The Alternative Water Forum
The Alternative Water Forum was established in March 2003, to present an alternative strategy to challenge the privatisation of water and promote people-centred policies. The Forum is open to local representatives and people responsible for local communities, to people and institutions from the world of education, communication, and cultural creation, government ministers and of representatives of the private sector, as well as to the general public.
The Alternative Water Forum aims to “develop and promote institutions and public policy that will provide access to potable water for all human beings, in a manner which is democratic and sustainable”. The first Alternative Water Forum took place in Florence in 2003, and the second, in Geneva in 2005.
Founding Principles of the Alternative Water Forum
Aims and Objectives of the second Alternative World of Water Forum 2005
Plan of Action on the Right to Water
Declaration of Parliamentarians
The first Alternative Water Forum was held in Florence in 2003, and brought together 18,000 participants from organisations concerned with ensuring access to water. The delegates agreed on a set of principles that would form the foundation of future activities:
Access to water is a fundamental human right
Water is a common good belonging to humankind and must not be appropriated
The management of water must be democratic at all levels
The financing of water must be collectively ensured
The Alternative Water Forum is open to organisations and individuals adhering to the above principles. Although it is primarily a forum for civil society organisations concerned with water, it is also open to governments, parliamentarians, representatives of the private sector and the general public. It provides an opportunity for civil society to voice its opposition to the agenda of the official water forum and to present an alternative set of proposals. The Forum is seen as a means of ensuring that all actors are “pulling in the same direction” by promoting a recognition that diverse local movements share common objectives.
The second Alternative World Water Forum held in Geneva, Switzerland, in March 2005 brought together more than 1,200 participants from across the globe to build on the commitments made in Florence in 2003. The aim of the second Alternative World Water Forum was to
“further develop and promote institutions and public policy that will finally provide access to potable water for all human beings and have water management done in a democratic, united and sustainable manner”.
Its objectives were to:
Define as quickly as possible a common strategy for the elaboration of a World Contract, International Convention or any other judicial instrument, which elevates explicitly and formally the access to potable water to the status of human right for future generations, and for the commonwealth of humanity;
Pursue, and develop reflection on concrete means to promote in the domain of water, and at all levels of the political organisation (local, regional, national, and international) plural, and sustainable forms of financing on one hand, and modes of participative democracy on the other;
Take stock of actions, partnerships, managing experiences, and mobilisations that took place these last few years in the domain of water, reinforce the synergy between associations, and movements that try to achieve the four founding principles of the Alternative World Water Forum, and coordinate new actions on the regional, and international level;
Inform the general public on what’s at stake in the water sector, and sensitize it to the problems encountered by institutions, and public policies as far as supplying and management are concerned.
The official debates and workshops at the second Alternative Water Forum were held around four themes:
Water, a human right
Water, a public concern
Water, public good, public funding
Democratic management of water
In preparation of the Forum, four international working groups prepared a background paper on each of these four themes.
The Forum was co-chaired by and Madame Danielle Mitterand, President of the Foundation France Libertés and Mario Soares, former President of Portugal and President of the International Committee for the World Water Contract. The Forum was organised by a broad-based International Committee spearheaded by the World Water Contract, World Coalition Against The Privatisation of Water and a Swiss Committee made up of Swiss NGOs and individuals.
The Forum received financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the City and Canton of Geneva and a number of Swiss municipalities. A large part of the budget was reserved to pay for travel and lodging for representatives from countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
The second Alternative Water Forum adopted a Final Declaration in which participants reaffirmed their solidarity with all those, on all continents, who suffer from the consequences of lack of water, and their commitment to securing water as a human right. One clear, cross-cutting priority that emerged from all workshops was that water has to be excluded from the arena of trade and market laws, particularly:
From multilateral or bilateral trade agreements
From international financial institutions
The Final Declaration called for a status for water on a global level which will:
Take into account the globality of the water cycle
Prevent its appropriation by anyone
Guarantee collective responsibility
Ensure that water management and control by a public authority is founded on a legitimate political power and submitted to the rules of democracy
The key theme of water as a human right was discussed in the workshop entitled The Implementation of the Human Right to Water: A Platform to Mobilise Civil Society. A Plan of Action was adopted which set out the options for priority actions, ensuring that local and global strategies complement each other. The Plan of Action covered global strategy, local strategy. It set out proposals for monitoring implementation of the Plan and called for the establishment of a World Observatory on the Right to Water.
