Corporate Water World

Pharmaceutical giant Merck has become the most recent multinational corporation to endorse the United Nations CEO Water Mandate, an initiative that was awarded the Public Eye Greenwash Award.  Public Eye described the Mandate as a club of corporations that profit financially from water as a primary resource while exhibiting "irresponsible and damaging behavior."  Merck is just the latest corporation to join the ranks of Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, and a host of other environmental offenders.

According to the Polaris Institute the Mandate is nothing more than a greenwashing front. They explain, "companies can easily state that they are working with all of these actors in order to appear involved with solving problems of water scarcity, pollution and over-exploitation, while their damaging production processes can continue unchecked."  

“Unfortunately, the United Nations appears to be embracing more and more partnerships with the corporate sector across the board,” said Corporate Accountability International campaign director Gigi Kellett.  “There are strong voices within the United Nations, including some Member states, who are questioning the partnership paradigm adopted by the UN and calling for more transparency and accountability.”  

Just how a policy of water privatization under the U.N. emblem became possible has some pointing at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.  Both the World Bank and IMF as well as regional development banks are now in control of the United Nations' biggest projects, including the United Nations new $100 billion Green Fund.  Environmental activist Maude Barlow points out that “we’re also seeing the IMF forcing indebted nations to sell off public assets, including water systems, as a condition of receiving financial support. The whole system is rigged for these corporations."

With many doom and gloom reports of an impending global water crisis, the prospect of the world's drinking water being controlled by an elite group of corporations is not comforting.  But there is opposition to the Mandate, such as the "Think Outside the Bottle Campaign," being run by Corporate Accountability International.

Image: "Water Bottles" by shrff14  on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.

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