Q&A with Karen Bakker: The rise and retreat of water privatisation: Debating (post) neoliberalism and resistance

Private sector involvement in water supply is one of the most controversial trends in international environment and development--generating conflict and heated debate around the world. Proponents argue that the private sector can contribute to solving the world's global water crisis--particularly with respect to supplying the poor. Opponents argue that private companies will exacerbate exclusion, inequity, and negative environmental impacts. In this paper, I document evolving patterns of private sector activity worldwide, and argue that the continued growth of private sector activity--combined with the strategic retreat of private companies from certain countries and regions--may be read as an intensification rather than straightforward retreat from neoliberalization. The paper considers the implications of these findings for resistance to privatization, and also explores debates over post-neoliberalism and putative ‘alternatives’ to private water supply. I conclude with reflections on broader debates over neoliberalization and the environment.

Dr. Karen Bakker is Professor, Canada Research Chair, and Director of the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia.

Organised by ENTITLE (ICTA-UAB) and Urban Transformation in the Knowledge Society Research Program (IN3), with the collaboration of: Aigua es Vida, Escuela de Commons Barcelona, IGOP and LaTele.cat Video: a collaboration between El Programa de l'Aigua de LaTele.cat and ENTITLE (ICTA-UAB)