Public Alternatives

GOALS: Enhance the capacity of civil societies to develop and promote exemplary policies and practices of public service provision involving communities and public authorities.

TNI has always been committed to building and sharing experiences of alternative models of cooperation and service delivery that embed principles of justice rather than profit. In 2013 we continued to pioneer work around public enterprises, supporting an historic EU Citizens’ Initiative and forging working relationships with governments to build best practice among state enterprises.

Keeping water public

TNI coordinates the international Reclaiming Public Water (RPW) network, which has more than 300 member organisations in 58 countries – 15 joined in 2013 – and promotes a vision of comprehensive public water provision involving cooperation between communities, trade unions, utility professionals and public authorities.

TNI and RPW members in Europe helped to mobilise for the first successful Citizens’ Initiative under the European Union’s new rules for public petitions, led by the European Public Services Union and supported by other civil society organisations. The effort raised 1.9 million signatures from 28 countries. In response, the European Commission removed water from the EU Concessions Directive, which would have put pressure on municipalities to privatise.

RPW held a successful annual strategy meeting in Barcelona in 2013, where 30 case studies were discussed and a short video launched, which proved popular with 6,000 views on Youtube. The network celebrated the remunicipalisation of water in Berlin, and made plans to support the civil society organisation Berlin Water Table in advocating citizen participation. RPW has also been working closely with citizens in Greece confronting privatisation by putting in a “citizens’ bid” for a water utility being put out to private tender as part of austerity measures imposed on the country. TNI Fellow Hilary Wainwright studied this and other examples as part of her work on participatory alternatives to privatisation, producing a booklet with Public Services International titled The Tragedy of the Private, the Potential of the Public.

TNI financially supported a number of initiatives on water internationally. The Platform of the Americas for Public Community Partnerships was supported to expand its platform for stakeholders across Latin America which share RPW’s vision. Censat Agua Viva in Colombia was supported to form a national coalition in defence of water, despite facing persistent violence and threats, and to continue its coordination among community aqueducts. Amrta Institute in Jakarta, Indonesia, was supported to continue its efforts to get the city utility back into public hands. A major breakthrough was achieved in Jakarta following the election of a new city government, which subsequently declared its intention to bring water back under public control after 15 years of privatisation.

Public enterprises

TNI facilitated contact between governments and public enterprises in Latin America, and academics from around the world keen to document best practice and support better integration of social and environmental goals with economic efficiency. TNI Fellow Daniel Chavez has played a key role in this work.

TNI co-published a book in Spanish, La Reinvención del Estado,  based on the successful international conference on public enterprises held in Uruguay in 2012. This was launched at a second international conference convened in Mexico in 2013, sponsored by the three major public transport companies of Mexico City. An outcome was the formation of the International Network on Public Enterprises and Development, with 46 members from 9 countries. One member subsequently convened a seminar in Costa Rica, attended by others from the network.

“Our organisation has been working closely with TNI in the struggle for public water services in Jakarta. We experience first-hand how TNI’s persistence in supporting civil society organisations in Jakarta, mostly through hard and frustrating times, now sees encouraging results. TNI continues to work with the civil society organizations from changes to changes, supplying us with invaluable ideas and materials and organizing international support on a level that other institutions have never done.”

Amrta Institute, Indonesia