The importance of adopting an international convention entrenching the right to water was recognised as a long term objective. However, as the experience of the drafting of the convention on international watercourses of 1997 demonstrated, preparation of a convention can take more than a quarter of a century.
In the meantime, strengthening of the obligations specified in General Comment 15 could be achieved by adoption of the draft Optional Protocol Regarding the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights currently under discussion by the UN. The Optional Protocol aims to create a quasi legal body to oversee individual and collective complaints on economic, social and cultural rights, which could provide an effective way of obtaining justice for those who face violation of the right to water.
The participants also discussed how best to make corporations responsible for violations of the right to water, for instance by adding the right to water to the Draft UN Norms on the Responsibility of Trans-national Corporations and other business Enterprises with regards to Human Rights, being discussed before the Human Rights Commission. However, opinions were split on this proposal due to the fear that this would give an international legal status to corporations which they do not currently possess under international law.
Spreading awareness of the right to water and anchoring it in national laws and plans of action
Encouraging local authorities and elected officials to commit publicly to the right to water and disseminating a regularly updated inventory of those municipalities and elected officials implementing this right
Developing model legislation on the right to water as a tool for NGO campaigning
Compiling alternative NGO reports on the realisation of the right to water for submission to the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights at the time of its review of States Party reports
Supporting individual and collective complaints to national or regional mechanisms in order to support the international campaign for the right to water by demonstraing the justiciable nature of the right to water and its benefit for those who suffer a lack of water
Source: The Implementation of the Human Right to Water: A Platform to Mobilise Civil Society Fame 2005 Alternative Water Forum Discussion Paper and Action Plan, Goals Fame 2005 Alternative Water Forum, World Water Contract 2005 History and Presentation.
Its purpose was to facilitate the exchange of legislative experiences conducted in various regions of the globe and the progress made by certain national programmes, and to identify the barriers to implementation of the right to water. In this way, parliamentarians will be better informed and more effective to act at the local, regional and international levels.
Parliamentarians from Bosnia-Herzegovinia, Belgium, Brazil, Estonia, France, Great Britain, Iraq, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Switzerland, and Venezuela, expressed their concern over negative social and cultural impacts of current global water policy.
Reaffirmed that “the right of access to water is not a need, but a fundamental right of the human being” (Original in French. Unofficial Translation)
Declared that this right must be made concrete before 2020, by explicit inclusion in national, regional and international legislation and by promoting the mechanisms to guarantee this fundamental right
Stated that “inequality and social injustices are not inevitable. They are the result of neo-liberal globalisation and political negligence and can be efficiently addressed by the choice of alternative policies”
Recognised that it is essential “to stimulate public collaboration between local authorities, and to elaborate new financial instruments, at a local, regional and global levels to ensure the public financing of the considerable investments and all expenses inherent in achieving access to water for all”
Acknowledged the role that they must play in order to ensure that the right to water is entrenched in national Constitutions, laws, regulations and other directives, and to ensure the defence of fundamental economic and social rights through public policies
Stressed the importance of the role of women
Encouraged the return of water services to state control and management.
Called for joint action between representatives of the Pan-African Parliament, the European Parliament and similar institutions at the regional level in Asia through international meetings
Supported the establishment of a Worldwide Assembly for Water, uniting the representatives of citizens’ movements and local, regional and national NGOs, labour unions, women’s organisations and other groupings acting in defence of the right to water
Source: Principles and Objectives, FAME 2005. Declaration of Parliamentarians, FAME 2005 (Unofficial Translation).