The world's water resources must become a common global good under a new international system anchored in a constitutional right to water for all, an alternative water forum resolved here at the weekend.
By Vanya Walker-Leigh
While 12,000 people were meeting in Kyoto at the official Third World Water Forum, a smaller group with a radically different agenda came here to Italy.
Everyone should be guaranteed a minmum of 40 litres a day by 2020
The First People's World Water Forum, as it was called, gathered to protest at the direction of current water policies - which it believes are dominated by private corporations who favour large projects such as dams, instead of simpler technologies.
The Florence meeting's 1,400 participants (70% Italians) came from pacifist, environmental, development and farmers' NGOs, as well as local authorities.
They met to carry forward the Porto Alegre World Social Forum's call in January for a new democratic world water parliament and a halt to water privatisation.
Delagte after delegate in Italy said the present "commodification" of water as well as creeping corporate control via privatisation would only escalate water scarcity and spark future "water wars".
Several speakers claimed that the Iraq war was also about control of Iraq's huge water resources.
The final declaration in Florence called for:
a guaranteed minmum of 40 litres a day to each world inhabitant by 2020, while meeting ecosystem needs
a radical overhaul of present water-wasteful processes in all economic sectors, prioritising rehabilitation and maintenance of existing water supply systems over "heavy engineering" solutions such as dams
public-public partnerships (instead of public-private partnerships advocated by industry and the World Bank in Kyoto)
upgrading tap water quality to reduce mineral water consumption
innovative funding mechanisms including water taxes and ethical investment funds to ensure continued local authority ownership and mangement of water supplies - under the supervision of democratic assemblies representing consumers and workers
a critical review of international financial institutions' role in water supply finance and establishment of a World Water Solidarity Fund
THIRD WORLD WATER FORUM
What our correspondent thought of the Kyoto meeting
International conferences are often described as talking shops. Not this one. It was a giant talking hypermarket.
international river basin authorities
withdrawal of water services from the on-going World Trade Organisation negotiations, in particular the European Commission's recently leaked WTO negotiating requests to open up the water services in many developing countries to foreign private investment
a parliamentarians' water network to promote recovery of parliamentary sovereignty over trade negotiations, in particular as regards water.
Former senior EU official Riccardo Petrella is now a full time university lecturer in Belgium and founder secretary of the Committee for a World Water Contract.
He urged that the Fourth World Water Forum in Montreal in 2006 should be replaced by the inaugural meeting of the proposed world water parliament.
The Florence gathering was organized by the European Social Forum, the Committee for a World Water Contract, the World Coalition against Privatisation and the Italian NGO, CIPSI (Co-ordinatinamento di Iniziative Popolari di Solidarieta Internazionale).