The fifth World Water Forum, in Istanbul, Turkey, is titled "Bridging Divides for Water." It's an ironic choice, writes Mark Hays, as the corporations steering the Forum "have a stake in maximizing profits from water services delivery and the current global water crisis." The Forum is organized by the World Water Council, "an organization founded, led and influenced by transnational corporations, international financial institutions and their allies." Activists peacefully protesting the Forum have been tear-gassed, arrested and deported. A major concern is the CEO Water Mandate, "an initiative launched in March 2008 and sponsored by the United Nations Global Compact." The voluntary "corporate social responsibility" effort supposedly "encourages and enables corporations to take responsibility for their impact on global water resources." Yet it is led by companies that "have come under scrutiny" for hindering access to water: Coca-Cola, SUEZ, Nestle, PepsiCo and Groupe Danone. Activists are calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "to withdraw UN support for the CEO Water Mandate because of its inherent conflicts of interest and lack of transparency." A new report (pdf) documents how the World Water Council controls the Forum's agenda, especially on "the politically sensitive topics of finance and public vs. private roles in the water sector." Language supporting a "human right to water" has been taken out of the Forum's Ministerial Statement, and UN General Assembly President and water rights supporter Miguel D'escoto Brockman wasn't allowed to address the Forum.
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