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Our Communities, Our Water: Connecting the Local and the Global

Workshop Topics & Speaker List

Local Initiatives for a Human Right to Water

Equitable access to sufficient, safe, affordable water (human right to water) is a key problem facing our communities, whether the water services are public or private. This workshop hopes to address the gap in the existing legal framework - neither Canada nor the US recognize the international obligation of the human right to water. Should communities establish local laws that will implement minimum rates for the "40-60 liters / day / person" right to water, a ban on water shutoffs, democratic participatory decision making for water rates (affordability), quality (safe water) within their utility? What might be effective strategies for a local initiative?

Global Water Struggles
Communities Resist Worldwide against Corporate Water Grab

Hear about worldwide resistance to water privatization; from Cochabamba, Bolivia to Nicaragua, to India and beyond citizens are successfully fighting multi-national control of their water.

Can't Live Without It So the Fight is On!
How grassroots social movements are claiming their right to land and water.

Water and Land are resources that we all can't live without, but access to safe water and land to grow food is becoming increasingly unequal in our world today. In this interactive workshop, participants will look at the impact of global trade and neo-liberal policies on communities around the world and at examples of grassroots social movements in Haiti, the U.S., Brazil and Mexico organizing to regain control over these vital resources.

Water and Trade

How do trade agreements such as NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO agreements like GATS and other international trade agreements threaten the ability of communities to protect their water resources? How do they promote privatization of water/sewer services? What does it mean when the World Trade Organizations says that local regulations cannot be “more burdensome then necessary”?

Myths of Privatization

What are the myths that corporations use to control the dialogue around privatization? Learn the tools for understanding these myths and effectively counter them with your own organizing.

Taking on the Soft-drink Giants

Learn about the International Coke Boycott and the ongoing work against both Pepsi and Nestle that is underway and how it connects directly to the issue of control of water as well as labor rights worldwide.

Pumping for Profit
Bottled and Bulk Water

A massive international marketing campaign by the big four beverage corporations to turn water into a designer food item is threatening the water supplies for communities’ world-wide and undermining public confidence in municipal water systems. Find out what happens when a bottled water company comes to town and what you can do about it.

Municipal Water Systems
Public Ownership, Private Ownership, and the Challenge of Public Private Partnerships.

What happens when a privately owned municipal water system is put up for sale? Who controls the town’s water? What happens when a water management corporation proposes to manage the municipal system for a fee? What can communities do to keep their water supply locally owned and operated? What does having a public private partnership mean when it come to water? Find out from our presenters who have been there already. How do you work politically in a municipality to educate the public and the politicians in advance of privatization and give them a tool kit of state regulation’s and other things to use to challenge the thing when it rears its ugly head in local communities.

Faith Communities and Water Roundtable

Water has been symbolic of life, blessings, spiritual cleansing in the writings and ceremonies of many faith communities throughout the world. Find out how some Faith communities are participating in a dialogue about protecting water. We will share stories about actions and programs in our faith communities in a roundtable format with help from several resource people who will serve as facilitators. We will inspire each other as seek collaborations.

Public Trust Doctrine

Does your state law say that the groundwater and surface waters of our state are held in the public trust. What does this mean for your community? How are these laws applied? What rules and legal principles govern them?

Preserving and Promoting the Strengths of Public Systems

Eighty-six percent of Americans get their water from publicly owned and operated utilities and have for many years - so we we must be doing something right. Yet, public funds for water infrastructure are less available than they once were, leaving more and more communities open to offers of privatization. In this workshop we will identify the old and new ways that citizens and water workers from Brazil to Washington, DC are ensuring universal access to clean and affordable water through public systems, including community control of public utilities, new strategies for accountability, sources for public financing, and strategies for more equity. Find out what you can do in your community to prevent privatization with positive alternatives for efficiently financing and managing water in the public interest.

