Water – common resource or privatized good?

More than ever, increased efforts by citizens are made concerning remunicipalisation. Especially in the EU, the topic of water privatisation is highly debated and in this workshop we will take a look at all the arguments surrounding this issue. We all need water to survive, so how do we want our water to be managed and by whom?


Source: flickr.com/photos/likeablerodent

For millennia, water has been a highly valuable and yet extremely vulnerable and conflict-prone resource. Shortage, pollution, distribution – many people think privatization is the answer to the problems surrounding water. They believe competitive markets are able to fulfil our expectations. However, some people regard water as a common resource that should be kept and valued as such and not traded like a good.

In this workshop, we will look at water the resource our daily life is based on and which is being privatized step by step. For being able to discuss the question of privatization, we will look at several aspects: the resource of water as such, the users of water, rules and regulations concerning water and water as a cultural good.


Source: flickr.com/photos/kugelfisch

Questions we need to think about include: Where does our water come from and in which way? What determines our water quality and what quality is recommended for which uses? Why is water so important to us? Who takes care of our water and how? Do water companies respect the rules of the market? How are the users organized and related to each other? Which cultural importance does water have?

Especially in cities and in agriculture, the management and governance of water is a big challenge. As a result, water is being privatized in several cities. It is transformed into property of companies instead of keeping it a common good. Together with different experts, we will look at arguments promoting privatization and its possible chances, as well as problems and doubts.


Christoph Kowalewski

Christoph Kowalewski, born 1983, has been active in the field of anticorruption since 2007. He is living in Munich where he has been working in the Governance, Risk & Compliance-department of the accounting company PricewaterhouseCoopers for the last three years. In his job, he supports companies in identifying and mitigating corruption risks.

Due to his expertise, he supported the United Nations Development Programme as professor by lecturing on “Increasing Transparency, Accountability and Participation in the Water Sector”. In this course he taught the participants how to identify governance weaknesses in water authorities and how to develop multi-stakeholder-based integrity strategies. Moreover, he has been a member of the German chapter of Transparency International – the global civil society organisation building coalitions against corruption – since 2008.

Christoph acquired master’s degrees in Business Administration and International Cultural & Business Studies at the University of Passau/ Germany. He did his major in Economics of Corruption at the chair of Professor Johann Graf Lambsdorff who invented the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

Corruption prevention in the water sector – indispensable to ensure a sustainable water supply

Corruption is one of the biggest problems of our times. You can find it in all (economic) sectors in every society including the water sector. The consequences of corruption in the water sector are dreadful. The allocation of water supply rights can be distorted resulting in higher costs, lower water quality and in the worst case limited or no access to clean water.

How can this be? The main reason is institutional weaknesses in a country or in a political union of states like the European Union. Examples for institutional weaknesses are the lack of regulation of lobbyism exerted by strong economic actors in the water sector or poor tender processes which are prone to corruption. In the workshop we are going to discuss measures which are necessary to prevent illegitimate attempts to exert undue influence on political decisions concerning the water sector.

At first, we are going to discuss the term corruption taking a look at regional and sectoral differences as far as the level of (perceived) corruption is concerned. Then we are going to look at corruption risks in the water sector and institutional weaknesses in the EU context. Finally, we are going to conduct a case study in order to apply the freshly acquired knowledge and thus make the participants of the workshop internalize the mechanisms of corruption as well as solutions and ideas how to prevent corruption.

The workshop aims at raising the awareness of the participants for the indispensable integration of anti-corruption elements in water sector-related projects and institutions and at the same time providing an overview of possible solutions.


Prof. Dr. Anwar Fazal

The Right Livelihood Award

Right Livelhood Award 1982 “…for fighting for the rights of consumers and helping them to do the same.” Foto: Wolfgang Schmidt

Consumer Protector and anti-corruption advocate
Right Livelihood Award 1982

Anwar Fazal is a leading international civil society person who has contributed much to our society in areas of consumer, health environment, human rights and social ethics. Deeply concerned about the social injustices, especially those unconscionable marketing practices by the transnational corporations in developing countries, he has strived to and has succeeded in bringing these to international attention way back in the 1970s.
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Tapio Mattlar

(c) Wolfgang Schmidt 2010

Right Livelihood Award 1992 “…for showing a dynamic path to rural regeneration, decentralisation and popular empowerment.” Foto: Wolfgang Schmidt

Co-Founder of the Finish Village Action Network
Right Livelihood Award 1992

The Village Action Association of Finland (in Finnish: Suomen Kylätoiminta ry or SYTY) promotes and develops village action and locally initiated rural development on the national level. The Village Action Association of Finland is an umbrella organisation for regional actors in rural development. Residents’ Associations, village coalitions, LAGs and national central organisations are members of the Village Action Association. At the end of 2006 the Association had 131 member organisations.
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Nnimmo Bassey

Right Livelihood Award 2010 “…for revealing the full ecological and human horrors of oil production and for his inspired work to strengthen the environmental movement in Nigeria and globally.”

Protector of environmental rights and poet
Right Livelihood Award 2010

Nnimmo Bassey’s work as Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and Chair of Friends of the Earth International has turned him into one of Africa’s leading advocates and campaigners for the environment and human rights. Indefatigably, Bassey has stood up against the practices of multinational corporations in his country and the environmental devastation they leave behind destroying the lives and ignoring the rights of the local population.
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Theresa Zimmermann

Theresa Zimmermann

During my studies in Geography, Social and Agricultural Sciences in Berlin and New Delhi I came across many human-nature and human-human struggles which often arouse due to different access to resources. What struck me most were questions concerning water – drinking water supply, water shortage, access to water, water quality, water “ownership”, water reuse – to name a few. Soon I learned that agriculture is the main water user and also urban agglomerations play a major role in water use and consumption. I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis about the reuse of urban effluents in peri-urban agriculture in Hyderabad, India. Now I am studying the master “urban ecology” in Berlin, where I focus not only on the natural science perspective, but also on the way, decisions are made by politicians, companies and the civil society.

Manuel Hettich

Manuel HettichMy name is Manuel and I am studying Medicine in Freiburg. As a medical student I know how important water is for our health. Even the smallest differences in the composition of the water we drink can have a direct impact on every aspect of our lives. Therefore, I strongly believe we need to think about where our water comes from and who is responsible for its good quality. A human being cannot survive for more than three days without water, so we have to confront ourselves with the ever-growing problems surrounding water. Since water is the major part of our very own bodies, I would like to invite you to our discussion about the most essential nutrient for humans in which all the chemical reactions of life take place.

Further workshops:
Our soil and common groundExperience post growth! For a better economy and societyWater - should a common resource be privatized?Renewable energies between centralism & autonomyFood consumption - is organic really saving the planet?Environmental Lobbying - advocating for nature or manipulation?Education and its role in saving earth´s eco-systems?Photography as a means to promote social changeThe web of live - why and how connections matter (german)