By ANNA WALNYCKI, Institute of Development Studies DPhil student

Having spent a few days at the World Water Forum, many of the conversations I’ve had with people came back to participation in the forum. Beyond the high-profile international NGOs, there has been a noted absence of national and local CBOs outside Europe and Turkey. So, in an attempt to find out more I ventured over to Taxim Square on the other side of Istanbul where the Alternative World Water Forum is being held in parallel to the official event.

As noted in earlier blogs, the alternative forum got off to a dramatic start during the opening ceremony where two supporters were for unfolding a banner of opposition. Over at the alternative forum, feelings are still running high over the incident. A series of talks and a press conference led by Maude Barlow were given today denouncing The World Water Forum as elitist and excluding; failing to incorporate any interests beyond those of the private sector. The focus is rooted in the anti-privatisation movement and is heavily supported by the networks of Latin American NGOs seeking to have water cognised as a human right.

The morning was well attended by NGOs, CBOs and government representatives from Latin America. This it seems is where they have all been hiding out! Overall the numbers attending the alternative forum are much less than those at the official forum, however, as has been seen in recent days, they have a big voice that has dominated the coverage of the main event. While there were several passionate speeches about the need to recognise the human right to water in countries all over Latin America, I couldn’t help thinking that an opportunity had been missed. Government representatives, CBO’s, NGOs, multi national organisations and private companies are all in Istanbul this week to focus on water, but they have decided to camp out on opposite sides of the river.