Both forums took place in Dakar, Senegal.
As part of the alternative forum, the WCC organized a hybrid webinar titled, “Is the World Water Forum a solution to the global water crisis?”
This key question highlighted critiques that the World Water Forum is an expensive mega-event touted as the solution to the global water crisis. With an entry fee of 800 Euros, activists say it has become an exclusive platform for elite corporates, governments and large non-governmental organizations.
UN special rapporteur on human right to water Prof. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo delivered the keynote address.
On the exclusivity of the World Water Forum, he said, “What would we say if the big pharmaceutical companies of the world would call us together to discuss solutions to the COVID pandemic, instead of the WHO?”
Promoters of the World Water Forum are big private water operators. Arrojo-Agudo said he hoped the UN would take a convening role to address the global water crisis. “What I hope is that the 2023 UN Water Conference will mark a turning point and that public institutions at the national and international level will take their share of responsibility for tackling the global water crisis, over and above corporate interests, however powerful they may be,” he concluded.
Meera Karunananthan of Carleton University, Canada and former director of the Blue Planet Project, lamented the fact that privatisation often happens through the state, and the state as an agent of dispossession. She said there continues to be more pressure on African states and local governments. “The community-led water cooperatives have been now replaced with water meters, which deprive them from an affordable access to safe drinking water,” she said.
Dr Koni Benson of the African Water Commons Collective in South Africa reminded the participants that her country has one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor. When Cape Town was facing “day zero” to run out of water in 2019, there were strict restrictions on consumption of water. She said, “wealthy people sank boreholes, not metered; Coca Cola and such companies didn’t stick to the water restrictions and were not penalized.” She called it “water apartheid.”
The webinar concluded with an affirmation that the World Water Forum keeps poor communities out of the discourse and cannot solve the global water crisis, and that only an alternative platform, such as the Alternative World Water Forum can only bring water justice for all.
During the Alternative Water Forum, the Ecumenical Water Network-Africa was launched by Bishop Arnold Temple, chair of WCC-EWN and president of All Africa Conference of Churches, with the purpose of reinvigorating African churches around the water justice issues and amplifying local issues.
In yet another workshop at the Alternative World Water Forum, the Ecumenical Water Network of Brazil issued a statement, titled from “Waters of Brazil to the Waters of the World.” They were the host of the alternative water forum in Brazil in 2018.
WCC Blog post: "Underground Water: Making the Invisible Visible"