Well it has been a phenomenal week for our movement...
Not least of all because it confirms a quote Olivier sent me just before I headed over to Stockholm.... ' Never doubt what a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that has. Margaret Mead.
Was it as profound as that? For me it was.
I am now on my way home after this brilliant week of working in Stockholm with this small, but committed, group of water activists. During the week we shook up the otherwise staid world of the global water mafia. We won over many conference members with well reasoned arguments, materials and even some direct action. We placed articles in all major Swedish media. We welcomed new members into the water justice movement and solidified old allegiances.
The Swedish activists we worked with received an injection of energy into their efforts to protect Stockholm Vatten (Water) from privatisation - this public ulility is one of the world's most efficient water companies, yet this is no protection from ideology.
It is impossible to write down all the initiatives of the week, but here are some that come to mind...
Direct action protest against Nestle's sponsorship of the World Water Forum. Nestle is the world's largest bottled water company and the world's largest food company. During the week they reported first half of the year profits of over 4 Billion USD. We sent our message outside an official event Nestle held at the WWW using placards and leaflets as well as chants and coins in water bottles symbolizing profit from water.
Public event focused on supporting protection of Stockholm Vatten - Stockholm's public water company and a shining example of good public management delivering quality water at an affordable rate. Wonderful presentations and informed debate from the floor made this an inspiring event even though the temperature of the room resembled that of a sauna!
Within hours leaflets, banners and other materials were collectively written and printed. Plans were hatched and tasks divided. With around a dozen activists working together we were far outnumbered by the neo-liberal deal-makers, but everyday there was a new story about our work in the media and visible signs of our engagement inside the forum.
And the most amazing thing of all is that these plans and work all came together within two weeks of the beginning of the event! Partially because this was the height of the Swedish holiday season, but also because this was our first engagement at the forum and people were going separately for differing reasons.
This is only a small sample of all the good work that was done. Next year we will need to build on this success. I am convinced that this meeting is the most dangerous gathering for the realization of water as a human right. There are well-meaning academics and technical people at the event trying to present their research but they are dwarfed by the donor countries, private water companies, UN agencies and International Finance Institutions making back room deals and plotting for their next water grab. It was far, far, worse than I could have imagined. There were almost as many closed, by-invitation-only, meetings as open sessions.
All for now, below is a note with a sample of some links which one of our Swedish friends from ATTAC compiled.
Blue Planet Project
Our efforts to make people look with critical eyes at the WWW culminated yesterday when the public meeting at ABF-huset moved the focus to the threat against Stockholm Water coming from the new political majority in Stockholm.
Stockholm Water has been kind of a positive international icon among public water utilites. Both the international acitvists, the Swedish aciivists and the reopresenttavis from Swdish Trade Union of the Municipality workers agreed that now is the time to mobilize against the sneak privatization.
The union's paper Kommunalarbetaren is topping on the web with a report from our meeting, written by Ann Christin Sjölander whoi has also written the book "The water business : corporations versus people" Look at "Don't Sell out our Water!"!" http://www.kommunalarbetaren.se/index.cfm?n=1644&o=1591&c=77164
The same day Aftonbladet published a big op-ed written by Anil Naidoo, Blue Planet Network and me titled Vatten = Politik. Diskussionen får inte tas över av teknokrater och företagsledare. http://www.aftonbladet.se/debatt/article576391.ab
This op-ed is also on the web in an English version http://worldwaterweek.blogspot.com/2007/08/op-ed-ciriticising-world-water-week.html
The Editors op-ed in the magazine ETC (paper version) is written on the same theme by me."Don't touch our water!" http://etc.se/veckans_ledare/15420/roer-inte-vart-vatten
The Nestlé acton on Wednesday (at the same time critzising the organizers behind WWW) was also a success.Look at Protest mot Nestlés sponsring av Världsvattenveckan http://www.yelah.net/news/20070816161212
Pictures and some commentaries are also on:
Mai Simonsen, FIVAS, Norge http://www.flickr.com/photos/11576295@N06/
Vattenaktivisternas blogg http://worldwaterweek.blogspot.com/2007/08/protest-action-during-nestl-seminar.html
Anericas blogg http://americavz.com/blogg/?p=214
Tommy Kane's presentation at the ABF-meeting brought "A warning from England and Scotland" Tommy underlined that the commercialization of the scottish activities to distribute water and treat waste water in many ways is like what is happening in Sweden just now. It is impossible for the politicians to just sell out the plants - therefore they advance step by step in a more subtile way. We will later send out Tommy's Powerpoint presentation. I also recommend his reports from inside the WWW published on the blog
Tommy Kane: Solidarity http://worldwaterweek.blogspot.com/2007/08/solidarity.html
Tommy Kane: Behind Closed Doors http://worldwaterweek.blogspot.com/2007/08/behind-closed-doors.html
"Water is a Human Right" - a column in Göteborgs-Posten, written by Lars Henriksson, a metal worker and a member of Attac http://www.gp.se/gp/jsp/Crosslink.jsp?d=421&a=362678 "There is Something Rotten in the People's House" By Lasse Karlsson at Attac's blog. http://www.attac.se/blogg/
"Knowledge is Already Availabe" A short commentary in Dagen http://www.dagen.se/dagen/Article.aspx?ID=139673
Sweden denies visas to Nigerians for the water week" Yelah on the web http://www.yelah.net/news/20070813112359
Future Occurencies at the Waterfront Helsingborgs Dagblad A comment to Fredrik Reinfeldt's speech http://hd.se/ledare/2007/08/14/framtidens-haendelser-vid-vatten/