Event Report: Water - The Threatened Common Good

A seminar took place in Warsaw on the 13th of October, as part of the ‘Reclaim the Commons’ project. The event was organised by the Green European Foundation with the support of Strefa Zieleni from Poland.

Reclaim the Commons aims to revive the debate around the commons that is a fundamental part of the Green Political Ideology. Through this project, five national partners from Belgium, Poland, Croatia and France explore the transformative power of the commons for strengthening the green project, aiming to engage Greens and a wider audience around this topic. The project aimed to connect different stakeholders currently working on the subject and encourage them to join a number of activities planned during the project. 

The seminar WATER – The Threatened Common Good (Warsaw, 13th October 2015) was the continuation of the workshop on the commons and privatisation of public services at the Green Summer School in Białowieża in July 2015.


Four general topics were discussed at the seminar:

1. Energy Transition and Fracking (Ewa Sufin-Jacquemart);

2. Reclaiming Public Water, remunicipalisation of water services (Satoko Kishimoto);

3. Revitalization of rivers (Przemysław Nawrocki);

4. Dirty Business – appropriation of water (Grzegorz Piskalski).


Ewa Sufin-Jacquemart, the director of Fundacja Strefa Zieleni introduced the participants to the world ofcommon goods” or “the commons”, using the approach of David Bollier, for whom we can speak of “the commons” not only when we think of resources and stocks, in particular when they are necessary for life, but in particular when there is an self-organised community, with its protocols, values and norms, taking care of those resources and stocks – to guarantee the (equal) access to those resources to all the community, including sometimes also future generations. She presented the world of concepts linked to the commons, like “commoning”  (norms and social practices regulating the management of the common goods for the common benefits), “commoners” (members of the self-organized community protecting the commons), “fencing” and “expropriation” of the commons, and the differences between the logic of free market and the logic of the common good. For better understanding Sufin showed some examples of various groups of “commoners” from Polish reality: the members of food cooperatives trying to build a “network of Economy of Common Good”, people gathered around the movement “More than energy” to promote energy transition into energy efficiency and renewables, finally the community of the village of Żurawlów who led a protest of 400 days against the giant American Chevron, in order to protect their water from drilling for shale gas and “fracking”.


The first guest, Satoko Kishimoto from Transnational Institute, presented Reclaiming Public Water Network and some conclusions from the international study on remunicipalisations of public water services, all over the world. Satoko Kishimoto has showed that water remunicipalisation is emerging global trend, as the number of cities that brought public water services back under public control doubled in the years 2010-2015 compared with 2000 – 2009, passing from two cases in 2000, into 235 cases in 2015. The advice that the authors of the study can give to local policy makers is to avoid privatizing water services or entering PPPs (public-private partnership) as inappropriate solutions for water services – neither to guarantee the accessibility of water for all, nor for protecting common water resources from pollutions. Finaly, Satoko Kishimoto illustrated how trade agreements (like TTIP or CETA) and investor protection (like ISDS and its chilling effect on policy) pose a threat to public water. She finished by stressing the effect of climate change on water resources, which all the more makes us responsible for long-term management of water as a common good.

Przemysław Nawrocki, representing WWF Polska, showed terrible reality of “revitalizations of rivers”, a massive destruction of the ecosystems of Polish rivers, using European founds, by the conversion of naturally flowing and covered with vegetation and full of life rivers into strait, paved and practically dead tracks. 28.000 km of rivers have been transformed in 2007-2013 period and there is a risk that 2014-2020 funds will be used the same way. This is in contradiction with the principles and intent of the Water Framework Directive. Shocked by the statistics and the pictures, we decided to work together to initiate a new group of “commoners” , a network of campaigning for the protection of Polish rivers from revitalization. 

Grzegorz Piskalski from CentrumCSR foundation discussed the examples of “dirty profits” focussing on great water companies like Coca-cola and Nestle, based on the study that his organization carried out for the project that gave an exhibition of photos illustrating some cases of violations of the principles of corporate social responsibilityuse of local communities, mainly in developing countries, robbing them, among others,  of their water resources: http://www.brudnyzysk.pl/.


For more information, you can visit the ‘Reclaim the Commons’ project page or the Strefa Zieleni website. For any other details regarding the event please contact Strefa Zieleni at fundacja@strefazieleni.org.  

This event was organised with the financial support of the European Parliament to the Green European Foundation. 

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