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Eaux, pauvreté et crises sociales

Habib Ayeb
Thierry Ruf

Atelier 1. Gérer en invoquant la décentralisation, la démocratisation et la participation financière

Public-Private Partnership in Water Governance

Thomas Cieslik

Texte intégral


1In March 2006 the 4th World Water Forum takes place in Mexico-City. Under the topic «Local Actions for a global challenge» governments, NGOs and multinational corporations discuss the future of global water management. This paper aims to point out the meaning of water in global governance since international and national conflicts have arisen in both social and economical aspects about the privatization of water. Historically, water has been like air a public good under the level of governmental jurisdiction and has been excluded from the economic sphere. However, IMF and World Bank developed studies which have helped to promote the privatization of water and the liberalization of the water market in order to improve water supply and provide fresh water for all people, because corruption and public mismanagement excluded a number of especially poor people from the access to fresh and purified water. World’s leading food and beverage companies like Nestlé took the chance to establish a worldwide water business which includes not only the manufacturing production of fresh and embottled water but also the implementation of water management training programmes for local communities.

2Nevertheless, privatization of water springs, fresh water lakes, and urban supply, technology and distribution monopoly have given companies a strategic position with the usage of the public good water and escalated the exclusion of active and effective participation of the majority of the population. The UN Global Compact, initiated by UN-General Secretary Kofi Annan in 1999, was the first approach to establish a new public-private partnership (PPP) in which multinational corporations should demonstrate their ethical responsibility for sustainable development. However, critics say that many companies use this tool only for image purposes less for a real improvement of private-public global water governance. This analysis wants to define and evaluate the recent developments in water business and its private governance of the public good water. Furthermore, it depicts and discusses the risks and potentials in both developed and developing countries by considering the increasing weakness of state’s legislation. Finally, it reflects the ensuing questions over property rights, human rights and sovereignty in the context of good governance and eventually it recommends new approaches in public-private partnership for sustainable, just, legal, participative and effective global water governance in order to reduce poverty on the large scale.

PPP in the context of water wtress

3Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for water management is not really a new term, but nowadays very frequently used as a magic word for political solutions: to provide fresh water for all people in the world. PPP describes mostly a joint venture based on a contract between a multinational water corporation or a private sector service provider and a “local government in which the former contracts to design, build and operate water-treatment and supplies for a pre-determined period. This will force governments to provide a congenial regulatory environment for the growth of the investing company and eventually prepare to hand over the water utility to the private sector” (Sharma, 2002). PPP started in the 17th century with privately sponsored ship-building endeavors and is nowadays mainly used for road-construction. In theory, in the framework of PPP the public authority retains the regulatory control, the set of environmental protection and quality standards, and keeps the ownership. The management can be delegated to the private operator which may attract foreign investment. PPP is principally based on concessions for a period of 20 to 30 years, in which the concessionaire has to deliver services to the customers. A very popular model of PPP is the building, operating and transferring (BOT) of new water facilities for drinking water or sewage treatment by a contracted company, where the public authority pays for this service like in the case of Johor Bahru in Malaysia. Lease Agreements, operation and maintenance and management support contracts are also PPP patterns. Many OECD countries have applied different models. France, for example, has the water supply in public ownership, but the management is a mix of PPP, and the municipal authorities act as economic regulators. In spite of the discussion about the increasing private sector participation in the water sector, only five percent of the world’s population is provided with drinking water through private operators (Borkey, 2003).

4PPP has benefits, but also disadvantages. Benefits are better quality, increased competition, innovation, efficiency, risk transfer; mostly a cheaper price for customer and taxpayer, and finally the project is monitored by the government. The main disadvantage is the privatization of a public good which may lead theoretically to a monopolized private good. Other arguments against PPP are according to Donald Tate the risks involved in relying on private firms, the labor and employment concerns and the diversion of revenues into profits:

