Bolivia calls on Pascal to withdraw water from the WTO and withdraws some of its service offers

By Nick Buxton

Nick Buxton writes about the breaking news that Bolivia calls for a withdrawl of water and some other services from the WTO negotiations.

I am writing to circulate a few documents sent by the Bolivian Government to the WTO, and announced in the World Water Forum in which they call for water to be withdrawn from GATS negotiations and from the 155 services listed under WTO. They also called for the withdrawal of service commitments made by Bolivia in 2003 and 2005 (details of BoliviaÂ’s commitments will be attached as documents at http://www.waternotforsale.org/blog/_archives/2006/4/4/1859970.html)

I also enclose in text form:

1. Letters translated into English from the Bolivian Government to the WTO on water and services
2. Bolivian Government press release at the World Water Forum of a new vision for water
3. Complementary Declaration of the World Water Forum (signed by Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Uruguay)
4. BoliviaÂ’s own declaration on water can be found at www.waternotforsale.org

These declarations are obviously crucial advances for the campaign to get water out of the WTO. It would be great to show to the WTO that Bolivia is not alone, so I will be following up in the coming week with a letter which we would like groups to sign on to support the Bolivian demand to withdraw water from the WTO. We also want where there is scope to do so to mobilise to pressure our Governments to support the Bolivian position. More information and detailed background documents have also been uploaded on www.waternotforsale.org

LETTER TO WTO CALLING FOR WITHDRAWAL OF WATER FROM WTO

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Bolivia
Geneva

17 March 2006

Director General:

I am writing in order to draw to your attention to one of the key issues for the new Government, led by his Excellency Mr Evo Morales Ayma, Constitutional President of Bolivia, which is to reaffirm the sovereign right of each country to regulate their water resources, in all their uses and services, as part of an integrated and sustainable policy, in order to guarantee the human right of access to water to all the population.

For that reason we have created a Ministry of Water within the Executive, whose roles and structure are detailed in the accompanying booklets.

In this respect, I wish to communicate to your authority, as President of the Committee of Trade Negotiations for the W

TO, the following requests from my Government:

* Suspend any negotiations which involve drinking water in GATS and
* Withdraw the sector of drinking water from the 155 services which have been categorized by the WTO

Yours sincerely,
M.C. Guadalupe Palomeque de la Cruz
WTO Representative

LETTER TO WTO CALLING FOR WITHDRAWAL OF OFFERS IN SERVICE

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Bolivia
Geneva

17 March 2006

Mr Hamid Mamdouh
Director
Services Division
World Trade Organisation

Dear Sir,

I am writing in order to inform you of BoliviaÂ’s decision to formally withdraw the following documents in circulation within the Council of Trade in Services in special session:

* TN/S/O/BOL/Rev.1 of 27 October 2005 (Conditional Revised Offer)
* TN/S/O/BOL of 29 September 2003 (Conditional Initial Offer)

In thanking you for circulating this document to members, I would like to assure you of my highest and sincerest regards.

Guadalupe Palomeque de la Cruz
WTO Representative

Bolivian Government lays out a new alternative vision on water

In a speech organized by the Municipal Government of Mexico D.F., Abel Mamani, the new Minister of Water for Bolivia laid out today a new vision for water by the new Evo Morales led Government.

As the World Water Forum in Mexico opened, the statement reaffirmed the Bolivian GovernmentÂ’s commitment to ending the privatization of water and ensuring that water is treated as a public good. The indigenous minister also called for the World Water Forum to be profoundly changed to allow majority and decisive participation in the international negotiations by the poorest and those who most need water.

The speech which was held at 3pm on 16 March in the Palacio de Mineria stressed five points:

1. Water is a fundamental human right and a pre-requisite to the realization of other human rights
2. Water belongs to the earth and all living beings including human beings and it is the duty of everyone to protect access to water for all forms of life and for the earth itself
3. Water is a public good and therefore its management needs to be in a sphere that is public, social, community-based, participative and not based on profit.
4. Water should not be privatized and should be withdrawn from all free trade and investment agreements
5. There should be profound change in the organization of the World Water Forum to allow majority and decisive participation in the negotiations by the poorest and those who most need water.

Evo Morales Government created the new Ministry of Water in response to struggles by social movements within Bolivia against two privatized water utilities in Cochabamba and El Alto. Abel Mamani before becoming Minister of Water was leader of the El AltoÂ’s residents association that led protests which forced then President Mesa to start negotiations to end contract with privatized water utility, Aguas del Illimani, subsidiary of French multinational Suez.

In his inauguration speech, President Morales said: “Water cannot be treated as a commercial transaction because from the moment that it is privatized, human rights are violated. Water services must be public services.”

Minister Abel Mamani said: “With a resource that is essential for life, it is unacceptable to talk about profit. In Bolivia, we were promised that privatization would resolve problems of water access but it has failed and caused great harm. We hope our public, participative, social and ecological vision will be shared by all those who want clean drinking water to be delivered to all.”

COMPLEMENTARY DECLARATION SIGNED BY CUBA, VENEZUELA, URUGUAY AND BOLIVIA

The Ministers or their representatives herein signing at the Fourth World Water Forum, declare before the participants of this Forum, the international community and the people of the world, the following:

Access to water with quality, quantity and equity, constitutes a fundamental human right. The States, with the participation of the communities, shall make efforts at all levels to guarantee this right to their citizens, within their respective countries. Thus, we agree to continue making all efforts within the Commission on Sustainable Development of the United Nations and other international fora according to their mandates, to recognize and make this right effective.

We declare our profound concern regarding the possible negative impacts that international instruments -- such as the free trade and investment agreements -- can have on water resources, and reaffirm the sovereign right of every country to regulate water and all its uses and services.

We exhort the international community and multilateral entities to comply with the commitments repeatedly made to support efforts of countries guarantee access to water and sewage treatment.

We call on all States to develop the World Water Forum in the framework of the international multilateral system, based on the principles of full participation and inclusion.

Mexico City, March 22, 2006

Websites/Sitios de web:
www.visionsocialagua.org
www.funsolon.org
www.boliviasoberana.org
www.nickbuxton.info

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