The Free Flow Principles from Article 19

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I was invited for an expert meeting in London by Article 19 last February, to discuss transparency principles applicable to water resources and services. The meeting provides input to the Free Flow Principles launched by Article 19 on the eve of the World Water Day


Below are quotes from several experts and activists invited to the meeting:

Amadou Kanoute, CICODEV, Senegal:
Two years ago we heard through the media about the government's plan to overhaul the institutional framework of the water delivery service in Senegal. The planned move from a service contract to a 25-year concession to a private company, would have meant a 41% increase on the tariff of water and would have made it difficult for disadvantaged consumers to access such an essential service. Just having that information and then being able to expose it pushed the government to revert. But what could have happened in Senegal has already taken place in many other countries in Africa, without notice and without people being given the opportunity to air their views. In our case we were lucky to have a free press to alert usThe Free Flow Principles – specifying obligations of states in regard to right to know, right to be heard, right to speak, public participation and transparency – will be useful to all advocacy efforts on rights to water and sanitation.”
Vanessa Lucena Empinotti, Environmental Governance Research Group at PROCAM/IEE/University of São Paulo, Brazil:
The Free Flow Principles will be instrumental in increasing transparency practices and access to information in the field of water resources.  Particularly in Brazil, The Principles will reinforce the participatory and decentralized water institutions already in place and consequently increase their influence over the State and private sector. Access to information is critical to ensuring equitable access to water and sanitation.”
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Coast Trust, Bangladesh:
In Bangladesh, we are in the midst of a drinking water crisis in both coastal and urban areas, mostly due to climate change. The situation is particularly critical for women who, in carrying the burden of providing for their families, are the worst to suffer. These Principles will be an invaluable tool for communities and civil society activists advocating for better governance.”
Mohamad Mova Al'Afghani, Center for Water Governance, Indonesia:
In Indonesia, disclosure in water and sanitation sector is minimal. Contracts are often kept secret and water governance tends to be implemented in a highly technical, exclusive and elitist manner. Problems relating to water are not simply about pipes and infrastructures. They are about how people resolve disputes amongst themselves and how they are able to relate themselves to the environment. If water democracy is to be realized, the public must be enabled to participate meaningfully in the process. The Principles will help empower people to do so.”
Scott Griffen, International Press Institute, Austria:
"These Principles reflect an increasing recognition of the link between development and freedom of expression. By assisting journalists to define those rights and seek to improve and promote journalistic coverage of development issues, The Principles will very much compliment our efforts to  guide journalists in their reporting of development issues. We look forward to distributing The Free Flow Principles to our network."

You can download the full principles here (English).

Mohamad Mova Al'Afghani