Global water activists are very good at challenging power and proposing positive solutions.
Unfortunately, there are no lack of powerful corporations, international financial institutions and governments to challenge. There is also a desperate need for sustainable, just, solutions to the global water crisis.
This week a small group of us are heading to the 17th World Water Week in Stockholm. Long thought of as a 'technocratic' event, which did not deserve the same attention as the more infamous World Water Forum, attitudes are changing towards the World Water Week. This is because the event has become increasingly political. Deals are made in the backrooms and behind closed doors which have a profound impact. One player linked in with the corporate side said that hardly anyone goes to the actual sessions, the real work is done in the side meetings.
This is a very dangerous development and I have come to believe that we continue to ignore what happens at the World Water Week at our peril. Activists have done a phenomenol job of challenging the World Water Forum, to the extent that governments are increasingly distancing themselves from the forum and it is evolving into little more than a global water trade fair. Still a threat and a vehicle for privatisation and water commodification, and still needing to be challenged but the once-hidden agenda is now firmly exposed. No one can ignore the 40,000 people who marched against the WWF last year in Mexico City.
Now it is apparent that those using the World Water Week to advance a corporate, privatised water agenda also need to be challenged in Stockholm. Not in the same manner or scale as the World Water Forums, but in a way that signals to everyone that there are other voices and views on water than those espoused by the corporate, water-for-profit, idealogues.
This is why international activists are teaming up with a wonderful group of Swedish activists to work together this week in Stockholm. This will surely be the beginning of future collaborations. It comes at a time when public water in Sweden itself is under threat and there is a clear need for Swedish people to stand up and protect their public water system.
We will be actively trying to ensure the new global water operator partnership remains a non-profit initiative. We will voice the truth that effective public water systems, democratically -controlled and properly resourced are the best hope for solving the world water crisis. We will demand implementation of water as a human right to counter the dangers of unleashing water markets against the most vulnerable people trying to survive in the harshest environments.
Between the work on the outside of the event and what we can accomplish inside, this week proves to be interesting.