“It is well known that private sector operations rely for their viability on making a profit. Often the criteria for profitability is (sic!) over 10% of operating revenue. Accordingly, these profits must be derived from the revenues paid through user fees. The private sector claims that efficiencies introduced through private operations will more than offset this need to make a profit and might even result in lower user charges. This claim remains unproven in aggregate, although there are many anecdotal claims that the efficiencies of privatisation are so great that their need for profitability is more than offset. There is also evidence from some areas, for example in Great, that private water companies may diversify into other areas with water servicing becoming relatively less important. For example, where large sections of watersheds have been turned over to private water companies, the water companies are actively pursuing profitable land sales, an activity not anticipated when the very substantial privatisation services occurred.”1

5Vandana Shiva, Founder of the “Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology” and author of the successful book “Water Wars”, developed three negative consequences from PPP as the result of the transformation of a democratic to a corporate (private) state:

“The first is it inevitably leads to the privatization of the state. […] Executives, individual bureaucrats in power, usually with a kickback or a bribe, sign off something that does not belong to the state. Water. It is not the property of the state. Water belongs to the people and the earth. It is a community resource, common property. Common property cannot become state property. But private-public partnerships assume water to be a state property, to then be privatized to a private corporation. But the very action privatizes the state and stops it from being a public entity. That to me is the single most crucial damage that it does.

6Second, it takes what is a community resource and transfers it into a monopoly right. A distortion. First, a monopoly of the state and then a monopoly of the corporation that takes over.

  • 2 Nic Paget-Clarke (2003): Resurrection of commons, community rights, and direct and basic democracy. (...)

7And the third damage it does, it leaves no accountability system either within a publicoriented state regulation or commons-oriented community regulation to regulate use.”2

8At first sight, facts may undermine the thesis of the necessity of PPP. On our planet, more than 1.1 billion people don’t have access to fresh and purified water. 63 percent from them live in Asia, 28 percent in Africa. Moreover, 2.4 billion people don’t have access to sanitation facilities, 80 percent in Asia, and 13 percent in Africa (WHO, 2000). Consequently, the lack of water means a lack of hygiene and health and is a clear indicator for poverty and sub-development. In order to realize the Millennium Goals of the UN, to reduce the number of people living without access to fresh water by 50 percent due 2015, and eventually to 100 percent due 2025, the World Bank estimates that investment in the water sector must be risen from 60 to 80 billion USD to 180 USD annually in order to provide freshwater access for more than 100 million people each year until 2015. The final declaration of the Third World Water Forum 2003 in Kyoto contained the good will of states and international organizations to double the technological and financial resources.

9Most governments believe that they could only achieve with PPP this goal. But what does PPP actually mean for the performance of a political system? If the state doesn’t have sufficient recourses to fulfill the need of its citizens, it has normally the option to raise taxes. There can be no doubt that people wish to live with access to fresh water and sanitation facilities. In democratic societies people may vote for those political parties or leaders who may promise this. But even in authoritarian regimes the ruling party needs legitimacy unless military oppression works perfectly.

10Researchers of the University of New Hampshire have developed the relations between population density and water availability (National Geographic, 9/2002, 15), and stated that almost two billion people suffer serious water stress. Highly water-stressed population is defined if people use more than 40 percent of available renewable water. A look on the maps (maps 1 and 2) shows evidently that water stress occurs especially in non-democratic and less free countries like in North Africa, Middle East, Central and South Asia like Pakistan parts of West India and huge parts of the North China Plain. Though regions in the United States (Great Plains), Mexico City, Australia and some European counties like in Spain and Belgium are affected by water stress, western and wealthy nations can compensate more easily the high demand of fresh water of growing population by recycling wastewater, tapping deep aquifers, importing food or even desalinating seawater. But future will be more stressful: by 2025 four billion people – 50 percent of the planet’s population – could have an insufficient supply of fresh water. And most water is used for irrigated agriculture, almost around 70 percent of all water use.

Map 1. Water stress

Map 1. Water stress

Source: National Geographic, 9/2002, 15.

11More than 40 percent of the world’s population live on the 214 major river basins shared by two or more countries (Barlow and Clarke, 2002: 69). Border struggles for water can break out in the case of water scarcity and eventually famines which threaten more than two-thirds of African population, although the continent has the most number of international river basins. The mix of drought and political tension characterizes states along the Nile River. Ten countries share Nile water: Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.

