Dirty aid, dirty water: the UK government's push to privatise water and sanitation in poor countries

Dirty aid, dirty water: the UK government's push to privatise water and sanitation in poor countries

UK public development money financing the privatisation of water and sanitation facilities in development countries

The paper draws attention to the fact that the UK Government is using taxpayers money in a push to privatise water and sanitation in developing countries. Evidence from developing countries, presented in this paper, indicates that UK-based funded privatisation is failing the poor and is geared to serving the interests of multinational corporations.

The author argues that water and sanitation privatisation in developing countries has failed time and again. This pattern will continue owing to a series of fundamental flaws in the premise that multinational companies are well equipped to deliver essential services to the poor.

The paper highlights that despite this continuing failure, the UK Government (through DFID) has spent millions of pounds of aid employing consultants, often UK companies, to advise developing country governments to hand management of their water to foreign companies (usually from the UK or France). And despite the many costs of privatisation to the poor, the UK is leading international efforts to create mechanisms to fund privatisation consultants.

This continued political and financial support for a failed approach to addressing water and sanitation problems in poor countries is diverting much needed resources away from supporting different approaches to providing the service – such as community-based approaches that have been shown to work cross the developing world. DIFD’s approach is in clear conflict with the Government’s stated goal of working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for relieving poverty.

The author recommends that the UK Government take a different approach to water and sanitation in the developing world, including:

  • a halt to funding privatisation consultants
  • a halt to funding multi-donor initiatives focused on the private sector
  • a reorientation of UK and international aid policy towards providing the necessary financial and political support for the kind of workable public solutions outlined in this document.

[adapted from author]

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