New Paradigm Organizing: Communities Just Say NO to Corporations

Frustrated with regulations that let corporations pollute your community and planet? Some communities are taking a new approach to stop corporate predation and pollution in its tracks. Learn how communities in PA and NH are just saying NO.

Sneak Previews:
Water Warriors and Water First!

Water First (Amy Hart) is an ongoing documentary film project about global water issues. The section shown at this event is set in Johannesburg South Africa where residents are protesting against the installation of pre-paid water meters. Many of the residents cannot afford to pay for water, much less to pay ahead. When they cannot pay, their water is shut off. Many residents claim their water was cut off despite the fact that they owe nothing. While the government official from the South African Department of Water And Forestry insists that the water is never cut off, since it goes against the constitutional rights of the people, we go into homes where the water has been shut off for over 3 months. In the streets, police threaten to shoot at the chanting crowd – but they stand strong and are willing to die for the sake of clean water.

Water Warriors (Liz Miler) Water is quickly becoming the liquid gold of the 21st century. While corporations urge local governments to privatize municipal water, communities around the world are organizing to ensure affordable access to this life sustaining resource. Water Warriors, is the story of one community's determination to fight the seemingly inevitable path of privatization. The film will capture up close the passionate and determined players in this dramatic conflict: seasoned community organizers, local workers, corporate managers pleading for efficiency; and local government officials, torn between state directives and citizens needs.

Highland Park, U.S.A. was once the center of a thriving car industry and the birthplace of Henry Ford's assembly line. Today the city is on the verge of financial and physical collapse and as a result is under a state take over. A team of corporate emergency managers have been appointed to get the city out of its financial crisis and to do this they have raised water rates, attached unpaid bills to property taxes, and are looking to privatize the community's remaining valuable resource - the water plant.

These measures have resulted in an unprecedented number of water shut offs and residents are at risk of losing their homes and their voice in what happens to this public resource. For the residents of Highland Park the threat of water privatization is simply the last straw, and an impetus to fight back.

Water Warriors presents a community in crisis but also the powerful enactment of participatory democracy by workers, citizens, and city council representatives invested in local solutions. This community portrait is an unnerving indication of what's in store for small towns throughout the United States.

Presenters Biographies

Arnie Alpert, New Hampshire Program Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization dedicated to social justice and peace. He has closely followed the impact of globalization and “free trade” agreements on labor and water since the mid-1990s, and has spoken and written extensively on the topics. He is a member of UNITE-HERE, and is also active in the NH Water Table, a statewide network which brings together grassroots activists fighting commodification of water.

Saulo Araujo Global Program Assistant, Grassroots International has dedicated himself to working for the resource rights of rural and urban communities in Brazil, Mexico and the U.S. In his native country of Brazil, Saulo worked with rural communities in the arid northeast region to develop sustainable water sources and protect local genetic materials. He also worked with water management programs in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. In New England, he has worked with environmental justice groups in inner city neighborhoods, supporting the work of residents to protect open and green spaces, food security and environmental health. Currently, Saulo is a member of the first class of the Environmental Leadership Program/Greater Boston Regional Network and a member of the grant-making committee of the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund (NEGEF). Saulo has a Master’s Degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University.

Ruth Caplan is National Campaign Coordinator for the Alliance for Democracy's Defending Water for Life Campaign which is organizing in the Northeast and on the West Coast to stop commodification and privatization of water and water services. In 2003, she helped organize the Water Allies Network, a diverse national network of people and groups who believe "secure and equitable access to clean water is a human right and must be protected for all generations and all living things." She is part of the global Our World Is Not For Sale network opposing the WTO and has written "Trading Away Our Water." Caplan also chairs the national Sierra Club's Water Privatization Task Force. Her history of activism includes helping to stop three nuclear plants on Lake Ontario and serving as Executive Director of Environmental Action which supported grassroots campaigns and named the Dirty Dozen members of the U.S. Congress. In 2004, she received the national Sierra Club's Special Service Award for her work on corporate accountability, international trade, water privatization, and energy policy.