12In 2001, German government and World Bank organized an international panel in Bonn, where representatives of the ten African Nile-states learnt how transnational cooperation in the case of the Rhine works. Water has been defined as a catalyst for international cooperation and peace. The objective of the German government was the prevention of future conflicts about access and usage of water, because water scarcity has already become an enormous challenge for African and Asian political actors. Nation states consider water as a military and political tool, and water has even become a military objective for terrorists. Controlling springs may lead towards national and international economical, political and social tension which could escalate into military conflicts. The table shows clearly the current and future situation of water scarcity in the world.

Table 1. Water scarcity in the 20th century

Table 1. Water scarcity in the 20th century

Category 1: these countries face “absolute water scarcity.” They will not be able to meet water needs in the year 2025.
Category 2: these countries face “economic water scarcity.” They must more than double their efforts to extract water to meet 2025 water needs, but they will not have the financial resources available to develop these water supplies.
Category 3: these countries have to increase water development between 25 and 100 percent to meet 2025 needs, but have more financial resources to do so.
Category 4: these countries will have to increase water development modestly overall on average, by only five percent to keep up with 2025 demands.

Note* These countries have severe regional water scarcity. A portion of their populations (381 million people in China in 1990 and 280 million people in India in 1990) are in Category 1. The rest of their populations are in Category 4.

13Many books about water wars have been published yet. A great number of them discuss the Jordan Basin and the “Arab-Israeli hydropolitics” (Wolf and Medzini, 2004) like for example Bulloch and Darwish (1993), Kliot (1994), Starr (1995), Murakami (1995), Wolf (1995), and Allan (1996). Because water conflicts may occur possibly in Islamic countries, a look on how water is defined in this region may help to understand water as a political challenge for these regions. Shiva develops in her book the thesis that especially the control over the dams may imply wars between nations and assumes a Jihad for the future (Shiva, 2003: 83). And also Klaus Töpfer, Director of the UN-Enviornment Programme, thinks that the danger of wars for water is more realistic than wars for ideological reason3.

14The Shari´a, which refers to Islamic law in general, had the original meaning of “law of water”. “Shari´a identified water as God’s gift, which no one may deny to another” (Ward, 2002: 187). Water rights and its concepts of ownerships have become by the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century a challenge for both international relations and law in spite of the regulations of irrigation ditches and wells according to Islamic law. Though codifications for water-sharing across borders have been established by the Helsinki Rules, which were developed by the International Law Association in 19664, the 32 articles issued by the International Law Commission of the UN in 1991, the Agenda 21, and among others “The Dublin Principles” in 1992, which opened a debate for water as reflected in a comparative assessment of institutional and legal arrangements for integrated water resources management5, “international water law still lacks fact-finding machinery and means of enforcement” (Ward, 2002: 188). And, moreover, international water law doesn’t recognize the right of priority or absolute sovereignty.

15At least a political-scientific approach for international relations and conflict resolution permits the “Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database Project”6 which is a compilation of the international freshwater agreements of the UN Environment Program and the Oregon State University. It also “provides a framework for quantitative, global-scale explorations of the relationship between freshwater resources and international cooperation […]. Projects were designed to test common theories linking freshwater resources to cooperation and conflict, in particular within the context of geography and environmental security” (Yoffe et al., 2004).

16In 2004, the International Law Association set the “Berlin Rules”7 for a water resources law which integrated the experience from decades of the Helsinki Rules and the confirmation and codification of its association and expresse finally the progressive development of relevant international law regarding water matters. In this context its Chapter IV about the Rights of Persons opens a clear guideline about the (Human) “Right of Access to Water” (Article 17):

  • 1. “Every individual has a right of access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water to meet those individual’s vital human needs.

  • 2. States shall ensure the implementation of the right of access to water on a nondiscriminatory basis.

