Report from Kyoto World Water Forum
Frontline report from the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, March 16-22

Ruth Caplan, Co-chair Corporate Globalization/Positive Alternatives Campaign

Gently tingling bells wafted to the dais where Michel Camdessus was holding forth on his prescriptions for managing the world's water. A momentary frown crossed the brow of the former head of the IMF. He continued his prescriptions in declarative sentences trying to ignore the bells attached to poster board lie detectors with arrows pointing to the highest level of alert.

Speaking of sub-sovereigns (we might call them communities), Camdessus set out prescriptions for local regulations aimed at creating a safe haven for foreign investors. This is the only way the UN Millennium goal of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water would be met, he proclaimed. More tinkling bells from the lie detectors. Even the suits seated in the large auditorium began to smile.

Thanking Camdessus profusely at the end of his speech, Margaret Catley-Carson, chair of the Global Water Partnership, gamely noted that protests were expected at this session where the Camdessus Report, "Financing Water For All," was released. GWP, one of three sponsors of the Third World Water Forum, was also a sponsor of the report.

Maggie, as she is know to her close associates, opened up the session for questions from the floor. Strategically placed next to all available mikes, voices from the global south told of their disastrous experiences with water privatization. Maggie's attempt to return to the panel presentations was thwarted by protests from the mikes followed by a walk out by the World Water Warriors and their supporters, including Public Services International, the Indigenous Network, and International Rivers Network. Filled with irrational exuberance, more than 100 protestors returned to take over the stage with banners held high.

Before the session began, a disguised water warrior, aka RC, spied on Maggie and Camdessus planning the session. The documentary film crew was alerted. Nancy Price was filmed offering a Water Is Life headband to his excellency, who with some confusion accepted. The World Water Warrior banners in English, French, Japanese and Spanish were then handed out at the doors to all comers.

From the first day, when warriors wore headbands and bright yellow signs protesting water privatization, the desired consensus by the corporate sponsors of the forum was a non-starter. At every major session, water warriors took to the mikes. The governance panel was forced to consider corporate corruption and IMF/World Bank lack of accountability to communities. Any hope of consensus on partnerships was dashed when the session chaired by Maude Barlow condemned the privatization agenda of public/private partnerships. In a live call broadcast at the alternative water forum in Sao Paulo, the words "we broke the consensus" rang across the Pacific.

Wars over oil. Future wars over water. The connection was made. When Bush gave the 48 hour warning, Nancy Price stood next to the larger-than-life screen showing CNN coverage. Holding a protest sign hastily written on notebook paper, she was mobbed by Japanese TV and cameras. When the war started, a group of us sat in silent vigil in front of the same screen. And when Winonah Hauter from Public Citizen made a presentation to the closing ministerial meeting on the outcome of the partnership dialogue, the only applause of the session came when she added that she was ashamed of what America was doing in Iraq.

Water, war and the corruption of the corporate agenda were continually pushed by the water warriors at this 3rd World Water Forum which included 10,000 - 12,000 participants, 351 sessions and 38 themes held in three cities. For an official report from the World Water Forum go to which proclaims this to be "the most important international water meeting ever."