G20 Rally In London

March 30, 2009

weemaane, March 29, 2009

Thousands attend G20 rally in London.

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G20 protesters’ anger amid global recession

March 29, 2009

AlJazeera, March 28, 2009

While politicians are set to discuss their solutions to the global recession at the G20 summit, hundreds of small groups have held demonstrations to have their say.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London in a peaceful march calling for changes to be made to the global financial system.

But events in Rome and Berlin were marred by some violence. Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reports.


Water Rights Activists Blast Istanbul World Water Forum as Corporate Trade Show to Promote Privatization

March 25, 2009

Democracy Now! March 23, 2009

Sunday was World Water Day and marked the close of a week-long gathering held in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss water policy at a time when over a billion people lack access to clean water and 2.5 billion people lack water for proper sanitation. Activists from the People’s Water Forum, an alternative formation representing the rural poor, the environment and organized labor, slammed the official event as a non-inclusive, corporate-driven fraud pushing for water privatization and called for a more open, democratic and transparent forum.

AMY GOODMAN: Sunday was World Water Day and marked the close of a week-long gathering held in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss water policy at a time when over a billion people lack access to clean water and two-and-a-half billion lack water for proper sanitation. 

Activists from the People’s Water Forum, an alternative formation representing rural poor, the environment and organized labor, slammed the official event as a non-inclusive, corporate-driven fraud pushing for water privatization and called for a more open, democratic and transparent forum. The forum, which is organized every three years by the French-based World Water Council, is funded in large part by the water industry. 

The forum opened last Monday with Turkish police firing tear gas and detaining protesters, who were shouting “water for life, not for profit.” Two activists from the non-governmental organization International Rivers were deported after holding up a banner just before the conference began that read “No Risky Dams.” 

The final non-binding communiqué from the official forum describes access to water as a “basic human need” rather than a human right, despite efforts by dissenting Latin American countries, France and Spain. They were reportedly blocked by Egypt, Brazil and the United States. 

Well, Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films caught up with some of the leading campaigners from the People’s Water Forum—Winona Hauter of Food and Water Watch, Mary Ann Manahan of Focus on the Global South, and Maude Barlow, the senior adviser on water issues to the United Nations General Assembly and Right Livelihood Award-winner—for their thoughts on the World Water Forum. Begins with Maude Barlow. 

    MAUDE BARLOW: Every time you turn around, everywhere you go, there are police. It’s absolutely unbelievable. You cannot come in from the outside. There’s absolutely no way. Unless you’ve paid a great deal of money and you’ve had the security screening and you behave yourself very properly while you’re in there, you would not be welcome. You would be thrown out and/or arrested. And the World Water Council people, the World Water Forum, did not critique what the police have been doing here. They’ve just accepted it and enjoyed it and taken advantage of the tough security measures here. 

    The security is tight, because what they’re about is promoting privatization, promoting a corporate vision of the world, and they want to pretend to the world that that’s the consensus of the world. And it isn’t. And our groups are here to say it’s not, and so they want to control us as much as possible. 

    They basically say that they are the collection of people around the world who care about water, and they come together every three years to have this great big summit. And every single year, the police presence gets more and more like the World Trade Organization, every single year, from the very beginning, when there was none, to this. But basically, the World Water Council, which puts this on, is really the big water corporations and the World Bank and some UN agencies and some northern development agencies, some academics, the odd small NGO—small as in, you know, NGOs, but really, it is the corporations, and it’s a big trade show. That’s what this is about. They’ll put on sessions on gender and water, but they don’t mean any of it. This is really about one development model for water, and that’s the privatization model. And that’s what they’re promoting, and that’s what their consensus is, and they refuse to include the notion of the right to water and, of course, the public trust into their documents. 

    WINONA HAUTER: Winona Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch. We’ve been organizing around the water forums for several years, because this is the corporate trade show where decisions are made about who gets water and who doesn’t get water. Strategies are developed here. And it’s basically a big business corporate cheerleading session that sets the agenda for the world. And rather than governments coming up with the solutions for the 1.4 billion people that don’t have access to water, we have the corporations that are going to benefit from privatizing it and for providing financing for new and old infrastructure. 

    In the US, we just looked at the twenty states that have the most private water, and you have to understand that 86 percent of water in the US is public, although the private companies are moving in, because they think there’s a big profit. But in those twenty states, private water is always more expensive, and private sewage is always more expensive, and we’re talking sometimes as much as 80 to 100 percent more. 

    The other thing that the private companies are trying to do at this meeting and that they’re promoting in the US is private financing for water infrastructure. Now, this sounds good, and it may even sound good to well-meaning NGOs, because everybody knows that there isn’t enough money going into services for the poor, but when you look at the details, it’s a rip-off. So, in the US, where we have fewer federal dollars spent on our aging infrastructure, there’s about a $22 billion deficit every year. The private investors think that in this economic crisis, it’s a safe place to make a profit. 

