A blue and just future is possible

Keynote speech from the International Conference on Water, Megacities and Global Change, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, December 1, 2015

The challenge is stark. Peri-urban slums ring most of the developing world’s megacities where climate and food refugees are arriving in relentless numbers. Unable to access their traditional sources of water because they have been poisoned, overexploited or priced beyond reach, many must pay exorbitant prices to local water dealers or rely on drinking water contaminated with their own waste.

UN-Habitat reports that by 2030, more than half the populations of large urban centres will be slum dwellers and the US National Academy of Scientists says that by 2050, more than one billion of these urban slum dwellers will only have daily access to enough water to fill a small bathtub.

Hardest hit cities will include Beijing, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Manila, Mexico City, Caracas, Lagos, Abidjan, Tehran, and Johannesburg. Today, greater Sao Paulo, with a population of almost 20 million people, is literally running out of water.

Read more on the website of Council of Canadians

Our Public Water Future: The global experience with remunicipalisation

A new book shows that the growing wave of cities putting water back under public control has now spread to 37 countries impacting 100 million people.

The book is launched in the run-up to the World Water Forum in South Korea (12-17 April) and comes in the wake of Jakarta’s decision in March 2015 to annul its privatised water contracts citing the violation of the 9.9 million residents’ human right to water.

This is the largest remunicipalisation in the world, suggesting that water privatisation is running out of steam and the pendulum is swinging back in favour of a reinvigorated, accountable and sustainable public control of water.

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Human rights in investor-State arbitration: The human right to water and beyond

Human rights arguments are increasingly being raised by parties in investor-State arbitrations, despite the fact that investment arbitration tribunals arguably “lack the jurisdiction to hold states liable for breach of their human rights obligations”, and the widespread concerns about their suitability to pronounce on such issues in a process that is often viewed as lacking accountability and transparency. Investment arbitration tribunals are also increasingly relying on human rights norms and jurisprudence of human rights courts in evaluating such arguments, thereby implicitly recognizing the interconnectedness between human rights and foreign investment protection and that the former can, and should, inform the latter.

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Water remunicipalisation as a global trend

Cities, regions and countries worldwide are increasingly choosing to close the book on water privatisation and to “remunicipalise” services by taking back public control over water and sanitation management. In many cases, this is a response to the false promises of private operators and their failure to put the needs of communities before profit.

This paper (Here to stay: Water remunicipalisation as a global trend) looks at the growing remunicipalisation of water supply and sanitation services as an emerging global trend and presents the most complete overview of cases so far. Major cities that have remunicipalised include Accra (Ghana), Berlin (Germany), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Budapest (Hungary), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), La Paz (Bolivia), Maputo (Mozambique), and Paris (France). By contrast, in this same period there have been very few cases of privatisation in the world’s large cities: for example Nagpur (India), which has seen great opposition and criticism, and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).

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