As government representatives gather Tuesday in Indonesia for what could be final negotiations towards a global trade agreement under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), environmentalists and social justice campaigners are urging them to specify that water resources cannot be treated as commodities.
Critics of the privatisation and “financialisation” of natural resources are pointing to mounting interest by multinational investors in viewing common water resources as tradable, a change that development advocates worry could impact particularly on poor and marginalised communities. While international agreements enshrined a universal right to water (and sanitation) in 2010, international trade agreements have yet to follow suit – a gap that some say is becoming increasingly dangerous.
“Our concern is that the financialisation and privatisation of water is already very much a long-term goal of major multinational companies and investors,” William Waren, a trade policy analyst with Friends of the Earth U.S., a watchdog group, told IPS.
“These entities have made bets that water will eventually be distributed and sold much like petroleum is today. They know that global warming will make water resources increasingly scarce, so they want to get ahold of these resources and eventually sell it at their asking price.”
Of those who have made such bets so far, Waren mentions Suez Environment, the French water giant, as well as T Boone Pickens, the U.S. oil tycoon-turned-alternative energy magnate. Regardless of where these investors are based, however, their focus is international.
Read more on the IPS website