While my post earlier this week about police spraying water cannons at World Water Forum protesters was intended to point out the irony, the truth is that the situation in Turkey was out of control, with unprovoked police attacks on peaceful protesters.
In addition to water cannons, police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd, arresting 17 Turkish activists and forcing international activists to leave. The group peacefully gathered outside the official forum for the “People’s Forum” formed to oppose the “commercialization of water.”
The arrests and police brutality prompted other activists to break through security at the World Water Forum to protest police treatment. The organizers of the protest demand that the next forum be organized by the United Nations and not funded by corporate interests and that global access to water be made a priority.
The forum housed a “water fair” where corporations were allowed to display their latest products, causing activists to call the forum a “trade show” for the companies. Meanwhile, some parts of the forum brought to light the staggering crisis at hand: 8 million people die every year due to lack of clean water, according to research released at one conference.
But to many participants and activists, the water forum did nothing to address this issue. In the end, they agreed on this simple statement:
We acknowledge the discussions with the U.N. system regarding human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation. We recognize that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a basic human need.
Notice that it’s a “need” and not a “right.” While some contries pushed for the latter, others woried it would raise legal issues and objected. This kind of politics is what stands in the way of real change.
Check out this report from Democracy Now!: