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Water for All

April 20 - 22, 2010

Sweeney participated in Bolivia events marking anniversary of “water war”.

Global Labor Institute Director Sean Sweeney participated in meetings in Bolivia marking the tenth anniversary of a landmark movement to halt water privatization in the city of Cochabamba.

Oscar OliveraPhoto at right: Oscar Olivera speaking on a panel of trade union leaders from Latin America at the 10th Anniversary event held in Cochabamba.

As part of the four day “Feria del Agua” program, Sweeney spoke at the Escuela del Pueblo-Primero de Mayo workers’ school. The school was established by the Confederation of Factory Workers in Cochabamba around the time of the 2000 “water war” events in Cochabamba.

Since the landmark “water war” protests which shut down Bolivia’s third biggest city for days in 2000, Sweeney said, a movement has been built around the need to develop strategies to stop further privatization and to run water systems as part of the public sphere.

In Cochabamba, Sweeney also participated in a series of strategy meetings with representatives of trade unions and social movements from the Andean region and across Latin America.

More information about the tenth anniversary events is available at http://feriainternacionaldelagua.org/2010/02/23/69/.

Oscar Olivera, a leading trade union figure involved in the Cochabamba events 10 years ago, served on the Global Trade Union Task Force on Development Alternatives convened by the Global Labor Institute http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/globallaborinstitute/projects/globalTaskForce.html.

"Sean is a good friend of the social movements here in Cochabamba, and we were honored that he was able to speak at our 10th Year Anniversary.” said Olivera.

Sweeney’s participation in the Cochabamba discussion follows his involvement in a 2009 meeting in Lima, Peru, that ended in the adoption of a “Platform for Public-Community Partnerships (Plataforma de Acuerdos Público-Comunitarios)” covering Latin America.

The meeting was organized by the Public Services International, a global union federation representing 15 million workers. The event was hosted by the National Federation of Water Workers of Peru.

Mona Caron MuralPhoto at left: 10th anniversary mural by Mona Caron.

The platform adoption was an important step in the broadening and deepening of a union-supported social movement around water justice, Sweeney said.

The platform unites trade unions, social movements, public utilities, community water systems and public authorities, he said.

It aims to promote the vision for public-public partnerships and to develop and support concrete projects in Latin American region.

Sweeney reports, “The participants view the platform adopted in Lima as an important milestone in the quest to find viable alternatives to privatization, public-private partnerships and fee-for-service commercialization of water services, and poorly run and undercapitalized public systems."