  • 3. States shall progressively realize the right of access to water by:

    • a. refraining from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right;

    • b. preventing third parties from interfering with the enjoyment of the right;

    • c. taking measures to facilitate individuals access to water, such as defining and en-forcing appropriate legal rights of access to and use of water; and

    • d. providing water or the means for obtaining water when individuals are unable, through reasons beyond their control, to access water through their own efforts.

    • 8 Ibid., 23.

    4. States shall monitor and review periodically, through a participatory and transparent process, the realization of the right of access to water.”8

17There can be no doubt, that this article sets clearly the right of access to water which is codified in national constitutions of already more than 60 states.

Water stress in Mexico

  • 9 Monsiváis, C. (2005) – Agua, no huyas de la sed, El Universal Dominical, 31 July, 7.
  • 10 El Universal, 27 March 2005, A1, A7.

18That Mexico will host the World Water Forum next year opens probably a new debate in a country whose capital, Mexico-City, already faces water stress or a “water crisis” (Serrano, 2005: 29). Water conflicts, however, can even break out in one political jurisdiction, for example in the Mexican valley of the 20 million people metropolis Mexico-City which is divided between the Federal District and the State of Mexico. One scenario depicts that people would take over installations spontaneously in the case of a possible nature catastrophe (earthquake or flood), especially if both local governments wouldn’t have developed a future plan for managing both water supply and sewage (Alcaraz, 2005). The famous Mexican intellectual Carlos Monsiváis quoted the Mexican water expert Iván Restrepo Fernández9. He says that a rich family consumes 600 liter and a poor one only 20, but the poor one who has no access and receives water from the water-vendor pays 10 times more than the rich one. According to the statistics of the National Water Commission and the Environment Ministry rich families living in residencies pay only 1.50 Pesos (= 0.13 USD) per cubic meter, though the real costs would be eight Pesos (= 0.72 USD) or so10. And drought affects especially the poor neighborhoods, around 1.5 million people, which have been gradually developing into law-free zones. There is, for example, the case of the Mazahuas Community in Villa Allende in the State of Mexico, where armed people defended their aquifers against the depriving of the municipality’s authorities (González, 2005).

  • 11 The state’s initiative “Promagua“ (Program for Modernizing Water Operations) has established a nati (...)

19More than twenty, sometimes fifty percent of water are lost through leaks in the tubes. But privatization cannot be a solution though the Mexican bottled water and soft-drink industry is the most prosperous one. The market for bottled water is worth 32 billion Pesos (= 2.9 billion USD). Mexico is the world champion in the consumption of soft beverages like Coca Cola. The former director of the Coca Cola Company, Vicente Fox, has become since 2000 the president. “Fox officials just continue to say that it [the water problem, TC] will only be solved by privatizing the entire water distribution system, selling it off to national and international capital” (Piñeyro, 2005: 27). Around 20 percent are already privatized11 .

20But since 2000 any attempt for cooperation (not only in water management) in Mexico-City has failed, because of mutual blockade for political purposes. The capital is ruled by the left party PRD (Partido Revolucionario Democrático), the state which surrounds the capital by the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) that ruled the country in an authoritarian way for more then 70 years until 2000, and finally the conservative PAN (Partido Acción Nacional), which rules the country and some municipalities in the State of Mexico. In spite of the fact that in Mexico twelve million people don’t have access to drinking water and more than twenty percent don’t count with sewers, PPP won’t be currently a real option because of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution which doesn’t actually permit any foreign investment in public goods.

“La Propiedad de las tierras y aguas comprendidas dentro de los límites del territorio nacional corresponde originariamente a la nación, la cual ha tenido y tiene el derecho de transmitir el dominio de ellas a los particulares, constituyendo la propiedad privada. [...] I. Sólo los mexicanos por nacimiento o por naturalización y las sociedades mexicanas tienen derecho para adquirir el dominio de las tierras, aguas y sus accesiones o para obtener concesiones de explotación de minas o aguas [...].”12

21Furthermore, privatization of the public utilities is not point of the political debate, because all political parties (even the PAN because of the presidential election’s campaign for July 2006) and the trade unions would reject harshly any initiatives. The reduction of subsidies and adjustment of tariffs, however, are apparently logical consequences of this political dilemma.

