European Water Movement meeting in Brussels (13-15 April 2023) : Final declaration

On April 13, 14 and 15, a meeting in person was held by the European Water Movement (EWM) in Brussels to analyse the status of implementation of the Right to Water in Europe and establish a line of action towards the current critical situation of water in Europe under the threat of droughts, climate crisis, water grabbing, pollution, as well as commodification and privatization policies. The meeting was attended by over 20 people from 9 countries (Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain). This event was also an opportunity to meet some MEPs in order to discuss the future of water in Europe, to illustrate some situations at national and regional level, confirming in the meantime the need to guarantee the Human Right to Water and our position in favour of a public governance of water.

Following our letter to MEPs of last April on the 2023 UN Water Conference and the Manifesto on Water Justice addressed to the UN at the aforesaid Conference, EWM demands that the policy on water pursued throughout Europe and in particular by EU institutions, addressing the following priority issues:

  • Urgent need to preserve water resources and the universal right to water in front of environmental emergencies, pollution and conflicts of interest;
  • Public and participative government of the whole water cycle and its incompatibility with present privatization policies.


Letter of the European Water Movement to the EU Parliamentarians about next 2023 UN Water Conference

In view of the convocation by the UN General Assembly of the Conference on the complete mid-term review of implementation of the goals fixed in the International Decade for Action “Water for a sustainable development 2018-2028” (2023 UN Water Conference), to be held in New York from the 22nd to the 24th of March 2023, we, movements, networks, NGOs, trade unions, that are members of the European Water Movement (EWM), invite the EU Parliament and all the MEPs to actively contribute and participate to the events of the aforesaid UN Water Conference.

The European Union's Department of International Relations has developed a common position paper for Member States (MS) with topics to be addressed in the interactive dialogues of the Conference. The suggested topics include governance, climate adaptation and financing.

Regarding this position paper, the European Water Movement (EWM) shares the EU stance on the necessity to implement a Human Rights-based perspective for water management and governance, ensuring the affordability of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWS) and the good ecological status of water bodies, underlining the need to improve accountability and transparency, and to regulate and control the involvement of the private sector and its risks for the HRWS guarantee.

In this regard we would like to mention the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Right2Water”, promoted by the European Public Service Union (EPSU) and the EWM in 2012. ECI collected more than 1.8 million signatures advocating for the recognition and guarantee of the HRWS in the EU. The Resolution of the EU Parliament of 8 September 2015 on the follow-up to the ECI and the vague inclusion of the right to water in the recent Drinking Water Directive constitute a small step forward. However, ten years after the ECI, the EU still does not fully recognize and guarantee the HRWS as stipulated in the UN Resolution 64/292 and in the ECI. 

We also value the recognition of the urge to adapt water management to climate change and thus protect essential productive sectors such as agriculture, energy and urban planning, among others. However, restoring the natural water cycle must first be understood as the key to mitigate climate change itself, providing sufficient water in flow and quantity for healthy and sustainable ecosystems, and ensuring access to water and sanitation services for all. And thus guarantee the viability of productive systems, which depend on humans and nature. In this sense, access to water and sanitation services for all must be prioritised over productive uses.

The EU itself acknowledges the negative impacts on European rivers ecosystems caused by hydropower production and development. To the same end, we call for compliance with the Water Framework Directive, whose environmental objectives require the achievement of "good ecological status" of all water bodies, prior and sine qua non condition for energy generation or any other form of production

In this context, we demand that the issue of water be addressed at the top of the UN agenda, in its quality of essential substance of life, as a natural Human Right and as a common good excluded by any commodification, financialisation and privatisation. It is imperative that debates on water as a common good and human right be oriented towards the public interest and not shaped by the interests of corporations and global markets. To this regard, the EU and its positioning must abandon the mantra of private and innovative financing schemes. The water cycle management must be undertaken publicly through public funding.

From the EWM and in coordination with the international water movement, the People’s Water Forum, we have been following and participating in the process towards the UN Water Conference. 

