PARIS (FRANCE) – French President Jacques Chirac’s plans for improving access to clean water, due to be put forward at the G8 Summit in France on June 1-3, will not tackle the real problems faced by developing countries, Friends of the Earth International said today.

The French President’s Plan to finance ‘access to water for all’ advocates a central role for multinational corporations and the World Bank. This Plan will be put forward in a city famous for its bottled water, Evian (France).

In reality, the Plan promotes European water giant corporations at the expense of the poor, according to Friends of the Earth International.

European service providers dominate the global water market. The world’s top two private sector water companies, Vivendi and Suez (both French), control 70% of all private water services between them. The third largest is Thames Water, now part of German utilities conglomerate RWE.

Helene Ballande of Friends of the Earth France said:

“Access to water and sanitation are basic rights that should not be regulated by the invisible hands of the free market and the interests of water multinationals but should instead be decided democratically by the people of each country.”

European Union (E.U.) countries also plan to promote in Evian their own EU Water Fund initiative.

“The E.U. Water Fund, to be presented at the G8 summit in Evian, seems more about corporate welfare than helping the world’s poorest. The EU plan builds on controversial proposals by former IMF director Michel Camdessus, to use aid money to subsidise the expansion of private water corporations,” according to Olivier Hoedeman of Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a Friends of the Earth affiliate group.

Confidential documents obtained by CEO show how the EU’s executive European Commission has worked in tandem with Suez and other giant water corporations in developing its international water initiatives.

More than 100 organisations from across the globe this week issued an ‘Evian Water Challenge’ to the leaders of the four European nations that make up half of the G8. The organisations demand that France, Germany, Italy and Britain halt their push to carve up the world’s water services for the benefit of big business through a trade agreement being negotiated across the lake from Evian, at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva.

Despite their rethoric in Evian, the reality is that G8 countries are prioritizing water companies protected by the WTO rather than poor people and their right of access to water, according to Friends of the Earth.

Witnesses from Benin, Slovakia, and The Philippines are available for interviews.


Helene Ballande, Friends of the Earth France +33-6-77 10 71 25
Olivier Hoedman, Corporate Europe Observatory, +31-6-47974811