Tony Clarke is the founder and executive director of the Polaris Institute, which assists civil society organizations, both in Canada and internationally, to develop new capacities and tools for democratic social change in an age of corporate globalization. One of the main projects at the Institute has to do with water issues such as the privatization of water services, bottled water and bulk water exports. Through this project, Polaris works with citizens’ groups, public service workers and social movements who are engaged in frontline struggles on these water issues in Canada, the United States, South Africa and India. Internationally, Tony has been a keynote and panel speaker at conferences on water issues in Europe, Africa and Asia. He is the co-author [with Maude Barlow] of Blue Gold: The Corporate Theft of the World’s Water [2002], which has been published in 40 countries.

Art Cohen was trained in public health as well as law, he has been working in public and environmental health for over 30 years. During the first half of the 1980's, he managed a county's public water and sewerage company in Southern Maryland. The company was responsible for providing potable water to and collecting and treating sewage from 35,000 households. More recently, he directed a local public health department in Southeastern Connecticut. He currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland and devotes much of his time to opposing water privatization, and working with many others on ways to improve public water supply and sanitation systems for low income persons living in the world's larger cities.

Janet Eaton, PhD, is both an activist and part time academic who has lectured at several Nova Scotia universities, where she has taught courses on 'Critical Perspectives on Globalization', Community Political Power' and 'Environment & Sustainable Society'. Janet presently serves as the Sierra Club of Canada's International Liaison to the Sierra Club's Corporate Accountability Committee and Water Privatization Task Force. She has worked with communities in Nova Scotia to oppose and stop a bottled water plant, and mega-quarry among others. She also works internationally and nationally on issues associated with corporate globalization, water privatization, militarism, the Security and Prosperity Partnership for North America (SPP) and more recently has been researching and speaking out against Atlantica and the emerging North American cross border trade regions.

Mike Esposito is president of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 423, representing about 250 workers in new Jersey. The local is currently challenging rate increases proposed by New Jersey American Water, a subsidiary of Germany's RWE. After graduating high school and working in private construction for a few years, Mike began working at Elizabethtown Water Co. in January 1990. That April, he was sworn into the Utility Workers Union of American, and in June was appointed department steward. He has served a variety of roles in the union since, including safety rep, trustee, and negotiation committee. In 1998 he became the Vice President of the Local, and in February 2006 was elected President. Throughout his career with the water company, Mike has worked in almost every department, in positions such as maintenance mechanic, treatment operator, station operator, meter set, utility man, sub-foreman, and field service rep. He held a T-1 license for treatment and distribution systems, and is an OSHA certified trainer.

Karl Flecker is the Director of the Polaris Institute’s water program which includes managing campaigns like Inside the Bottle, a project dedicated to working with community coalitions to challenge the bottled water industry in North America. He has 20 + years experience in community and international development work with a strong focus on equity issues & labour issues. Karl has done research & campaign work for the Council Canadians -- Bovine Growth Hormone file, Canadian Labour Congress, & the David Suzuki Foundation.

Armando Flores has a law degree from the University of El Salvador; in 1991 he becomes co-founder of the Committee for the Defense of the Consumer - CDC; in 1989 and 1990, he is the coordinator of the education program for the Federation of Consumer Cooperatives of El Salvador; between 1991 and 1995 he is Vice Director of CDC; in 1996 he is the Coordinator for the Consumers International for the Central American and the Caribbean region and has been the CDC Director since 1997.

Amy Hart is a New York-based filmmaker. Currently she works on a production of a feature length film on water issues in Africa. In addition to indie filmmaking, she also produces three national TV series on public health issues for the University at Albany. Amy Hart worked at Miramax Films, Fine Line Features and New Line Cinema before starting her own film company, Hart Productions.

