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Accessing Water, a Global Strategic Challenge


1.5 billion people do not have access to drinking water

2.6 billion people are not connected to a sanitation network

Water remains the first cause of death in the world and kills 34,000 people a day. International news reminds us that water conflicts are now a reality. So what is stopping us from immediately making access to water an inalienable right?

Today, there is no global water policy. The future of water is in the hands of private companies whose goal is to make access to water profitable: the WWC (World Water Council), which claims to be responsible for the future of water in the world, is run by private water companies’ executives and gathers some of the actors, without any real legitimacy.

Established in 1996 as a French voluntary association, the WWC claims to be heir to the “Water Conference” organised by the United Nations at Mar del Plata in 1977. But in reality, it is a private organisation serving private interests. Its headquarters are located in Marseilles and it is currently presided by Loïc Fauchon, CEO of “Groupe des Eaux de Marseille”, a group often accused of anticompetitive agreements. The group is made up of the two French multinationals (with equal shares), Veolia Eau ex Vivendi-CGE and Suez-Lyonnaise des Eaux, dedicated to water, waste, transports, energy and communication. These multinationals considered merging with EDF-Gaz de France. Since early 2010, the latter belongs entirely to Veolia.

  • During the last World Water Forum held in Istanbul in March 2009, the WWC refused to ratify the right to access water.
  • The WWC is supported by the French state which is hosting the next forum in Marseilles in March 2012.


Don’t be mistaken: the WWC and the different forums it organises does not have the international legitimacy it claims to have. It’s not a representative intergovernmental organisation, even if several NGOs and a few UN agencies, such as UNHABITAT, are among its partners. It simply defends the private interests of water multinationals which run it.

What are the consequences of exporting the “French model” of public-private partnerships to southern countries? We have seen in countries such as Bolivia, Indonesia and Argentina, that  exporting the “French model” generates increases in tariffs that are unaffordable to local populations, as well as cultural shock (water is something sacred in many cultures and privatising it is nonsense) and dispossesses people of their water management.

By answering the Water Messengers’ call, you too can take an active part in a movement committed to:

  • international public governance of water management,
  • making access to water an inalienable right,
  • preventing “water dealers” from controlling this global common good,
  • making universal access to water a reality.