The Platform for Public and Community Partnerships of the Americas (PAPC) held the Horizons of Public and Community Water Management Meeting on September 25, 26, 27, 2023 in the city of Popayán, Cauca, Colombia, to share knowledge and experiences and allow us to renew our understandings of new and old strategies of water dispossession and privatization and to confront, organize and fight against them.
People, organizations and movements from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia met over three days in the capital of the Department of Cauca, paying homage to this Territory which sits at the confluence of centuries of struggles by Indigenous Peoples and Black and peasant communities in defense of land, cultures and water. But we regret to note that some of our comrades from Africa and Asia could not be here because of the injustice and racism that characterizes international mobility through the arbitrary and inequitable granting of visas and travel permits. We deplore the barriers to entry into Colombia for our compañerxs from the global South which demonstrate that international mobility is controlled by racist and colonial forces that limit the possibilities of face-to-face solidarity between formerly colonized peoples. We will insist on breaking down barriers, meeting and strengthening the exchanges of the peoples of the South.
With our presence in the Colombian massif, we also pay tribute to the great Cauca river in its upper basin, its tributaries, the rivers Molino, Piedras, Pisojé, Palacé, current sources of water supply for the city of Popayán. The river Vinagre, which originates in the old sulfur mine on the slopes of the Puracé Volcano, and the rivers Negro, Ejido, Blanco, Hondo, Saté, and Clarete are also part of this hydro-social mosaic that crosses the municipality of Popayán from east to west.
Water calls us, speaks to us, reminds us with its own voice that it is a living being. Water is in constant movement, it is cloud, sea and snow, river and lake, rain, dew and spring. Water moistens our land, the Pachamama, it gives life to the ecosystems on which we ourselves depend, we are part of them, we flow with them, and we must defend them.
Water is the birth of life and for some a gift of God and an expression of God’s grace in perpetuity for all creation. It is a basic condition for all life on Earth and must be preserved and shared for the benefit of all creatures and creation in general. Water is a source of health and well-being and demands responsibility from human beings. Water is an element present in practically all living beings on the face of the earth. Water unites us.
We want to build a water democracy. Only an ethical, reciprocal, transparent, communal, non-profit and disinterested relationship with water can make democracy, coexistence and peace between us and water possible.
On the contrary, we observe processes that want us to relate to water with violence, interest, appropriation, and contempt. Processes that want to subject water and nature to the logic of markets, dominated by finance and financial agents in search of new market opportunities for private investment and profit. They make use of the deregulation of the economy and the withdrawal of the state and its corporate control, sweeping away everything common, everything public and communal. They want to trap, dominate and subdue water.