Susan Howatt is the national water campaigner with the Council of Canadians, the largest citizen watchdog group in Canada. Before joining the Council, she was the international campaigner with the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), a network that works with communities impacted by the mining industry in Indonesia. Susan was the cofounder of Unofficial Opposition, an umbrella group that advocated for social services in British Columbia. She has worked extensively in media and communications for anti-poverty, environmental and human rights groups in Vancouver and served as a human rights observer in Chiapas, Mexico.

Patricia Jones works as the Environmental Justice program manager at UUSC, More information available at: www.uusc.org/

Anna Lappe speakingFrances Moore Lappé is the author or coauthor of fifteen books. Her 1971 three-million-copy bestseller, Diet for a Small Planet, continues to awaken readers to the human-made causes of hunger and the power of our everyday choices to create the world we want. [read on]

Jonathan Leavitt has served as a Field Manager for Clean Water Action, founded the Lawrence Grassroots Initiative, and served as its Executive Director for seven years, founded the Massachusetts Green Party in 1996 and served as its first staff person and then initiated and ran the Jill Stein for Governor campaign before leaving to run for State Representative as the Green Party's first ever Clean Elections candidate. After the campaign Jonathan founded the Massachusetts Anti-Corporate Clearinghouse, and in October of 2003 was brought in to coordinate the development and staffing for the Boston Social Forum. He is a founder of Massachusetts Global Action and is currently consulting for the “Our Communities, Our Water” project.

Bill McCann is a member of the Board of Directors of SOG. He is also Chair of SOG's Legislative and Governmental Issues Committee. He is a former six term State Legislator, serving two terms as Assistant Democratic Whip, and a retired SEIU Field Representative/Organizer. He was Chair of the School Board for six years [1974-1980] and also served two terms as Vice Chair. He has been responsible for drafting SOG's Pro Se Appeals to NH DES, the NH Water Council and the NH Wetlands Council.

Jake Miller, Communications Coordinator at Grassroots International, recently returned from a program visit to the northeast of Brazil, where he met with social movements and social change organizations workings on sustainable irrigation and agriculture projects and saw the social and ecological consequences of large-scale dams for irrigating agro-industrial plantations and hydro-electric power. Jake has been a student of Brazil for nearly 20 years and has lived in Salvador, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. In addition to his work at Grassroots, Jake is a free-lance writer and photographer who has written and published his photographs in a variety of publications including the New York Times, Peacework, and Science. He writes about politics, culture and science. He has published more than 40 children's books on topics like the biology of spiders and lizards and the history of the U.S. civil rights movement. An avid birder, Jake is particularly interested in the ways that agro-ecology can benefit both human and natural worlds.

Liz Miller, Producer, Director, Videographer, Co-Editor - Liz Miller is an educator, community media artist, and director of social issue documentary films and new media. Her last documentary, Novela, Novela, has been integrated into high school curricula and used by international coalitions working against violence and defending the rights of women, children and glbt populations (http://www.redlizardmedia.com/novela/ or http://www.puntos.org.ni).

     Water Warriors is an hour long documentary on the battle for public water in Highland Park, Michigan is due for release in 2007. Miller teaches video production at Concordia University in Montreal. She is also a faculty advisor of "Cinema Politica," an international student network organizing a political film series across Canada, Mexico, France and the United

Nancy Munger is a drummaker and boatbuilder living on Cape Cod (MA). She is a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, working on local water issues as well as being on the National Leadership team of WILPF's "Save the Water" campaign.

Suren Moodliar is a coordinator of the North American Alliance for Fair Employment (NAFFE). His organizing experiences range from the liberation struggle in South Africa and the divestment movement in the US, to campus and union organizing as well as managing international NGO networks and impacting international treaties. His formal education is in political science and regional planning with degrees from Indiana University and the University of California, Los Angeles. Suren played a major role in organizing the Boston Social Forum--coordinating the program for the entire event, among many other things. He is a founder of Massachusetts Global Action.

