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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « La marchandisation de l’eau domine »

by Interview by Pierre-Henri Lab

“Converting Water into a Commodity is the Dominant Trend”

Translated Monday 23 March 2009, by Anatoli

Ricardo Petrella, Secretary General of the International Committee for the Global Water Contract, condemns transnational business groups trying to grab the vital asset.

Q. What do you think of the United Nations’ attitude concerning water?

Ricardo Petrella: The water report to be presented at the World Water Forum in Istanbul confirms once again the link between poverty and the problem of access to water as it was set forth in 2006, when the United Nations development program was elaborated. As to the rest, the United Nations’ position is still influenced by the World Water Council (WWC). Controlled by multinational groups of that industrial sector, this private organization has succeeded in imposing itself as an unavoidable intermediary for a number of governments and international institutions. Moreover, it has achieved acceptance of the idea that attaching economic value to water is necessary for resolving the issues of access to water and sanitation.

According to WWC, attributing commercial value to water would encourage private groups’ interest and make it possible to implement investment necessary for mitigating both problems. Such a concept is dangerous. It gives a blessing to converting water into a commodity. Far from reducing the problem of access to water, it is likely to aggravate it. Once water becomes a precious economic asset, the risk of water-related conflicts increases.

Commercial value of water turns this element essential for human life into a commodity similar to fossil energy. Some want to push it even further and to quote a global water price, as is the case for oil. I ask myself the question—has anyone observed an increase of oil prices encouraging more economical use of the energy or relieving international tension?

Q. What do you recommend?

Ricardo Petrella: I support the idea of a global water contract. The point is to have a political contract based on recognizing water as a vital asset of common global patrimony. Water is not the same kind of natural resource as others. It is irreplaceable, having no substitute. It is a vital factor for any living being. Any human has a right, both individual and collective, to get access to this vital asset. To assure such access, one has to dismiss reasoning in terms of water being subject to national sovereignty, and to recognize common and shared jusrisdiction of peoples living in the same hydrological basin.

Q. Will you attend the World Water Forum?

Ricardo Petrella: No, I am not going to endorse this forum arranged by the WWC. Appropriation of the issue of water by a private group is like privatizing a public space. I think that intermational meetings of this kind should be arranged and sponsored by the United Nations directly.

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