If I were a delegate….

by Maria Alejandra Escalante

If I were a delegate at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, I would not be the kind of delegate I saw at the negotiations on Sustainable Consumption and Production, Water and Climate Change during Prepcom III. I would not be like them because they induce morbidity, disengagement, lethargy and utter silence. A silence that betrays the people these delegates are supposed to be representing. People who, in the miraculous chance of being here would most likely shout, claim, participate, at least collaborate (in the case this restrictive institutional venue opened wide its doors for all those at the People’s Summit). These people would be anything but silent. A prolonged silence in a negotiation that pretends to bring all nations together to talk about solutions on the world crisis is useless. 

These silences that produce anxiety within us, the observers, pressed (literally) in the non-spacious rooms of negotiations, are eventually broken. But, guess what? They are broken generally by three, maybe, with really good luck, by four delegations. Which ones? The United States of America, the European Union representative and the G77 representative. Maybe New Zealand, in case it is convenient to delete UNFCCC from the Climate Change section. Maybe Japan, in case it is better not to include too many elements regarding water management and infrastructure in the Water section. What happens with the other fifty delegates in the room? Their silence prevails, maybe because if they exposed their thoughts the whole process would be chaotic, or maybe because they have conformed to the idea that they must unite under the G77 to get closer to getting heard by the other UN members (big flaw of the system, again).  If I were a delegate I would not let three delegates have a conversation over the world’s resources. If I were a delegate I would not dominate the negotiations, but rather encourage other nations to participate. 

Having seven days left for the final discussion of the outcome of Rio+20, I would not suggest deleting two whole paragraphs (6 and 7) from the Water section of the negotiating text just because it is too dense, too heavy to deal with now. But the G77 representative believes it is a good idea to stop addressing the need for infrastructure in order to achieve sustainable water management, which is proposed in these two paragraphs. Instead, I would do anything and everything in my reach to make sure that months of preparation and huge amounts of time and financial investments are not simply bracketed and suppressed at this final stage. Especially when what is at stake is the human right to water. 

If I were a delegate I would not raise the doubt that this Conference, a platform for change in theory, cannot deal with adopting the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (YFP). The US delegate stated that “this conference is not delegating authority to another institution to take control over this topic”. If such a congregation of member states is not able to commit to a document already agreed and signed, then what are they doing sitting down in those chairs? Waiting for someone else to take control over problems they are expected to resolve? Extending the action on an imminent catharsis? Hanging out until the world’s resources are depleted so that the levels of consumption and production are unavoidably decreased? The chances of someone being on top of the current excessive consumption and production are low without the adoption of the 10 YFP.  If I were a delegate I would believe in the capacity and potential of the organization I work for. 

If I were a delegate, simply for the sake of coherence, I would not bring a plastic Coca-Cola bottle to the Water negotiations at Rio+20. I would know that Coca-Cola Company uses up a gigantic volume of water while paying an insignificant amount of money in proportion compared with what household residents pay. I would also know that it is polluting water sources all over the world in this massive over production. 

If I were a delegate I would use my words and actions to call for justice, equity, and for human rights. I would represent the interest of my people and the world population. I would work for the future we really want. I would not be like the delegates I have seen. 

Delegates drinking Coca-Cola at the negotiations room. Theme: Water. Great. 

What is Water Scarcity: A Primer

Declaration of the Participants at the Alternative World Water Forum

by Robin Owings

The Alternative World Water Forum (FAME) has created and released a Declaration of The Participants at the Alternative World Water Forum. This document defines water to be a commons, not a commodity, and opposes the commodification of aspects of life through “green economy” solutions– which will further deplete and threaten global water resources. It calls upon governments, states, the UN General Assembly, public water utilities, local water authorities and citizens to act directly, whether through the creation of an international penal court for environmental crimes, through collaboration, or through reducing one’s daily water waste.  The document strongly supports the rights of workers/laborers, women, indigenous peoples, and small-scale agriculture, and validates the cultural, spiritual and symbolic aspects of water. FAME ultimately aims to bring the World Water Forum to an end, and supports equal rights among all stakeholders in international water politics. This document will be important to feed into the People’s Summit and the global day of action at Rio+20, as it states an alternative to the commodification and financialization of water which addresses the multiple social and ecological water crises of our time.

To read the document, follow this link:
To sign onto the document, follow this link:

Dams are the answer; sorry, what was the question?

Ken Cline
If I hear the term “water- energy-food nexus” again I might scream. Yes they are related but the connections are not ecological ones; they are a mantra of convenience. More accurately, they are placed together as an excuse to maintain the status quo in terms of large dams. I listen to the head of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) talk about how they are concerned about food security in Africa and how we need more dams to stave off shortages. Then the International Commission of Large Dams (ICOLD) jumps in and talks about the need for more infrastructure (i.e. dams.) Adapting the slogans of water/social activists, the speaker intones “Water is life but without infrastructure it is not enough.” And then there are the lamentations about climate change. “We will need more storage (i.e. dams) in the face of climate change. Adaptation requires storage to make us resilient and dams are renewable power. There is no other way.”
So Africa is hungry because it is under-dammed, South America cannot reach its full development because it is under-dammed, and we are on the way to climate Armageddon because we are under-dammed. If you listen to the conversations in the hallways and some of the sessions at the World Water Forum you would soon realize that dams are the answer, regardless of the question.
But are they? Most dams, especially large ones really only reallocate resources. The benefits of a free flowing river and flood regime are transformed into kilowatts and benefit people who work in factories far away. In some sense the energy is renewable, but the people’s lives, customs, and culture are not. Nor is the complex ecosystem that is destroyed. There is potential in hydropower and irrigation to help us transition to a more sustainable economy, but large dams are not the way to do it. Large dams make members of ICOLD and ICID rich and powerful, meet the needs of short-sighted or corrupt politicians, and move resources from minorities and rural people into the cities, however, they do not meet the needs of the people who live in the valleys or in the land that has been “grabbed” away by outside investors. They are not green.
For the next World Water Forum I want an ICAD – an International Commission Against Dams.