Ward Morehouse of Northampton, is a co-founder of Shays2: Western Mass Committee on Corporations and Democracy as well as a co-founder of the Holyoke Citizens for Open Government, which has been challenging the privatization of that city's wastewater treatment system by a multi-national corporation for 2 ½ years. He was a co-founder in 1994 of POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy). Many of his essays are included in the standard introductory book for POCLAD work, Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy. Morehouse is internationally known for his work struggling against the corporate assault on human rights and a co-founder of the International Coalition for Justice in Bhopal, India, working on behalf of the victims of the 1984 Union Carbide Corporation's chemical spill in that city. Morehouse has written or edited some 20 books, including Building Sustainable Communities, Abuse of Power: The Social Performance of Multinational Corporations, and The Underbelly of the U.S. Economy

Timothy Newman graduated in May 2006 from Clark University in Worcester, Mass., where he majored in Sociology and International Development. At Clark, he helped found the Clark chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign, and helped launch the CAN Coke campaign, which is working to get Coke products off Clark's campus. He has done internships with Food & Water Watch, Africa Action and the National Society for Human Rights in Namibia.

Nancy Price  is Co-Chair of the Alliance for Democracy and Western Coordinator of the Defending Water for Life Campaign. She is on the Leadership Team for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom's Save the Water Campaign. She is also President of the California Center for Community Democracy and Board members of Friends of the River (CA).

Jessica Roach  is a Senior Organizer with the Water for All Campaign at Food & Water Watch. Prior to joining Food & Water Watch, Jessica worked as a Legislative Assistant for Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), where she specialized in trade and economic policy. Jessica has also campaigned with Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, working to halt WTO meetings in Seattle in 1999. She holds an MA in International Studies from the American University, and a BA in Political Science from the University of Washington.

Ray Rogers, president and director of New York City-based Corporate Campaign, Inc. (CCI), has been described as labor's most innovative strategist and "one of the most successful union organizers since the CIO sit-down strikes of the 1930s." For 25 years, Corporate Campaign has championed union and community solidarity and membership and family involvement in campaigns for social and economic justice. Rogers and his organization have been featured many times in major publications such as Time, Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsday, USA Today and The Washington Post, as well as many television programs. In 2006, Business Week described Rogers as “a legendary union activist.” Many of Rogers' accomplishments are cited in Marquis Who's Who in America.

Becky Smith is the Massachusetts Drinking Water Coordinator for Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund in Boston. Ms. Smith has been working with CWA since 2001 in Texas, South Dakota, and New England. Her current projects include working with local community groups to identify existing and potential threats to drinking water sources, and to equip group members with policy tools and organizing tactics to combat such threats. Becky also does organizing, media, and policy work on the Boston Lead Free Drinking Water campaign, as well as coordinating CWA's statewide Massachusetts Campaign to Protect Drinking Water. She can be reached at: bsmith [ a t ] cleanwater.org

Claudia Torrelli lives and works in Montevideo, Uruguay. She is an environmental and social activist and is on the staff of Global Labor Strategies and Redes (Friends of the Earth, Uruguay) which played a key role in the historic 2004 Uruguayan constitutional referendum campaign which banned water privatization and made water a fundamental human right under the Uruguayan constitution. She is also an activist in the Hemispheric Social Alliance, a network of civil society and labor organizations in Latin America, and a part of the Netherlands based Transnational Institute's Alternative Regionalism Program.. She holds a degree in International Relations from the University of Montevideo.

Olivia Zink is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Sustainable Living, and a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a master's degree in Community Economic Development. For the last five years she has volunteered with a grassroots community group called Save Our Groundwater (SOG), serving as a member of the Board of Directors and the NH Water Table. SOG have built and mobilized coalitions of individuals, organizations, and state and local officials who are interested in keeping water in the public trust. Olivia is currently working for Star Island, a non-profit in Portsmouth NH.

Speaker List

click on names/links for bio

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