The Water Lords and PPP

22An example from the Philippines stresses the insecurity of private water supply. Since 1997 the water sector in Manila has been privatized under the pressure of the World Bank with loans from the Asian Development Bank. One third of the 11 million inhabitants of the capital lives illegally on private or public land and had, therefore, no water access. So, people obtained water from the vending system operated by the private sector for which they paid normally more than from the public one: around 1.70 Euro per cubic meter. Until 2002 more than 120,000 accesses would be realized with an average price of 0.25 Euro per cubic meter. Moreover, the inhabitants of the slums have become now responsible for monitoring the water supply which supports the loss of water for the companies through leaks (Blume, 2003). But on the other hand, privatization increases the dependence on certain companies such as the French Suez/Ondeo (Public Citizen, 2005) which operated in a consortium with a Philippines oligarchy family under the name “Maynilad Water Services” in Manila. The company tried to increase the fees though they promised to keep the prices constant for the next ten years. Furthermore, the concessionaires fought successfully for postponing their set targets with the result that more then one-fifth of the citizens haven’t been connected yet. Finally, Suez canceled in 2003 surprisingly its 25 year-concession contract with the argument of the Asian financial crisis and demanded the return of its 303 million USD investment plus around 500 million USD loans. It brought the contract dispute to arbitration through the International Chamber of Commerce. Then the public water operator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) had to take over the system after the failure of Suez/Ondeo with the result of raising costs for both local government and consumers. Nevertheless, the Court decided the claims as being absurd and charged Maynilad to pay 150 million USD for outstanding concession’s fees, because it withdrew unilaterally13.

23Renegotiations and finally cancellations are a huge problem of PPP. Since 1990 more than 50 percent of all concessions were renegotiated in Latin America (Hall, 2004: 8). Suez, for example, left Buenos Aires in 2002 as well.

24The case of Suez/Ondeo reflects the question of who does finally control multinational cooperations or the so-called “Lords of Water” (Barlow and Clarke, 2002: 106) like Nestlé, Véolia (the former Vivendi), Saur, RWE-Thames Water, Bechtel, E.ON or even Coca Cola and Pepsi? Normally, shareholders which are in the majority international (hedge) funds or financial companies control the politics of their stock companies, but mostly in the only way that they work profitable. In spite of approaches of corporate governance, the so-called shareholder democracy has become a false conclusion14, especially after financial scandals and frauds of both CEOs and Boards of Directors in the course of the end of the New Economy Boom. The prestigious author Jeremy Rifkin, however, points out the increasing influence of the consumer. He describes very optimistically in his book “The Age of Access” the transformation of capitalist structures from the traditional ownership to the access to goods and services as the new decisive power of consumers.

25Certainly, decisions can only be taken, if the consumer has the knowledge to use information and if fair competition works. In many cases of PPP the market is still manipulated, restricted and unfair for consumers. Oligopolies or even monopolies determinate prices, the state loses its function as both regulator and stimulator for the public service.

26Nevertheless, PPP is quite popular and potentially feasible under certain conditions. In Ghana, for example, the Netherlands Water Partnership in collaboration with NGOs, governments, the neighborhoods, and the private sector demanded a so-called “Tri-Partite Partnership” (Berkoh et al., 2004), which is actually more a Public-Community Partnership, in which NGOs, however, indicated that one requirement for a successful realization would be organizational and capacity development for the private and public sector and that these NGOs would realize the need for strong monitoring capacities of the public sector, and a transparent regulatory framework.

27Because of the lack of regulatory and transparent frameworks, PPP very often failed and because of citizens’ protests, concessions were cancelled like in Cochabamba (Bolivia), Atlanta or Grenoble.

The GATS challenges water governance

28Only water permits the condition of existence. In the frame of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), both the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the European Union promote the privatization of all national services like telecommunication, culture, mass media, banks and insurances, mail-services, garbage collection and even water and sewage services, too. Those services are usually the core of governmental jurisdiction in developed countries. The GATS applies in principle to all service sectors, but with two exceptions. “Article I (3) of the GATS excludes “services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority”. These are services that are supplied neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with other suppliers. Cases in point are social security schemes and any other public service, such as health or education, that is provided at non-market conditions15”. The preference clause demands in the case of public competitions that all WTO-member states must accept equal conditions for any national and international applicants.

