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Interview article: water movements’ defense of the right to water. From the European arena to the Dutch exception
The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law  (IF),  Pub Date : 2022-01-07, DOI: 10.1080/07329113.2021.2013001
J. van den Berge, J. Vos, R. Boelens, S. Kishimoto, P. Jonker


In 2012 public service trade unions and water activists started a European Citizens’ Initiative to get the human right to water implemented in European law. It became the start of the “Right2Water” movement that successfully defended drinking water supply in the European Union against European Commission plans for liberalisation, marketisation and the subsequent threat of privatisation. In countries with a good functioning public water system, resistance against privatisation of water was high, especially in Germany, Austria and Belgium, but surprisingly this level of resistance was absent in the Netherlands, which has a similarly good and well-known public water supply system. In this article we interview two persons that have both experience in European as well as in the Netherlands’ water policies and legislation, and in water services provision. We investigate how the right to water is defined, legally decreed and socially interpreted and defended at different levels. We also investigate the apparent paradox with regards to water in the Netherlands, where people seemed very committed to and proud of their public water management, but did not stand up against a privatisation threat, whereas around the globe water privatisation plans are met with great resistance.