March 22 is World Water
Day and the clock is ticking for donors to take action on the humanitarian
and ecological water crisis that leaves one billion people without
access to clean water.
Over the last
decade the European Commission has persistently promoted increased
private sector participation in water and sanitation services. However,
experiences from Bolivia, Guyana, Tanzania and elsewhere demonstrate
that privately-operated water services do not bring the necessary
investment or efficiency gains to deliver affordable water to the
Despite these failures,
the Commission continues to promote policies and funding mechanisms
to encourage private sector involvement in water and sanitation
services, whilst also pressing poor countries to open these sectors
to European multinationals.
We now call for changes
in this approach, changes that recognise access to water as a human
right and which give poor countries the support needed to make this
right a reality.
Worldwide, 90 per cent
of piped water provision is publicly provided, with strong public
utilities in Brazil, India, Uganda and elsewhere delivering water
and sanitation services to increasing numbers. The challenge is
to scale-up this good performance by improving other public providers.
We welcome recent comments
that the Commission will look to introduce ‘smart aid’
policies. In relation to water and sanitation, this should mean
that the EU:
- Stops using aid
money to facilitate private sector involvement.
- Drops requests
for market access within trade talks.
- Greatly increases
aid and public investment in the sector.
- Supports the development
of strong public utilities in the Global South through ‘public-public
partnerships’ that enable the exchange of expertise between
public providers, working hand-in-hand with local communities