weemaane, March 29, 2009
Thousands attend G20 rally in London.
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.
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?
The Real News, March 16, 2009
Pepe Escobar: And how the US is shifting the crisis into the rest of the world.