It’s urgent and necessary to maintain and deepen the dialogue among all the social and institutional actors that strive for water as human right and common good so as to assure them a full participation and to avoid that the 2023 UN Water Conference be co-opted by private interests and environmental looters. In view of our experience, the risk of ending up in an undemocratic debate is real given the exclusion from participation in the Conference of many social realities and networks from all over the world, despite their consistency, relevance and recognized global value. In fact, no member of the European Water Movement has been invited to the EU Informal Water Expert Group that elaborated the EU position with the supposed participation of Civil Society Organizations. 

All of us must mobilise in order to find socio-ecological alternatives that preserve life on our planet and assure the well-being of our communities and cities. We ask your participation in this task and your firm support for a democratic governance framework of the water cycle out of any commodification, financialization and privatisation. We urge you to participate in our initiatives and to invite us to those you will set up at Community level or in individual Member States. We ask for your best effort for the implementation of the HRWS both on our continent and worldwide as well as at the proceedings of the UN Water Conference that many of you will surely attend.

Manifesto on Water Justice

The undersigned organizations, Indigenous Peoples, social movements and water defenders address the United Nations at the 2023 UN Water Conference to amplify the voices of the unheard and insist that the following fundamental issues be placed at the center of water policies at the global, regional, national and subnational levels:


Appeal in Defense of Water

Towards the next UN Water Conference in March 2023

In light of the United Nations General Assembly convening the Conference on the Comprehensive Mid-Term Review of the Implementation of the Goals of the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development’ 2018-2028 (the 2023 UN Water Conference) in New York, from March 22-24, 2023, preceded by the UN Human Rights Council Social Forum, held in the Assembly Hall of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, from November 3-4, focused on Water for Human Rights and Sustainable Development: Good Practices, Lessons Learned and Challenges in Implementing the International Decade for Action, water justice movements call for active and creative participation to influence these processes and parallel and alternative actions to oppose and counteract the lobbying and capture of these agendas by corporate power.

Faced with the crisis of civilization imposed by capitalism, which is expressed in the climate crisis and that promotes accumulation, dispossession and limitless consumerism, water justice movements demand that the UN agenda resume discussion of water as a substance of life and a common good that should never be subject to commodification, commercialization and financialization. It is also urgent that the destruction and pollution of vital water sources by extractive industries and industrial agriculture be stopped. It is imperative that discussions of water as a common good, a right and the integrality of human rights be informed by the public interest and not by the interests of corporations and global water markets.

Water, its uses and management, are closely related to democratic mechanisms and human rights, and it is incomprehensible to praise a world as democratic in which sophisticated forms of privatization and deprivation of water are present in vast regions and countries. The privatization of water territories, ecosystems essential to the hydrosocial cycle, public water systems for human consumption and/or their management components, together with the disregard of territorial and democratic management of water by organized community systems, are corporate devices of dispossession of the material and immaterial heritage of communities.

This appeal calls for the presence and voice of Indigenous peoples, oppressed and repressed communities and peoples, peasant and popular urban communities, women who are the protagonists of struggles and actions of resistance and for the defense of water and life and in processes of community water management, union organizations, public water operators and users, based on their own words, experiences and lived practices, fundamental as alternatives to dispossession and privatization.

The Social Forum taking place in Geneva is of vital importance. We urge the different actors, countries, delegations, organizations and social movements present to focus the discussion on the relationship between the human right to water and world/global democracy and on frank discussion of the crisis of civilization, the climate emergency and the transitions necessary to preserve life on the planet.

Within the framework of the presentation of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation Pedro Arrojo-Agudo’s Report in New York in March 2023, we invite the active participation of social networks and organizations; their mobilization is essential. It is vital that the mobilization of alliances of social movements, public and/or community operators establishes a counterweight to the strong corporate lobby within the framework of the event and in favor of public and democratic management of water.

In the same way, we salute and express our support for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and his call for the integrality of human rights. This call finds resonance with the observations made by the Rapporteurs of Environment, Indigenous peoples and Health aimed at the protection, respect and effective enjoyment of the human right to water, land and territory, housing, participation and the progressiveness of ESCER.

Participating and proposing.