    You know, lots of times we are accused of being too idealistic, of being ideologues. But, in fact, it’s the other way around. When you actually look at the facts, the facts are with us. Privatization is not more efficient, and there are dozens and dozens of studies from around the world, the developed world and the Global South that prove this. It’s more expensive. It causes more environmental problems. And the incentive is to not conserve water, but to use as much water as possible and to spend as much money as possible in building and fixing infrastructure. And that’s why we’re being prevented from having a dialogue in this forum. 

    MARY ANN MANAHAN: I’m Mary Ann Manahan. I’m a researcher, campaigner with an organization called Focus on the Global South. We’re here for the Alternative People’s Forum, with the People’s Water Forum. And people here are very—it’s very different from the official World Water Forum, in the sense that this is the real water forum for us. 

    They used the water crisis in Asia as a staging point to launch privatization experiments across the region. But for the last ten to fifteen years, we’ve been experiments, or we’ve been the laboratory of privatization projects and guinea pigs. But we’ve experienced, for the last—early on to the privatization experiments, that it has failed to deliver its promises of efficient delivery, transparent and democratic water systems, of lower prices. Those promises have failed miserably. And the failures are systemic. 

    And they’re not anecdotal, you know, just one case, but we’re seeing a trend where in each country where they try the privatization experiment, they all have failed. So this is why many of the groups who are experiencing the impacts of privatization in their communities, particularly those who work with poor communities who can’t come here, because they don’t have the money to come here, were sharing the stories, the stories of the people who are actually experiencing the unequal access to water and sanitation. 

    MAUDE BARLOW: The World Water Forum is bankrupt of new ways to address the growing water crisis in the world, because they have maintained an adherence to an ideology that is not working, that has dramatically failed. 

    I’ll tell you what happened here. It’s no longer about the World Water Forum. That’s what happened here. We just transferred, and now it’s about us and our vision. The World Water Forum is bankrupt. They’re bankrupt of ideas. They’re bankrupt of money, frankly. And they have no other thing to offer but what’s failed. And what’s clear here is that the energy and the commitment and the brilliance and the ideas and the cultural change has come together. And this is where the future of water is coming from, this movement here in this room. It’s not coming from over there. So we will be less concerned—I mean, if they want to go to Marseilles, let them go to Marseilles next time. It won’t matter. It really won’t matter. The change has been here. It’s been a transfer of power. That’s what happened here.

AMY GOODMAN: Maude Barlow, the senior adviser on water issues to the United Nations General Assembly and chair of the Council of Canadians, speaking out against the World Water Forum that is wrapping up now in Istanbul, Turkey. 

Download audio (MP3) and watch real video stream


Opening Message at the People’s Water Forum

March 23, 2009

Istanbul, Turkey, March 19, 2009

Speech delivered by Mary Ann Manahan, a water justice activist based in the Philippines during the press conference of the Peoples’ Water Forum at Marmara Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey on March 19, 2009. She spoke on behalf of the Asian delegation present at the Peoples’ Water Forum.

Asia’s water resources are described as a paradox. One ofabundance—we are home to tremendous water resources: great rivers systems and lakes in Tibet, India, Southeast Asia, and China. But at the same time, of scarcity— we have the highest number of people unserved by either water supply or sanitation. 715 million people in Asia have no access to safe drinking water, while 1.9 billion or close to 50% of its population has no access to sanitation. This scarcity has provoked water wars in communities and interstate conflicts between China, the Mekong region, India and Pakistan who are fighting on transboundary issues, water sharing, and dam constructions. 

This water crisis has become a staging point for the IFIs such as the ADB and WB and neoliberal governments to promote and push privatization as the so-called “best model” that will solve the region’s water crisis. For the last 10-15 years, we have been the guinea pigs and laboratories of privatization experiments. But these have miserably failed and promises were not delivered. We saw in Metro Manila and Jakarta skyrocketing of prices, inefficient delivery, exacerbating unequal access to water and sanitation between the poor and the rich, untransparent and unaccountable water systems. The promise that the private is better than the public is completely untrue. 

The impacts of the privatization and commercialization of water to communities and the poor have led the water justice movements to wage struggles against the privateers, local and transnational water barons, and water policies of Asian governments. Our struggles are struggles for human right, human dignity, gender equity, and ultimately, democracy. Our struggles have brought about the emergence of alternatives such as Public-Public Partnerships, communities reclaiming and taking control over their water, as well as the reversal of privatization and the establishment of democratically and publicly controlled and managed water systems. In the Philippines, neighborhood associations in slum communities are laying down pipes and boring wells to provide water and sanitation facilities to their communities. In the state of Tamil Nadu, India, they were able to transform a moribund and corrupt public water utility into one of the most efficient and functioning utilities in the region and where public engineers are working with and alongside communities. 

These positive models and good practices have to be supported and strengthened by state and public investments rather than outright support to privatization. 

We demand and challenge our governments in Asia to say no to the IFIs conditionalities and  drive for privatization and commercialization of water, particularly, through free trade agreements and to put a stop to risky dam constructions. 

We demand our Asian governments, especially the regional blocs such as ASEAN and SAARC, to be bold and voice out their support for human right to water. As duty bearers they must work for the protection and fulfillment of the right to water, including the promotion and support for community stewardship. Their silence on this issue in the official World Water Forum is not only disconcerting, it’s an outright abdication of their roles and responsibilities to the people. 

