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Apr 03 2006
Supplied or written by Carlos Santos
The left side of water

Carlos Santos*

*Two major water-related international events took place in Mexico from
March 14 to 22: the Fourth World Water Forum (WWF4), promoted by big
water corporations and international financial institutions; and the
International Forum in Defense of Water, which gathered social movements
and organizations from around the world that struggle for a public,
participative and sustainable management of water.*
Uruguay played a key role in both events. In the WWF the position of the
representatives of the Uruguayan government was lined up with that of
the Bolivian, Cuban and Venezuelan governments, by signing a common
declaration in which they propose to consider water as a human right and
where they express their concern for the possible effects of  "free
trade agreements" on water.

Meanwhile in the Forum of organizations and social movements, the
Uruguayan case --with the approval of the Consitutional Reform in 2004,
and the leading role played by the social actor that promoted it (the
National Commission in Defense of Water and Life, CNDAV)---continued to
expand and had global repercussions.  

 From Caracas to México

The event held in Mexico was possible thanks to a process in which
organizations and movements from Latin America, North America and Europe
got together, during the Polycentric World Social Forum held in Caracas.
There emerged a declaration that included the different perspectives of
social movements on water, and which set the bases to build a future
common agenda.

This was one of the main documents that inspired the draft of the
Declaration delivered by the Bolivian Minister of Water, Abel Mamani --
former leader of the Federation of Neighborhood Boards, FEJUVE, in El
Alto Municipality- within the Fourth World Water Forum.

The document included four essential items:  regarding water as a
fundamental human right, setting the bases for a public and
participative management of water, excluding water from trade
agreements, and it was critical towards the process that led to the
World Water Forums (in the case of the Mexican Forum, the participants
had to pay to a registration fee of around 120 dollars a day).  

Within the negotiation process that took place in Mexico, Bolivia's
position was negotiated with the official representatives of Venezuela,
Cuba, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and some European countries. The
representatives of the social movements close to these delegations,
played a key role in this process. In fact, one of the first meetings
that enabled this negotiation was coordinated in the opening march of
the International Forum in Defense of Water.

Finally, the four main items of the Bolivian declaration were kept in
the alternative declaration, with an additional clause related to water
and free trade, pointing out the "deep concern about the possible
negative impacts that international instruments, such as free trade
agreements and investment treaties,  may have on the water resources. We
also reassure the sovereign right of each country to regulate its water

The crowded opening march of the social water forum set certain patterns
for the future. It consolidated a global movement in defense of water,
that gathers many different perspectives and that was born from the
'spirit of Caracas'--as many have defined it, the open and horizontal
process that led to the mentioned declaration.
For the first time this movement has been able to coordinate efforts to
organize an alternative forum to the official one. It showed the
strengths of the Mexican movement in defense of water, which, despite
being in an incipient stage, it managed to call nearly 50 thousand
people to the demonstration, and showed that there are strong links
between the movements and some government representatives, mainly Latin
American governments, that let them take their voices to the official
discussion arena.

* Member of Redes-Friends of the Earth Uruguay.

Published by Brecha weekly newspaper, in Montevideo, on March 31st 2006

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