It is urgent and necessary to maintain, deepen and find resonance in the dialogue between social movements that fight for water as a human right and a common good. It is also urgent that we create a common and democratic front to prevent the 2023 United Nations Water Conference from ending up as another forum co-opted by private interests and environmental predators.

Our organizations and networks will hold events in which we will spread this call and deliberate on alternatives. In Colombia, the eighth national meeting of community aqueducts of Colombia in defense of community water management was held from August 12-15, and we will hold the “Our Future is Public” conference in Chile, from November 29 – December 2 to raise public awareness and create political momentum around the importance of strong and innovative public services to ensure human rights and meet the challenges of the 21st century.

We must denounce the corporate water agenda and propose socio-ecological alternatives that allow the permanence of life on our planet and guarantee the well being of our communities and peoples. Join this global call.

African Water Commons Collective
Aigua és Vida, Catalonia
Asociación Española de Operadores Públicos de Abastecimiento y Saneamiento, Spain
Asociación Internacional de Ingeniería Sin Fronteras, Spain
Blue Planet Project, Canada
Corporación Ecológica y Cultural Penca de Sábila, Colombia
Emp’act, Switzerland 
ENDA, Colombia
Fundación Abril, Bolivia
Observatório Nacional dos Direitos à Água e ao Saneamento, ONDAS, Brazil
Red Agua Pública, Spain
Red Nacional de Acueductos Comunitarios, Colombia

International networks and organizations 

Africa Water Justice Network
Blue Planet Project
Ecumenical Water Network
European Water Movement
The Oakland Institute, USA
Peoples’ Water Forum
Plataforma de Acuerdos Público Comunitarios de las Américas, PAPC
Public Services International
Red Vigilancia Interamericana para la Defensa y Derecho al Agua, REDVIDA

To add your organization to this call, please email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Woman, Life, Freedom

The European Water Movement alongside women and men struggling in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran against war and repression, for a new model of democratic society

In these last months Kurdish women and men are resisting the aggression of Turkish regime in Syria and Iraq. Turkish army is targeting civilian infrastructure in the North of Syria such as power plants, grain stores, hospitals and the water distribution system, leading to fears of a serious humanitarian crisis later this winter.

Women and men are also resisting the repression by the Iranian regime against women, young people and minorities including Kurdish. Women especially are leading several protests in Iran, in spite of the greater risks and suffering they face. In the meantime hydric segregation persists in various Iranian regions, as the water apartheid in Palestine.

To the cry of “Woman, Life, Freedom” women and men are fighting for a new model of society alternative to the autocratic and patriarchal regimes in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran.

The European Water Movement expresses its solidarity to all these people and communities and calls for public opinion to mobilize and institutions to take effective measures for the immediate stop of military aggressions and repressions, for release of persons detained and for the acknowledgement of the instances of liberty, justice and inclusiveness supported by the democratic confederalism and by all who demonstrate in Iran, Turkey and across the Middle East. Lastly it demands the protection for exiles and refugees abroad and the guarantee of exclusion from any risk of extradition. In this regard it denounces the shameful agreement that led to the extradition of the Kurdish militant Mahmut Tat from Sweden to Turkey.

International protest against Belgian dam investor who threatens river activists in Bosnia-Herzegovina

12 October, 2022

Today, 140 organizations and groups from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), numerous other European countries and USA sent an open letter to the diplomatic representatives of Belgium, the Head of EU Delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other relevant international institutions to voice their strong concern over the activities of the Belgian-based company Green Invest and its subsidiary in BiH, BUK d.o.o, who operates one small hydropower plant on the Kasindolska river in Istočno Sarajevo, BiH. Green Invest/BUK d.o.o. filed defamation lawsuits against two young Bosnian female activists (law students, age 25), who have spoken out publicly about the environmental impact of the hydropower plants on the Kasindolska river and its surrounding environment.

We consider these lawsuits to be Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs), which are increasingly used by politicians and corporations to intimidate environmental activists and censor criticism. The two young women were targeted by Green Invest/BUK d.o.o. for standing up for their communities and their river and the lawsuit is a clear attempt to silence them and discourage others from speaking out,” said Lejla Kusturica, from activist environmental organization ACT, BiH.