We challenge you to stand up and not be part of the silent majority. 

We challenge and urge you to be part of the lasting solution to world’s water problems. If not, we will hold you accountable.


Interview with Walden Bello

March 23, 2009

This is a transcript of the Die Tagezeitzung’s interview with Walden Bello.

Dr. Bello, what is is the impact of the current crisis on the global South? 

The current global crisis will definitely have a massive impact on the South.  It is especially those economies that globalized most fully and followed strategies of export-oriented industrialization that tied their growth to foreign markets that will suffer most.  Those countries that have globalized least, like many in Africa, will be much less affected.

Could you give examples?

Exports have declined precipitously throughout the East Asian region.  China has seen 20 million workers lose their jobs in the last few months, according to the Chinese government.  The value of the Korean won has fallen by over 30 per cent in the last few months.  Remittances are going to fall and laid off migrant workers are going to return in Indonesia and the Philippines.  Argentina and Brazil’s agricultural exports are in a freefall.

Are you afraid of a further worsening of the situation?

Yes, definitely.  We are just at the beginning of the global freefall and I really don’t know when we are going to hit rock bottom and once we reach it, how long the global economy will lie there.  The global economy is just like a German U-Boat that has been depthcharged, and it’s descending rapidly to the ocean bottom, and once it reaches the bottom, you don’t know how the crew is going to get the submarine back up.  Will the crew’s tortuous maneuvers get it back to the surface, as in the film Das Boot, or will it just stay at the bottom?  Will Keynesian methods of reflation work today?  We don’t know.

How do you assess the politics and economic program of US president Obama and his administration with respect to global matters?

I think that in terms of economic policies, the administration is turning inward, away from policies of globalization and free trade.  It talks about multilateralism and against protectionism, but this is largely words still.  I think Obama’s overwhelming priority is to stabilize the US economy and foreign economic policy can wait.  Will the US take a leading role in creating a global financial architecture, with strong regulatory controls at next month’s G 20 meeting in London?  I think rhetorically yes, but the focus of regulatory work in the US will be domestic.  Once the freefall of the US economy stops, then you will see Obama move on to international economic issues.

What about the European Union?

The EU is probably going to look inward too, but whether it will come out with viable region-wide policies or revert to national policies of stabilization remains to be seen.  I think that the support for multilateralism and globalist policies is going to erode in Europe.  You will see a similar turning inward, as in the United States.  I worry about what will happen to the migrant workers from the South and from the East under conditions of economic contraction.  Racism and ethnic prejudices might run riot.

What do you expect from the upcoming G20 summit in Londonwikth respect to calming the global economic turbulenc?

No.  I think the conditions are not there to create a new Bretton Woods system.  Everybody is still at the “every man for himself” stage.  There is little support for a reform of the IMF and bigger role for the World Bank.  There is little support for completing the Doha Round of the WTO because of distrust of globalization.  People also see the Basel process as having failed to come up with the necessary regulatory framework for the banks.  There will be a great deal of rhetoric about multilateralism but little reality.

What should urgently be done to avoid the deepening of deglobalisation and disintegration?

Deglobalization must not be equated with disintegration.  Given the excesses of globalization and the way it made economies so vulnerable to collapse because it integrated markets and production and did away with protective barriers between the domestic economy and the international economy, deglobalization accompanied by regionalization of economies and the strengthening of national economies is a good thing.  The problem with globalization is that it destroyed national economies.  The challenge for us now is how to create a global system where participation in the international economy strengthens the capacity of national economies rather than destroys them.

What would be the appropriate contribution by the politically and socially critical spectrum in the North to stop disintegration?

We must see this as an opportunity to create a deglobalized world, where there is more equality between and within countries, where countries can pursue economic policies that respond to their values, goals, and rhythms as societies instead of being crammed within a neoliberal one-shoe-fits-all-model, where diversity, as in nature, is seen as a strength, where there is space to pursue sustainable development policies that do not reproduce the high consumption model of the North.  I repeat: crisis spells opportunity.

What is your general assessment of the stand of the Left and the social movements in answering the crisis?

The Left has the theoretical tools to understand the crisis, and here the Marxist analysis of capitalism’s tendency to overaccumulation and overproduction, including the insights of Rosa Luxemburg, are very important.  Where the challenge lies is in building a mass movement globally and nationally to promote an anti-capitalist soution to the crisis, a solution that lies in democratizing the economy along with a fuller democratization of politics.  We must move fast, because it people are not persuaded to go left, they might be persuaded to go right, and we don’t want countries falling into a Germany-in-the-1930’s kind of scenario again.

What changes are now necessary?

The changes I’ve alluded to above.

Thank you very much for answering the questions. Is there an up-to-date photograph of yours available?


Mountains of Concrete

March 22, 2009

International Rivers, January 2009

Ann-Kathrin Schneider of International Rivers discusses the new report “Mountains of Concrete” outlining the future of dam-construction and their impact on climate change.


US is shifting the crisis into the rest of the world

March 22, 2009

The Real News, March 16, 2009

Pepe Escobar: And how the US is shifting the crisis into the rest of the world.