A short overview over the thematic correlation between globalisation and migration,
from the viewpoint of fresh water

A draft written to instigate debate and ideas

The culture of consumption and the continuing crises of deprivation, with their inherent disparities, are the real-life battlegrounds of sustainable development and environmental space

Josefa Rizalina M Bautista, Philippines

Fundamental Principals

Importance of water for emancipatory social movements in the context of globalisation and migration

The issue of fresh-water resources can be developed into a bonding agent between the critique on globalisation and the work on migration. An analysis of fresh water, as a scarce and abused natural resource, is well-apt to reflect on and work out some of the connections between displacement of people and the current mode of capitalist expansion (globalisation).

A thorough globalisation critique needs to, besides many things, identify mechanisms by which people lose their means of sustenance. This includes “precariedad” of work in a globalised market as much as the appropriation and destruction of natural resources such as water. In addition, this critique needs to identify the processes by which peoples, the disenfranchised as much as those supposed winners of globalisation, are losing their (democratic) control over natural resources.

In terms of water rights, this process has been clearly identified and has led to the demand for a “collective privatisation” of water and a right to water for all. This can be related to the fundamental human rights to survival and free movement of peoples.

Just to give one theoretical example: It is unacceptable that a French or British company undertakes massive dam-building in a third country (in itself a crime to humanity in most cases) that leads to forced migration and massive ecological destruction. Especially so, if the resulting economic or environmental migrants, whose villages have been flooded, are not welcome in the UK or France.

This connection, and many other circumstances in which global and local expropriation and destruction of water have adverse effects that lead to migration movements has so far not sufficiently been worked out (and not so at this point either) and needs intensified attendance, especially since new rounds of “development aid”, “partnerships” and corporate intrusion into the Third World are announced in the same breath as the European Union announces to fortify its borders against the victims of such practices.

The struggles around water are struggles against destruction and displacement

The “humanised capitalism” (market economy and democracy) is contended to have shown its superiority over all other forms of human existence and is claimed to be the best way to organise the globe. But even if the end of history has been proclaimed, we have seen that the planet is not so easily put under one big modernity of Western capitalism.

In lines with Serge Latuche; the shipwreck of modernity is sinking and struggles to stay afloat. In the meantime, those excluded from the “banquet of modernity and progress” are recreating other forms of social existence and thereby clash with the very progress that denies their existence all together. For example, they struggle to regain and re-create their control over their water resources. The Cochabambinos that refused to accept the sell-out of their basis of sustenance are these very excluded from the banquet. In fact, Vivendi would love to send these excluded to a different planet altogether; a fourth or fifth world perhaps ?, or get them silenced by the oppressive state. To the contrary, these are the peoples that have risen up and thereby refused to accept the dominance of Western capitalism over their resources. They have re-conquered their space (territory) and are endeavouring to create what above was called a re-organisation of water resources.

However, power is retained by the state (which ends up killing their “citizens”) while also being diffused on the multilateral level (where decisions are taken in hide-outs far away from the peoples). Consequently, communities and individuals increasingly lose the say over their own existence as it is encircled by global structures of management and control. Power is increasingly organised by means of fear (from terrorism to economic decline) and does not allow for dissident voices. As such, solutions derive solely from technocratic and economy-based approaches. For example, “Poverty alleviation” or “Community Involvement” are merely chimeras that endeavour to encircle the minds and existence of the excluded before they wake up and emancipate themselves.

The effect of this flawed development discourse and abusive practice is the progressive destruction of the earth and the disenfranchisement of the poor as they are stripped of their rights; for example the right to the precious common good water and the means (knowledge, skills, and practice) to administer their own needs and wants.

The overall discourse of progress, development and security hides the powerlessness, exclusion and deprivation that billions of people all around the world experience. This means that the 1.1 Billion thirsty people have no means of expression their destitution and end up being thrown out of their living spaces as “modernity” invades.

On top of that come conflicts over water (Palestine-Israel, Egypt-Sudan, Turkey-Syria) or wars in which water resources are targets (Iraq war (US bombing of Baghdad's civilian water facilities). In a global measure, 80 countries suffer from water stress, meaning that they cannot meet the basic water provision for their citizens. In total, 4 Billion people are affected, out of which 5 Million children die annually from lack of water. That at least some of these excluded and thirsty will leave their homes and move towards somewhere where a tab is still running must seem just natural.

These aspects and others should also be taken into account and will necessitate more in-depth analysis and reflection. Clearly, many instances of water shortages that create migration flows can be identified beyond conflict and strict globalisation. One such is agricultural production, which in the verge of the Green Revolution has left natural water aquifers empty and meant starvation in countries such as Ethiopia. But even these involve TNCs such as Monsanto that have pushed their industrial agribusiness around the globe. So we will not come around identifying these process and form a response that will have to go beyond past globalisation critique or activism against migration legislation in Europe. It will increasingly be crucial to identify local struggles around globe as happening under the same sky, from which we can only hope that just enough rain will fall to fill the planet's aquifers without creating major floods and disaster.

Sustained Campaigns | Water | PGA