Uniting diversity to build Europe’s “Right2Water” movement
From April 2012 to September 2013 the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Right2Water” ran and collected 1.9 Million signatures across Europe. With that result it became the first ever successful ECI. It allowed the organisers to put their issue on the European political agenda. “Right2Water” proposed to implement the human right to water and sanitation in European legislation. The European Commission had to respond to “Right2Water”. The official response was as a cold shower to the organisers: The Commission stated that many of the suggestions were already part of EU policy and that it would not change or amend any existing legislation.
The paper looks into how the ECI became successful from a point of awareness raising and a social movement perspective. The trade unions in public services started the ECI to challenge European neo-liberal policies. “Right2Water” stated that “Water is a human right and a public good, not a commodity!”
The ECI was supported by over 250 organisations and thousands of people that campaigned all over Europe. Water services are essential to all people and must be provided without discrimination that cannot be left to the market. This is the point that “Right2Water” tried to make in stating that water services cannot be liberalised. “Right2Water” gave a new momentum to social movements that were active on water issues and extended the focus of social movements that did not pay attention to water until then. It united a huge diversity of organisations.