Public-Community Partnerships in Latin America
Public-Community Partnerships in Latin America
|Community-Community||Partnership between communities||Main aim:
Sharing knowledge and experiences, techniques or technologies
to promote, strengthen and consolidate public
or community management
of water and sanitation
|Public-Community||Partnership between a public sector provider and community|
|Public-Public||Partnership between public sector entities
|Public-Civil Society||Partnership between a public sector supplier and non-profit sectors, such as trade unions and NGOs
|Community-Civil Society||Partnership between a community and non-profit sectors or organizations with a social justice or solidarity mandate including unions and NGOs
The public-community partnerships discussed below were all carried out under the auspices of the The Platform for Public and Community Partnerships of the Americas (PAPC).
The PAPC helps build alternatives to privatization in the region. It was established as a network of civil society organizations, public utilities, community organizations (community water supply systems), unions and activists involved in the struggle for the defense of water as a human right and common good. The PAPC was created under the leadership and support of the RED VIDA – a network of water justice organizations throughout the Americas. It is an independent network and is governed by democratic principles, based on horizontal decision-making, equality and solidarity among all its members.
The Platform was established on April 29, 2009 with the signing of the Framework Agreement in Paso Severino, Uruguay, which recognized the following founding historical acts:
- The fight to reclaim public control of water Cochabamba (2000) and El Alto (2005) in Bolivia, Santa Fe (2007), Buenos Aires (2001) in Argentina, and the fight to stop privatization in Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica and the United States.
- Popular proposals and the progress referred to in the World Social Forums since Porto Alegre, RED VIDA conferences in Lima-Peru (2007), Cochabamba, Bolivia (2008), Buga, Colombia (2009) and Mexico, DF (2012).
- The constitutional recognition of water as a human right in Uruguay (2004), Venezuela (2006), Ecuador (2008) and Bolivia (2009) and federal law 11,447 in 2007 that established the National Sanitation Policy in Brazil. The efforts in the Americas to include in their political constitutions access to water as a basic human right.
- The Hashimoto Action Plan and the intervention of unions and social organizations in the elaboration of United Nations Secretary-Generals’ Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, which includes cooperative partnerships between non-profit water systems.
The Platform opposes privatization, commercialization and outsourcing and resolves to promote and consolidate the human right to water and provide tools to defend and strengthen public and community water management. We work with communities, cooperatives, organized villages as well as academia and local governments to prioritize health, social justice and hygiene needs over economic considerations in water management.
The main goal of the Platform is to initiate, support and facilitate the exchange of experiences and expertise through public-community agreements among different public utilities, unions, cooperatives, and community water systems. The Platform is a vehicle for the promotion a common agenda of multi-sectoral cooperation for the democratization and strengthening of public and community water management.
Public-Community Partnerships: Local public policies to strengthen community management of water
The partnerships in Colombia were developed to support resistance to the Colombian state’s policy of privatization of public water services. The Colombian partnerships are agreements between community organizations that administer water supply systems and local authorities such as mayors and municipal councils. Municipal councils are elected bodies that exercise political control over local decision making, create municipal public policies, and are responsible for municipal agreements.
Under the principles of the PAPC, the Corporation Penca de Sábila promoted and facilitated the consolidation of three public-community agreements in the municipalities of Barbosa (2009), Thames (2012) and La Union (2012). These partnerships were initiated by representatives of community water supply systems belonging to networks or associations and working in collaboration with local authorities to develop an agreement to strengthen the institutional, technical, administrative and financial abilities of water service providers. The partnerships were aimed at meeting the basic needs of the population and effectively guaranteeing peoples’ rights to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
The implementation of these partnerships has strengthened the role played by community water supply systems in the area and their participation in the technical public policy committees where budget decisions are made about allocations for improving the provision of water services.
|Uruguay and Brazil
Public-Public Contract: Sharing knowledge to improve public water management
The Uruguay-Brazil partnership was signed in 2012 between the Uruguayan State Water Department (OSE), the sole provider of basic water and sanitation services in Uruguay, and the Municipal Department of Water and Sewerage (DMAE) of Porto Alegre, Brazil. This public-public partnership was signed in order to improve operational efficiency and technical systems and to guarantee water as a fundamental human right. This was accomplished through various means, including knowledge sharing, technical training, technological development and implementation as well as the identification of unmet needs.
Specifically, the partnership facilitated field visits enabling the exchange of information regarding metering, water distribution, potabilization techniques and technological development. Through these exchanges the partnership supported skill-building activities for workers, users and social organizations committed to improving the performance of both companies.