29The Study “Euromarket” sponsored by the European Union in which different universities participated, among others the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, drafted in 2003 models on water liberalization scenarios and has come to a more skeptical conclusion towards the liberalization, not privatization (!), of the water market:

“The emergence of new stakeholders (public opinion and water industries) has contradictory effects on liberalisation issues, with two diverging lobbying groups; the discussions on the nature of the good are still unsolved and their impact on liberalisation issues is still uncertain […]. The competition rules but also the resource management […], and the setting up and the monitoring of environmental standards require the designation of competent regulatory authorities. In most countries, territorial authorities with administrative boundaries drive water management. […] A crucial question is to know whether these regulation authorities fall within the competence of the European Union or whether these aspects remain in the context of national or local actions. Is the European Union the best level to enforce different rules of regulation or does the WSS sector come under the exclusive competence of Member States? The answers to these questions depend on different problems stressed above. On the one hand, there are important interactions and cross-border externalities that require coordination and justify the establishment of centralized rules at the European level. On the other hand, the need to have a better information and to bring a rapid answer or action to any problem argues in favour of strong decentralisation and local decision-making. The solution is not black or white, and certainly some aspects will be managed at the Community level to achieve the objectives of the internal market, whilst other ones will be dealt with at national or local levels in accordance with subsidiarity principle.”16

30This assumption supports the argument that because of the critical public, liberalization processes are difficult to implement. Moreover, it implies that PPP is finally only one political option, if informed and enlightened citizens are willing to choose it in a democratic and participative environment. Whether the WTO will have the political legitimating to enforce the scenario of Barlow and Clarke (2002: 168) considering the enormous and increasing influence of anti-globalization – and anti-neoliberal- movements on domestic political decisions in both OECD – and developing countries, is today more than doubtful. Both authors write: “In this projected scenario, the WTO’s existing national treatment rules on nondiscrimination would be applied to government subsidies. In other words, foreign-based, private service providers like Vivendi, Suez, and other water mega-corporations would have the legal right to claim access to public funds for such things as government grants and loans” (Barlow and Clarke, 2002: 169).

31Of course, the question must be asked whether the WTO should liberalize in general the world market for agricultural products of less developed countries that have until today reduced access and participation to Western markets which are protected by tariffs, terms, taxes and subsidies in a new form of neo-mercantilism. Open markets, fair commerce regulations, legal structures would be the best politics for developing countries (Lambsdorff; Melnik, 2004). Very often the discussion doesn’t reflect the real necessities of developing and marginalized countries that at first liberal reforms would push economic growth, democratic consciousness, participation, transparency and civil and social responsibility. And later, these citizens may be able to decide by themselves which form of political, economic and social system would be appropriate for them. The water issue, however, would obviously be kept in the most cases in public hand as citizens’ responsibility has shown in above - mentioned cases. Furthermore, this debate reflects the necessity that an active civil society is needed and involved in processes of the WTO in order to be sure that interests and political will are respected and integrated in the global decision process which should finally encourage the decentralization and localization of economic policies.

Democratization of water governance and PPP

32The liberal thinker Adam Smith defined in his famous book “The Wealth of Nations” (1776) the government and economy in a system of natural liberty which had formed eventually the duties of a modern state. In welfare states of the twentieth century especially during the East-West-conflict, the political will has exaggerated the welfare state. In times of globalization the state needs to reduce its duties, because of the necessity to consolidate its budget. But very often governments reduce those duties which are according to Smith necessary for the prosperity of society.

“Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men. The sovereign [government] is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempting to perform which he [they or it] must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper performance of which no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient: the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it toward the employments most suitable to the interest of the society. According to the system of natural liberty, the sovereign [government] has only three duties to attend to, three duties of great importance, indeed, but plain and intelligible to common understandings: first, the duty of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies; secondly, the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it, or the duty of establishing an exact administration of justice; and thirdly, the duty of erecting and maintaining certain public works and certain public institutions, which it can never be for the interest of any individual, or small number of individuals, to erect and maintain, because the profit could never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals, though it may frequently do much more than repay it to a great society.”17

33Especially the last phrases emphasize the unconditional responsibility of the state to maintain certain public works without regarding any profits. So, PPP does imply a new dependence on companies’ interests and, moreover, it reduces both the legitimacy and the capability of the state respectively its government to manage public services and accomplish the people’s will.

34Arguments that through privatization companies would reduce investments and maintenance in infrastructure which could affect the quality of water and the chance of infections and diseases can be considered surely as an argument against privatization, but on the other hand, if privatization or liberalization allows competition, citizens may choose those companies that offer the best price-service-quality relations. However, the local government needs no expenses for marketing of its product, meanwhile companies do, which finally the consumer pays with his fees.

35In the theories of international relations, liberal theorists believe that the scarcity of one good enforces cooperation in order to prevent international conflicts. The dependence on water has established international treaties such like the Indus one between India and Pakistan in spite of Kashmir-conflict or nuclear rearmament. On the national level, however, water dependence has stirred up conflicts and injustice. There can be no doubt, that water is a resource of rich and powerful classes, especially in less developed countries. Poor people dependent on illegal water supply or dubious companies have to pay in average more for water than middle-or upper-class population. Vandana Shiva describes the privatization of water as a new form of terrorism. Though her opinion in this point is exaggerated, the privatization in less developed countries, however, was principally realized because of the fact that public administration and control didn’t exist. Indeed, terrorism may be find new roots, if marginalized people are excluded from basic rights like here the access to water.

36Back to Adam Smith: in his famous book The Wealth of Nations he writes that the government must invest in the infrastructure in order to guarantee the function of the market.

37And because of the fact, that water is considered as a public good, necessarily for food production (we remember that 70 percent of the water usage serves for irrigation of the agriculture sector) and industrial production (20 percent) that guarantee the survival of self-existence of human beings and their economic performance and finally their political participation as citizens. A democratic Public-Private Partnership, therefore, makes sense if it is controlled and legitimized by the publicity. There can be no doubt that a voluntary investment in the water business is for companies only attractive if they would gain benefits. Initiatives like UN Global Compact or Corporate Governance may be support these trends: the transformation from profit-orientated capitalism toward socially and ecologically responsible entrepreneurship.

38Nevertheless, national water supply shall not exclude competition; a monopoly would provoke inefficiency, corruption, and finally high prices for the consumer. Furthermore, no subsidies should be given, because otherwise the behavior to save water wouldn’t be encouraged.

39Finally, states and governments should use international forums like the World Water Forum to develop an international water regime with good governance principles. But even the previous World Water Forums have been seen by many NGOs critically as a tool of international water corporations:

“Soutenues par de puissants groupes industriels privés, ces institutions organisent des forums et produisent des rapports qui font la promotion d’une vision radicalement orientée vers la privatisation des services de gestion de l´eau, sinon de l´eau elle-même, ainsi que de la mise en œuvre des grands travaux hydrauliques. Elles présentent évidemment ces solutions comme les seules possibles.” (Rekacewicz, 2005: 48).

40The forthcoming forum in Mexico will focus on “Local Actions for a Global Challenge”. This motto opens indeed a new debate, that fresh and original ideas have very often their roots in local activities. Local actors might make a virtue of necessity from resources scarcity, lack of public and private support.

41Finally, full democratic and public participation in the governance of water resources (Bruch et al., 2005) must be a condition sine qua non in order to overcome less transparent structures in the water market management.


