Walk the Talk: From Marseilles to Rio, Together

Walk the Talk: From Marseilles to Rio, Together
by Mary Ann Manahan — April 27, 2012

The social movement and civil society-organized summit process of hammering out a final declaration is quite different from the pre-drafted statements we normally get out of official forums. Take the case of the Alternative World Water Forum (FAME) that took place from March 14-17 in Marseilles, France. On April 22, more than a month after the forum, FAME organizers released the final declaration of the participants.

Finding common ground

The draft declaration was crafted by a group of volunteer individuals
representing different organizations and movements from various
regions and sectors and was presented at the closing plenary session.
Expectedly, the draft was heatedly debated; at the core of the
discussions were issues of language and inclusion, philosophy and
ethics of participation and representation. With a huge number of
participants coming from all around the world wanting to include their
own issue, the declaration became an arena of contestation. This meant
that real democracy and participation were at work. But with limited
time for debate and with no consensus in sight (which made the closing
session rather anti-climactic), the organizers promised a process to
unwrap what happened and to incorporate all relevant concerns and
issues in the statement. The latter was crucial in ensuring that the
water justice movement “walk the talk” and practice what we preach.

Similarly, the France Libertés forum, Water, People and the Planet,
held on March 9-10, distributed its own statement on water last week.
While the organizers had a pre-drafted declaration, the statement
which came out of the forum was different and reflected a more
critical analysis on the global water crisis, a strong stance against
the privatization and commodification of water and the role of water
multinationals, and progressive demands by the participants for a new
model of water governance that puts people and nature before profit.

Toward Rio +20

Both declarations are useful in the run-up to Rio+20, the UN
Conference on Sustainable Development to take place on June 20-22,
2012 in Rio de Janeiro 20 years after the historic Earth Summit. There
is no doubt that Rio+20 will be a crucial event for determining the
level of ambition and the direction of inter-governmental policies to
tackle the environmental, social, economic and development crises that
we face today. Rio+20 is set to be a very important political
opportunity to address these crises; one which the water justice
movement is already critically engaged in. Rio+20, therefore,
highlights the collective aspiration to search for new models of
development to address the multiple crises that we face today and to
take stock of the progress made since the Earth Summit.

The most intense discussion in the preparatory process is around the
‘green economy’ agenda promoted by UNEP, a concept that could
potentially replace ‘sustainable development’ as the dominant
discourse. The declarations from the FAME and France Libertés forums
criticized the market-based approach being promoted by the green
economy, which assigns private property rights to nature, including
water. Leaving water and nature to the market would undermine the
opportunities of communities and states to protect nature and water as
a commons. The two declarations emphasized not only the collective
resolve to rethink the dominant market-driven model of water
management and governance, which has failed for the last 20 years, but
also concrete alternatives and a new vision to achieve the “future we

If you are dreaming of a better world, of a new model of water
management and of a people-centred Rio+20 rather than a
corporate-driven one, join us in signing on to these statements and
help spread the word.


IN MARSEILLE, 14-17 March 2012


People, Planet and Water : Water is not a commodity, it is a common
good that belongs to Humanity and all life

Eau, Planète et Peuples: L’eau n’est pas une marchandise, c’est le
bien commun de l’Humanité et du Vivant

Agua, Planeta y Pueblos : El agua no es una mercancía, es el bien
común de la Humanidad y de los Seres Vivos

Sign here

Mary Ann Manahan is a research-campaigner with Focus on the Global
South, Philippines, since 2003. She was part of the drafting committee
of the France Libertés forum and a member of the FAME core group as
well as committees that worked on plenary sessions on Rio+20 and the
financialization of nature, and on the future of the water movement.
Focus was co-coordinator of the climate change and Rio+20 theme at

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