models and demand more citizen participation in the decision-making and political processes.
- Friday March 16, 1pm to 3.30pm
Political dynamics and the right to water
Sometimes holding a cup of water to one’s lips is far from… the recognition of the right to water. This right is not necessarily taken into effect. Despite the fact that the right to water has been written into the new Moroccan constitution, the government continues to privatize the management of both drinking water and water for agriculture. We find similar situations in many other countries. In Italy, the situation is in contrast on a local level after the referendum, and the fight continues on a national and European level.
Political dynamics and the right to water. What mechanisms can a small group use in order to confiscate water management? In an opposite way, how can citizens appropriate their water? This round table will bring together activists from associations from different countries, elected officials who wish to work differently, and young people who have investigated and audited this topic within the framework of the Assises régionales des associations pour l’eau en Île-de-France.