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Public Citizen Targets World Conference for Privatization Protest

Aug. 20, 2002

Public Citizen Targets World Conference for Privatization Protest

Outcry Against Corporate Culture to be Heard at World Summit on Sustainable Development

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? To protest the increasing worldwide trend toward privatization, Public Citizen will join civil society groups participating in alternative activities during the upcoming world summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Rather than attend the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), from Aug. 26 to Sept. 4, Public Citizen will march, rally, hold teach-ins, conduct research, attend public hearings and go on fact-finding missions outside Johannesburg with international aid and human rights groups. In developing countries, the privatization of public resources, such as water, is leading to illness and a lower quality of life.

Of particular concern is the corporate privatization of water resources and electricity, a practice widely supported by governments of wealthy nations, including the United States. The summit?s draft declaration advocates corporate control of water resources and the granting of huge concessions to multinational corporations.

But the privatization of water in developing countries has led to higher pricing, resource depletion and a lack of access to basic services for poor people.

“The draft declaration of the summit paints a grim picture of water availability for the world?s neediest people,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Instead of setting clear goals for the improvement of access to clean and affordable water, the draft focuses on giving more power and money to multinational corporations. Those who need water most are not even represented at the summit.”

With the recent release of the United Nations pre-summit Environmental Report, which found that fresh water is becoming scarcer around the globe, more emphasis than ever needs to be placed on access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for the more than one billion people who currently lack these basic services, Hauter said.

The United States government has opposed previous international agreements that sought to assure environmentally sustainable development and has not even committed to attend this year?s WSSD. Although about 100 heads of state are to attend, President Bush has said he will not. Secretary of State Colin Powell has indicated he “may” go.

“Bush is vacationing on the golf course, polishing his putting skills. Meanwhile, there is no confirmation that any U.S. representative will even go to Johannesburg,” Hauter said. “On an issue that is a matter of life and death for every poor country in the world, it?s appalling that the Bush administration may not even be bothered to show up.”

Other groups involved in the protest events are Social Movement Indaba, Global Exchange, Center for Economic Justice, Council of Canadians, Municipal Service Project and the Polaris Institute.

The first world summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, where more than 100 countries attempted to create a sustainable agenda on a global scale.

Click here for more information about Public Citizen’s activities at the WSSD.