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A review of the “Our Water Is Not for Sale” conference

I must admit that I was wrong when I - being unusually pessimistic - thought that there will be only around 50 known faces at the “Our Water Is Not for Sale” conference in Dublin on 5 April 2014.

I must also admit that I was worried that this conference may turn into an inward looking debate without the outcome of a renewed commitment and activism by people to fight the water charges and all other cuts.

Yes, I was wrong about the numbers and I was wrong in my concerns. I am glad, extremely glad, to habe been wrong.

Around 180 people attended the conference, and there were a lot of 'new' faces.

Brid Smith from People Before Profit did a brilliant job as the host. A brilliant fighter for years, she made everyone most welcome and encouraged people to contribute.

From the very first session on, it was obvious that we were onto something here. It was great to see Jimmy Kelly, Regional Secretary of my union Unite among the speakers, supporting the fightback against water charges. Our trade unions are extremely important in the fight against austerity and all other economic attacks on us, such as the water charges. I kept repeating the slogan in my head, “Workers united will never be defeated!”.

Martin Empson's (Campaign Against Climate Change and the Author of Land & Labour) speech was an eye opener. Among other things, we really need to take this issue of water very seriously.

Marcela Olivera (Participant in the Great Water Revolt in Cochabamba, Bolivia 2000) reminded us that we are not alone in this fight. It has been done before and we can build a mass fight against water charges here in Ireland as well. Pictures and stories of struggle from far far away Bolivia reminded me of my other country and the #Gezi protests... And I tweeted “From #Gezi for the public park, to #Bolivia for the public Water, once people come together, they win against anti-people governments #dubw”.

After her speech, the hall was filled with more anger and feelings of international solidarity.

And how brilliantly she concluded: “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water."

There went my next Tweet, “I like that and I like the idea of fightback #notowatercharges #irishwater #dubw

Leslie Franke (Right 2 Water Campaign, Europe) told us about how best to get organized, spread the campaign and be patient. I am sorry I didn't see the award winning documentary “How Water Makes Money”.

Professor Mike Gonzalez (Venezuelan writer & activist) summed it all up and injected further politics of resistance into the debate.

But the best parts of each session were yet to come. Tens of speakers, activists, angry but motivated people spoke one after the other. The contributions from the floor were not abstract, nor demoralised. People presented brilliant arguments and analyses of the situation. Many speakers showed us the way forward in the fight against water charges. These were not just some angry statements but crystal clear proposals for the immediate and long term future.

The highlight of the conference was the workshops. People were divided into different workshop groups. These groups discussed a number of different issues such as the water conservation, fluoride, building local campaigns, initiating a petition and building a national campaign, water privatization, climate change, and many more. These workshops were brilliant examples of how grass-roots, bottom-up and a democratic resistance can be build. At the end of the workshop session each group presented their discussion points and came up with 3 proposals. These proposals were discussed and voted by all the people attending the conference. It was amazing to see how the people were so well informed and fully committed to the fight againts water charges. But the proposals weren't just about rejecting the water charges, they were about a wider fight to keep water as our natural public resource and a fundamental human right.

Yes, in the past there were campaigns which were not successful. In some cases people had worked very hard without achieving a full victory. But then there were also campaigns where we had won significant victories. As I said in the beginning, people were not inward looking. They were looking for new and better ways to get organized and to fight back. Many lessons were learned from the past campaigns...

As we were leaving the conference hall, there was a renewed energy, a strong commitment and a felling of solidarity among the people. It seemed that everyone was thinking of the days ahead: “Upwards and onwards”

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water." And now those thousands will fight back, united and in solidarity.

This conference was a successful start... Upwards and onwards...

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