Challenging the World Bank

Women in India line up at water truck

The lack of access to clean drinking water has staggering consequences. Today, more people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence combined.

These deaths can be prevented.

We know investment in public water system infrastructure is one of the most powerful means of improving and protecting people's lives globally. 

And where it exists, democratic control of water has been key to achieving near universal access. In most industrialized countries such as the U.S., public water systems have not only improved public health but have also driven economic development.

But today, global corporations and their allies are attempting to present the private sector as the solution to our water woes.

We work to ensure that control of water is not handed over to private corporations that answer only to their bottom line.  Management of water must stay in public hands, accountable to the people, not to corporate executives and shareholders.

World Bank Drives Water Privatization

The World Bank fervently promotes corporate control of water as the solution to the world’s water crisis…even though time and again private water projects fail to expand people’s access, raise rates, lead to shutoff of services and result in massive job loss. All told, privatized water – in all its forms – harms human rights, economic development and democracy itself. Read a case study of how privatization has failed in Manila, Philippines.

But, astoundingly, the World Bank sinks a quarter of its funds directly into the corporate sector, increasingly bypassing democratic processes altogether and regularly investing directly in water corporations.

More than that, it sets the agenda for how other agencies and institutions provide water funding.

As global corporations seek to take over water markets, they all need the financial backing and political access they can get from the World Bank. And it obliges, lending legitimacy, authority, access to policymakers and resources. The World Bank:

  • Provides financing that becomes a primary catalyst for attracting further funding from investors
  • Serves as an advisor to borrower governments
  • Directly invests in private water corporations such as Veolia, including purchasing ownership shares (equity)
  • Funds and disseminates research that promotes private sector “solutions”
  • Supports PR and marketing campaigns promoting privatization

Campaign to Move the World Bank

Despite all the support the World Bank gives to private water projects, corporations distribute water to just 10 percent of the world’s population.

And, working with allies around the world, we intend to keep the privateers at bay.

Our key strategy? To move the World Bank to end its pivotal role in promoting and funding water privatization and redirect its support toward equitable, participatory and nonprofit water projects.

Our extensive, groundbreaking report “Shutting the Spigot on Private Water: the Case for the World Bank to Divest” is an essential tool toward this end. 

We call on the World Bank to divest from private water, and:

  • End all support – financial and otherwise – for water privatization, beginning by divesting from all equity stakes in water corporations.
  • Revitalize World Bank funding for public water agencies to expand infrastructure and access.
  • Halt all promotion of water privatization through research, public relations, advocacy and direct advisory services for borrower governments and their people.

We’re coordinating with allied organizations around the world in the campaign to realign World Bank water investment strategies. And, we work with the distinguished members of our Advisory Committee who provide critical expertise and guidance for advancing this collective work.

Imagine the difference it would make if the billions currently fueling a global corporate water grab were instead being spent on public solutions to reverse today’s world water crisis.

Together, we’re working to realize a future where access to water is not a privilege for those who can afford it, but a right for all.

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