Photo credit: Sunshine Lichauco de Leon
Access to water is a human right; it should not be a source of corporate profiteering. Recently the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation divested from global water privatizer Veolia. This represents an important step toward ensuring water corporations can’t exploit such an essential, priceless resource.
Through its investment in and promotion of private water, the World Bank helps enable corporations to take over and profit from municipal water systems — to the detriment of people’s access to this vital public good. For years we have organized with people around the globe to demand an end to the World Bank’s promotion of private water, making investment in Veolia a liability for the World Bank. Now, Veolia can no longer count on the IFC for the financial support and credibility it needs to expand water privatization. This is a victory for the movement to protect water as a human right.
In cities where Veolia controls water utilities, people struggle with skyrocketing rates and poor water quality — that is, if the tap hasn’t run dry in their neighborhood. For example, in 2013, half the people of Nagpur, India lost water service for two days when the system shut down. Along with rate increases and erratic supply, many of Veolia’s projects fail to deliver on commitments to expand infrastructure, focusing on increasing profit margins instead.
Since 2007, Veolia has benefited from support from the IFC, the World Bank agency that directly finances private sector projects. But we recently discovered the IFC divested about $160 million from two Veolia subsidiaries, an amount equal to about 25 percent of Veolia’s total investment budget. That’s huge. The IFC off-loading also deprives Veolia of the access and clout that come with funding from the powerful World Bank.
The IFC’s divestment from Veolia is a major victory for the human right to water. But we need your help to keep pressure on the World Bank so it stays out of private water. Not only does the IFC still have investments in other water corporations, but the World Bank as a whole also continues to promote privatization schemes through its advisory services, marketing, and knowledge production. At the World Bank Spring Meetings we are building on this pivotal success to push the World Bank to step away from private water completely.