WORLD WATER WARRIORS
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
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
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 http://www.world.water-forum3.com/ which proclaims this to be "the most important
international water meeting ever."