Water management policy for developing countries:
Commission pressure to liberalise is unacceptable
The great majority of the population of developing countries suffer from shortages of drinking water and medical services. The consequences of these shortages are serious. The number of deaths from diseases arising from a lack of drinking water and medical services is currently estimated at 30,000 per day. Faced with this situation, the solutions suggested by major controllers of international funds - including the EU - amount to privatising water supplies.
Several studies have shown that the privatisation attempted so far has resulted in price rises, thus making access to water more - not less - difficult for disadvantaged populations. Yet the European Commission is pressuring Southern hemisphere countries including 14 of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) into liberalising their water sectors in line with General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations. According to Paul Lannoye MEP (Ecolo - Belgium), who is European Parliament Rapporteur on water management in developing countries, this Commission should withdraw this absolutely unacceptable proposal immediately.
He said: "Non-discriminatory access to water for all is a fundamental human right and it is incumbent on local and regional authorities to fulfil this obligation. A significant step in this direction was taken by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights when it registered access to water among the basic human rights. This action itself represents a first significant step towards a change in water policy."
The second part of his report relates to the recent creation of a European water fund for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. While welcoming this initiative, the Report also highlights its weaknesses: if the need to raise sufficient funds to meet the requirements of underprivileged populations is recognised by all, then the allocation of a billion euros does not constitute an additional financial mobilisation. It instead comes from the reserve of the European Development Fund.
"The Commission's proposal to create an agency for the management of water funds goes against ACP development policies for capacity building and appropriation. The call for investors to contribute to the funds is - if anything - likely to increase the privatisation of the water sectors of ACP countries."
"To address the water shortage in developing countries we must: change the EU policy which aims to build capacity in ACP countries; support a water policy defined by national authorities with the participation of the populations concerned; and encourage the participation of the beneficiaries in the design, construction, launch and evaluation process. These are essential factors in the success of initiative."
"We should also create new categories of financial instruments based on international solidarity, such as the introduction of an international tax that would raise half a euro cent for every bottle of mineral water consumed in Europe and ACP countries, and the cancellation of development countries' debt to free them from making crippling repayments and allow them instead to redirect financial resources towards investment in the water sector."