Extended Interviews

Maude Barlow

Interview with Maude Barlow

Former senior adviser to the U.N. on water policy, Maude Barlow discusses what she sees as a corporate agenda to privatize water.

As we revisit our story on the PlayPump and devote attention to the broader issue of water development, we thought it would be interesting to talk with Maude Barlow. Barlow is a former senior advisor to the United Nations on water policy, globetrotting activist and a pied piper when it comes to lobbying for radical change.

I met Barlow last year in Istanbul at the World Water Forum (WWF), a massive tri-annual international where diplomats, scientists and those in the business of water meet to try and address systemic problems which have left more than a billion people without access to clean water. But Barlow wasn’t there to be part of those proceedings. Instead she was there to lead an alternative forum, which decried the WWF as having a corporate agenda to privatize water. Case in point, she says in this interview, is multi-national GDF Suez’s management of Johannesburg Water, which she says is taking advantage of shortage of clean water in South Africa by requiring the use of pre-paid meters by some of the poorest South Africans. To be sure, Suez has a different take on the matter, as do many water experts who believe that private partnerships are essential to solving huge problems with water. But everyone involved in solving what really is a global water crisis, especially in Africa, would agree that bold ideas are needed. And Barlow has no shortage of those.
~ Joe Rubin