Challenge Corporate Control of Water

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Jessica Conrad:

"Corporate Accountability International, a grassroots corporate watchdog organization, has protected human rights, public health, and the environment for more than thirty-five years by “waging and winning campaigns challenging the abuses of some of the world’s most powerful corporations.” Shayda Naficy directs the organization’s international Challenge Corporate Control of Water campaign, which is clearing the way for governments to invest in public water.

Naficy, like so many of us, believes that we must all rise up together to change the way we think about resources that belong to all of us, such as water. And today “millions are calling for public officials to shut the spigot to water profiteers.”


An interview of Shayda Naficy by Jessica Conrad.

Can you describe your role at Corporate Accountability International?

I started at Corporate Accountability International in January 2011, and I’m now the director of our international water campaign. My role is to advance our two main priorities: to convince the World Bank to stop promoting water privatization, and to advance the human right to water, especially at the international level.

How does the commons influence your work on the Challenge Corporate Control of Water campaign?

The commons is fundamental to our work on the international water campaign. We want water to be governed as a commons and an ecological trust. So the commons framework helps us orient toward the future we want to create.

As a practical approach, the commons also plays a huge role in my work as an organizer. Corporate Accountability International is a grassroots organization founded on the belief that we need to empower and organize people to reclaim a role in the governance of society. We want to create a political culture that reflects the need for grassroots action and involvement in public processes. And we want government to reflect the public interest, not the partisan and powerful economic interests of transnational corporations. We use the commons approach in our organizing efforts to meet these goals.

I also believe the work I do every day, beyond the water campaign, involves working toward a life that reflects the social and environmental values inherent in the commons. I think of the commons as the underpinning framework for everything I do.

Your campaign has so many facets. What has been your most successful strategy for making more people aware of our water commons?

I think our most successful strategy has been grassroots organizing. For example, our two major U.S. water campaigns, Think Outside the Bottle and Public Water Works!, have shifted the public climate around bottled water. Our work made it clear that bottled water is a wasteful form of water privatization that is dependent on misleading marketing practices.

You’ve probably noticed in your own life how much your friends’ perception and consumption pattern of bottled water has changed. I remember when bottled water hardly existed at all—and then I remember the big shift when everyone turned to bottled water because they mistrusted public water, thanks to the misleading marketing by the bottled-water industry. Over time, my friend groups slowly came around, and now it’s almost a faux pas to buy bottled water. That’s because people have come to understand that bottled water isn’t safer than public water. They understand that bottled water is actually dependent on public water. People also know that water bottling is a very wasteful form of privatization that has big environmental consequences.

This change occurred because of Corporate Accountability International’s public education campaign and the widespread media coverage it garnered. Our national campaign continues to engage activists, students on campuses, and Corporate Accountability International members to expose the truth behind the bottled-water industry’s marketing and bolster support for the tap." (