World Peace Forum joins international activists as they buck the World Water Council's privatization trend

The World Peace Forum (WPF) has signed onto a letter opposing the CEO Water Mandate, a pro-business initiative set up by the major water corporations under the United Nations Global Compact.

Now that the 5th World Water forum is approaching in Istanbul, Turkey, it's time to intensify our pressure once again. Below is the letter which is to be sent to the U.N. General Secretary for action prior to the WWF in mid-March. A copies of the letter in English is pasted below.

The letter has been initiated by the following organizations: African Water Network, Corporate Accountability International, Corporate Europe Observatory, Polaris Institute and Red Vida The WPF joined this action because we believe there is a great danger that the commodification (privatization) of the world’s water would lead to severe shortages and become a source of conflict and war.

As the 5th World Water Forum approaches in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 16-22, 2009, we, the undersigned civil society organizations actively engaged in the struggle for water justice throughout the world, are deeply concerned about the contradictory messages coming from the United Nations on the issue of water rights. On the one hand, as the UN Secretary-General, you have correctly issued repeated warnings about increasing water shortages around the world while the UN President, Miguel d’Escoto, has called for the recognition by member states of water as a fundamental human right. On the other hand, the UN has, in effect, taken measures to consolidate the rights of for-profit corporations to secure control over the world’s freshwater sources and supplies by harboring the CEO Water Mandate under the UN Global Compact. As a result, there is the very real danger that water as a corporate right will trump water as a human right and an ecological trust.On World Water Day last year, leaders of more than 125 environmental, public health, water justice, human rights and corporate accountability NGOs in 35 countries expressed to you their view that the CEO Water Mandate is primarily designed to facilitate greater control over water sources and services by for-profit transnational corporations. We share those concerns. Led by Coca-Cola, which has a highly questionable track record when it comes to water takings and water pollution, the companies which have signed on to the CEO Water Mandate all have a vested interest in gaining control over water in times of increasing scarcity. Suez is the world’s largest privatizer of water services while Nestlé is the world’s leading bottled water company. Other co-signers include food giants like Unilever, clothing manufacturers like Levi-Strauss, and chemical companies like Dow Chemical, all of whom are greatly dependent on water sources and services for the production of their products.Our concerns are reinforced by the heavy presence of these and other corporations involved in the global water industry at the World Water Forum [WWF] in Istanbul. It is well known that global water companies like Suez and international financial institutions like the World Bank have had a major role to play in organizing the WWF and determining its agenda since its inception. Every three years, the WWF program puts a priority on encouraging representatives of local governments from all over the world to invite private sector involvement in the running of their water services and accept greater corporate governance over their water sources and infrastructure.What’s more, the World Water Forum promotes voluntary corporate initiatives like the CEO Water Mandate, although there is no evidence that such approaches facilitate rather than undermine regulation and government action. Companies involved in the CEO Water Mandate will also meet in Istanbul at the WWF in March to advance their plan of action. While a few NGOs have been handpicked to attend and a transparency policy has been posted on the CEO Water Mandate website, such measures do not go far enough to hold corporate signers accountable to standards set by the public, or to ensure broad civil society participation or increase public access to relevant information about corporate use, abuse and control of water.This conflict over water being recognized as a corporate versus a human right could well come to a head at the WWF in Istanbul. It is our understanding that the President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto, will be present, and will continue championing the cause of water as a human right. However, the global water corporations who are driving the program of activities at the WWF will have the benefit of your support as the UN Secretary-General for the CEO Water Mandate. Indeed, there is the very real danger that your continuing endorsement of the CEO Water Mandate will tip the balance in favour of water as a corporate right. We maintain that water is the essence of life on this planet. As such, it is both a human right and an ecological trust. Local communities must be recognized as the true guardians of their local watersheds. Democratically elected governments must be held responsible for ensuring community participation and control over water sources and services. The UN should be looking to local communities and representative governments, rather than for-profit corporations, to set the global policy agenda and lead the development of solutions to the world water crisis.We, therefore, urge you, Mr. Secretary-General, to issue a statement prior to the World Water Forum in Istanbul that reaffirms water as a human right and an ecological trust rather than a corporate right. We also call on you to withdraw your official support for the CEO Water Mandate at the UN and instead commit resources to developing an alternative program and strategy on the global water crisis that is both transparent and accountable. Indeed, civil society and community based groups engaged in water justice issues around the world today have a valuable contribution to make in developing an alternative water program and plan of action at the United Nations. This letter has been initiated by the following organizations: African Water Network, Corporate Accountability International, Corporate Europe Observatory, Polaris Institute and Red Vida.For follow-up, please contact Tony Clarke, Polaris Institute, tclarke@polarisinstitute.org and Kathryn Mulvey, Corporate Accountability International, kmulvey@stopcorporateabuse.org