Through this partnership both parties found ways to improve and strengthen their practices as providers of a vital public service. These improvements were not only technical and administrative in nature but also social. As part of the agreement, both service providers committed to better incorporating human rights principles into their operations and supporting each other to find solutions to the challenges in realizing the human rights to water and sanitation in their respective regions.
An alliance between workers and the community to strengthen a community aqueduct
In 2012, in the department of the Valle del Cauca, Colombia, two unions— the public services utility union ACUAVALLE (SINTRACUAVALLE) and the Public Employees of the National Environmental System Union (SINTRAMBIENTE) signed a partnership with representatives of a community water supply system, La Sirena, located in the city of Santiago de Cali.
The exchange of knowledge and experience among workers and community organizations strengthened the community water system in a number of ways. On the technical side, the La Sirena community water system managed to expand its distribution network and identify new metering techniques that helped address community concerns about excessive billing due to water leaks. From an administrative perspective, accounting and billing procedures have improved. From an environmental perspective there has been improvement with the implementation of regular monitoring of the watershed and proposed plans for reforestation.1
As with other partnerships discussed in this paper, the Colombian alliance maintained a non-hierarchical approach by respecting the autonomy of each organization and by applying common principles such as the right to water and the promotion of community and public water management strategies against privatization.
|Uruguay, Colombia and Bolivia
Community-supportive Agreement: A multi-sector and international partnership for improving the quality of life of a community
Colombia’s Second International Meeting URCOLBO was held in 2014 in Medellin between Uruguay, Colombia and Bolivia in order to exchange experiences among public and community water operators. During this meeting an agreement was made to create an alliance to strengthen community water systems in San Andrés Township Girardota, Colombia. The partnership involved the Community Water Systems of San Andrés, the Municipal Association of Community water systems Girardota (GIRAGUAS), the Association of Community Water Supply Department of Antioquia (ADACA), the Corporation Penca Aloe, SINTRACUAVALLE, SINTRAMBIENTE and the community water services system, La Sirena.
In 2015, the partnership facilitated a technical diagnosis of the system and developed a wide-range improvement plan2 while respecting the differing skills and knowledge of member organizations.
Lessons learned and challenges
The partnerships illustrate the possibility of creating and implementing alternatives that strengthen public and community water management under the principles of solidarity and the human rights to water and sanitation. The relationships developed through these partnerships have great potential for helping to consolidate alliances that endure beyond the actual agreements as bonds of trust and mutual support are generated. These partnerships illustrate how fruitful the exchange of knowledge, technology and experience is as a method of em-powering organizations.
The process of developing a partnership that adequately addresses the specific needs of each partner through non-hierarchical processes is often slow. In public-community agreements obstacles may arise when the political will of local authorities is unclear and causes delays in the implementation of the agreement. In the civic and community partnerships the chances of achieving major advances and improvements are, in some cases, hampered or reduced by the lack of resources.
Finally, the importance of seeking and formalizing partnerships among diverse organizations as an effective strategy to resist the ever-strengthening forces of privatization of water utilities in the Americas cannot be overemphasized. ▄
|Bélanger Dumontier, M., McDonald, D. A., Spronk, S., Baron, C. and Wartchow, D. (2016). "Social Efficiency and the Future of Water Operators’ Partnerships". MSP Occasional Paper No. 29. Municipal Services Project.
Penca de Sábila Corporation (2015). "Continue the public community partnership for the improvement of the community water works in San Andrés."
Bélanger, M., Spronk S., Murray A. (2014). "The work of ants: Labour and community reinventing public water in Colombia." MSP Occasional Paper No. 28. Municipal Services Project.
Penca de Sábila Corporation (2014). "Reciprocal waters for the Americas. Public community partnerships as an alternative." Magazine Agua Bien Común, #2. Medellín: Penca de Sábila Corporation.
McDonald, D. y Ruiters, G. (2012). "Introduction: In search of alternatives". En: McDonald, D. y Ruiters, G. (Eds), "Alternatives to privatization: Public options for essential services in the global South." New York: Routledge.
The Platform of Public-Community Partnerships
The Network for Life
The Public-Community Partnership in Vereda San Andrés – Corpensa
Video and Memory of International Meeting URCOLB Phase II, Columbia – Corpensa
International Meeting URCOLB Phase I, Uruguay – Youtube
Community-Community Partnership in Cochabamba, Bolivia – Youtube
|Anthropologist and environmental activist, Javier Márquez Valderrama is coordinator of the Culture Programme and Environmental Policy within Penca de Sábila Corporation, spokesman of the committee Defensa del Agua y de la Vida de Antioquia, and chairman of the coordination ECOFONDO (Colombia).
Bibiana Salazar Restrepo is legal and educational advisor at the Penca de Sábila Corporation.
Lina Mondragón Perez is responsible for communication at the Penca de Sábila Corporation.