Le Forum Alternatif Mondial de l’Eau- The Alternative World Water Forum
By: Jessie Lin
As the World Water Council (WWC) hosted the 6th annual World Water Forum in Marseille from March 12 to March 17, several NGOs around the world banded together to create an alternative forum at the same time and same place. Many feel like the WWC is too much influenced by transnational corporations and international institutions such as the World Bank, who are merely trying to financialize water rather than making its access a basic human right. Therefore the idea is to hold another forum in order to address this issue on a more basic, humane, and grassroot level.
The FAME bus!
The Alternative World Water Forum, also known as FAME (Forum Alternatif Mondial de l’Eau) took place at the Dock des Sud in Marseille; it lasted four days with a schedule full of workshops, documentaries and plenaries. The event was very well organized and participated. It was daunting to see people coming from many different parts of the world gathering together to discuss an issue that affects the lives of many that have so often been neglected and exploited. At every hour of the day heated discussions were taking place among the participants. Tables were set up with information brochures, pamphlets, and books. The message was simple and straight-forward. Water is not a commodity; its access should be available to all people in the world. The forum was well attended and with decent press coverage.
The workshops revolved around the following themes:
- Women and Water
- Water and Agriculture
- The Right to Water
- Climate Change and the Financialisation of Nature
- Public and community water management and partnerships
- Resistance against neo-liberal reforms
- Access to water and sanitation
- Water and Health
- Water and Extractivism
- Conflicts and Water sharing
I was very lucky to have taken part in this event. The work shops were informative, but for me it was invaluable to have talked with other professionals in both big and small NGOs who have been working and fighting against corporations for many years.
I also got to watch some interesting documentaries. The issue that really touched me is one that relates to drink corporations like Nestle and Coca-Cola in their exploitation in not only developing countries, but developed countries also. There are dozens and dozens of cases in which Nestle had taken up public land with valuable water sources out of the hands of locals. They freely obtain water from local resources while polluting the streams, bottle them up and resale them back to the community at a price many times more expensive. In local communities, especially in poor areas, citizens have little power to fight against these big companies. The majority of court cases are ruled in favor of these corporations.
In Taiwan and Europe, it has long been a habit to drink bottled water for whichever reason. However, there is more and more of a trend nowadays that drinking bottled water is cool and fashionable, especially in the United States. If you walk down the aisle selling water, you see dozens and dozens of varieties coming from all over the world. Fiji water, Evian, Perrier, etc. who are probably all owned by a small minority of corporations. Bottles come in all shapes, sizes, color and designs. Water now also comes with added vitamins and minerals. Many studies have come out and proven that bottled water is neither safer, cleaner nor does it taste better than tap water. However, with the millions of dollars spent on marketing and design, bottled water companies have succeeded immensely in selling their products.
International organizations such as the World Bank tend to focus on big projects such as Dam-building that costs billions of dollars while displacing thousands of local inhabitants from their homes. The effects and benefits of these projects are often questionable and inconclusive. It’s not really surprising that since the World Bank is more or less dominated by economists who usually measure results on a curve that they fail to realize that sometimes the solution can be small, simple and locally based. The local population knows far more than these economists with PhD certificates about what is best for their community; they just usually lack the resources and means to meet that end.
There really is no easy or one way solution to solve the problem with water. What might work for India may not work for Peru. So many factors play a role, and that’s why this is such a delicate issue. I hope with the success of the Alternative World Water Forum, organizations around the world will find ways to work and learn from each other. Many declarations were made, but the most important part is action; action that seeks to solve problems from the grassroot level, and action with follow-ups.
Dry toilettes set up for people to use, I found these to be cleaner and more pleasant than the flush toilets indoors.
The FAME boat set up at the “Vieux Dock”
For more information on the Alternative World Water Forum, visit http://www.fame2012.org/en/