42There can be no doubt that water service must be permanently social, just, and priced with good quality. Democratic water governance must be the key to overcome both local and international water stress in order to prevent potentially violent environmental conflicts. Tension, violence and finally wars may occur in center-periphery transboundaries where certain conflict regulatory mechanism doesn’t work because of weak state performances, where additionally environment (water) might be instrumentalities as a military strategic target. Constructive conflict resolution processes should have preventive approaches on the longterm by involving NGOs and the UN as mediators. Giordano et al., (2005) stressed that « international resource conflict is most likely to occur where there exist both resource scarcity and insufficient institutional capacity to deal with that scarcity » (61). According to them, a conflict would be most likely in those areas where resources sovereignty, in our context the public good water, is ill-defined or non-existent as well as an existing regime is destroyed by political transformation and/or rapid changes by environmental resources scarcity. The authors suggested the promotion of an effective international resource management regime developing positive-sum solutions and mitigation strategies in the conflict. In the realm of high-level politics, however, international resource conflict management or prevention would be a new challenge. Consequently, traditional concepts of PPP in developing countries which are affected by water stress are definitely contradictory according to this approach.

43Moreover, one point of the debate has become clear: local governments shouldn’t sell water concessions and services in order to improve its budget, because it is shortsighted. On the longterm the state may lose control, income and influence of a public good that actually has to serve to its citizens. The liberalization of the water market doesn’t lead consequently to lower prices and better quality. Examples from the energy market have shown that citizens pay nowadays in average more than before the liberalization.

44Public-Private Partnership in water governance cannot be necessarily a solution only because of water scarcity. PPP may be efficient and successful in states, where democratic participation and good governance do work. The argument, that PPP would be the key for a freshwater revolution in many slums of Africa and Asia, cannot be proved positively as long as high quality standards of governance are not accomplished.

45But finally, civil society is responsible for opening the debate about the public good water. Both NGOs and parliamentary groups with support of scientists and mass media have to create a new consciousness about the selling-out of public resources. Finally, if in democratic structures people mean that PPP would be an option for them, and then the state should be responsible for setting strong rules and monitoring these processes. The state representing its society shouldn’t give up its final control and power, and it needs to set the legal framework to cancel PPP in the case that it doesn’t serve for society. For less developed countries, PPP can be an option, but it must be monitored under an international democratically organized and legitimized water regime that controls companies’ activities in a form of a new UN Global Compact. The idea of a cooperative world fund (Petrella, 2005) under the shield of the UN may be the first step towards this kind of an international water regime that guarantees a sustainable, participative and fair development.



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2 Nic Paget-Clarke (2003): Resurrection of commons, community rights, and direct and basic democracy. Interview with Vadana Shiva, Motion Magazine, 6 March,

3 Klaus Töpfers Stimme hat Gewicht, Interview with Peter Sartorius,





8 Ibid., 23.

9 Monsiváis, C. (2005) – Agua, no huyas de la sed, El Universal Dominical, 31 July, 7.

10 El Universal, 27 March 2005, A1, A7.

11 The state’s initiative “Promagua“ (Program for Modernizing Water Operations) has established a national data base for corporations in order to help them identifying investment posibilities. See: Roberto González Amador (2005): Privatizado, 20% del servicio de agua, La Jornada, 25 June, 43.





16, 154, 157.


Table des illustrations

Titre Map 1. Water stress
Légende Source: National Geographic, 9/2002, 15.
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Titre Map 2. Water supply and sanitation
Légende Source:​docstore/​water_sanitation_health/​Globassessment/​Global2.3.htm#Maps%202.1%20and%202.2
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Titre Map 3. Freedom House Index
Légende Source:​research/​freeworld/​2005/​map2005.pdf
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
Titre Table 1. Water scarcity in the 20th century
Légende Definitions: Category 1: these countries face “absolute water scarcity.” They will not be able to meet water needs in the year 2025.Category 2: these countries face “economic water scarcity.” They must more than double their efforts to extract water to meet 2025 water needs, but they will not have the financial resources available to develop these water supplies.Category 3: these countries have to increase water development between 25 and 100 percent to meet 2025 needs, but have more financial resources to do so.Category 4: these countries will have to increase water development modestly overall on average, by only five percent to keep up with 2025 demands.Source:​news/​03171999.shtml
Fichier image/jpeg, 166k


Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM), Dept. de Estudios Sociales y Relaciones Internacionales, México – Mexique

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