Public Alternatives

Critical thinking, Real solutions

Lagos Nigeria no to PPP

This water rights campaign in Africa’s largest city succeeded in stopping privatisation and when challenged by authorities developed an alternative roadmap for the city’s water systems. The Lagos campaign is the first major national campaign against privatisation in Nigeria, and has resulted in US$185 million in government funds allocated to ensuring clean water for Lagos’ people.

TNI has worked steadfastly to build a strong countervailing force that reverses privatisation and delivers a more democratic, accountable and effective public sector that serves citizens and the environment. We continue to pioneer work around public enterprises, primarily in the water and renewable energy sectors.  A special dimension of our work is concerned with  exploring and catalysing  new thinking on politics and economics as a necessary condition for the achievement of public alternatives.

TNI’s Public Alternatives program is committed to building and sharing experiences of alternative models of cooperation and service delivery that embed principles of justice rather than profit. 2017 was an auspicious year, as there were multiple moments of breakthrough. In addition to other notable achievements, TNI's partners successfully effected concrete policy changes in Lagos, Nigeria; Cali, Colombia; and Jakarta, Indonesia to advance viable, feasible and progressive proposals on the democratic provision and financing of public goods and services.

 

GOALS: To advance viable, feasible and progressive proposals on the democratic provision and financing of public goods and services.

Goals (2020) Results to which TNI contributed in 2017
  • Establish a ‘decentralized think tank’ on New Politics to boost the development of and enable exchange on desirable, viable and achievable alternatives to neoliberal capitalism.
  • A strong international alliance for energy democracy (ED) is built, strengthening national campaigns, building collective knowledge production and helping shift a corporate fossil-fuel energy infrastructure towards a renewable community energy system.
  • TNI, together with partners, Centre of Science and Technology For Rural Development (COSTFORD and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED),  successfully organized a workshop on energy democracy in Kerala, India. This helped to spread and further cement the discourse  of energy democracy.
  • The subscriber list of Energy Democracy Now!  grew to 261 members, and some of the new members were organizations who had previously expressed skepticism about the initiative.  TNI also built capacity and networks at the local, regional and international levels with CSOs, academics/researchers, trade unions, progressive political parties and progressive media working on energy democracy.
  • At least 835 examples of (re)municipalisation of public services worldwide were identified, involving more than 1,600 municipalities in 45 countries.
  • Interventions and activities by TNI and its partners ensured that “Energie Democratie” discourse gained traction in the Netherlands.
  • State water companies in Lagos (Nigeria) and Ghana undertake reform processes based on genuine dialogues with citizens and workers.
  • In Colombia, public budget is allocated to community water systems through public-community partnerships.
  • Water provision is successfully re-municipalized in Jakarta and the new public system makes significant progress in securing access to water and environmental protection.
  • The Citizens Bill on water rights and sustainable resource management is successfully adopted in Mexico.
  • Partner organisations in Lagos, Nigeria, used TNI’s research and networks to effectively roll back the implementation of the Lagos Environmental Laws, protecting poor people’s right to water.
  • A citizen coalition won the Supreme court case to halt water privatisation in Jakarta, with support from TNI.
  • Proposals for a comprehensive progressive and democratic transformation of the EU is widely debated and embraced by not only the European United Left but by the Greens and Social Democrats MPs, MEPs and other policy institutions.
  • TNI Board President Susan George actively engaged on behalf of TNI in new networks such as Democracy in Europe (DiEM), Plan B and AlterSummit that are seeking to build forces for a more just democratic world.

Highlights

  • TNI’s research, mainly The Bailout Business, helped in stopping the privatization of Telecom services in Cali, Colombia. An alternative arrangement, a Public-Public Partnership with Uruguay’s ANTEL, was then initiated through TNI’s expertise and networks.
  • Partner organisations in Lagos, Nigeria, used TNI’s research and networks to effectively roll back the implementation of the Lagos Environmental Laws, protecting poor people’s right to water.
  • TNI supported the citizen coalition that won the Supreme court case to halt water privatisation in Jakarta.

“TNI has played very crucial roles in our campaign against water privatization in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city. At various times, TNI  has provided technical and funding support for the campaign. TNI’s research formed an integral part of our key recommendations to the Lagos government… Our work together with TNI has built the capacity of local organisations in engaging policy makers from the point of strength and indepth knowledge of the issues.”

– Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action, Lagos, Nigeria.

Project in numbers

  • 802 people participated in events organised by TNI’s Public Alternatives program
  • 2276 people participated in events where we presented the work of Public Alternatives
  • At least 835 examples of (re)municipalisation of public services worldwide were identified, involving more than 1,600 municipalities in 45 countries.
  • Five videos were produced.
  • The summary report of Reclaiming Public Services was translated into 12 languages
  • The report Bail Out Business: Who profits from bank rescues in the EU? was referred to in more than 100 media outlets.
  • 5 major publications were released in English, Spanish, Italian, Greek.
  • 269 researchers and practitioners from 34 countries subscribe to the energy democracy mailing list.

Establishing Public Public Partnerships that work in Cali, Colombia

TNI goes beyond traditional research, producing relevant and reliable knowledge and engaging with key communities who can best use this knowledge for their advocacy campaigns. TNI's ideal outcome is when the knowledge it generates is used to effect specific policy change. In this landmark case, the local campaign to stop the privatization of the Telecom services used the Bailout Business Report, published by TNI, to effectively stop the aspirations of the private consultant company, Lazard.

TNI provided evidence based on the Bailout Business report and, together with the local SINTRAEMCALI trade union, produced a report (in Spanish), "Lazard: profiting from privatising." The report exposed the intentions of Lazard, which was hired by the local government of Cali to advise on the possibility of privatising the local telecommunications company. As a result of successful advocacy work, Lazard left Cali and the privatisation was halted.

The initial challenge of inefficiency in EMCALI’s operations could still be solved, but by other more people-friendly  means. The Uruguayan telecoms company ANTEL, which runs the most equitable accessible fibre optic network in the world, is an example that belies the belief that the private sector is always more efficient than the public sector.

Hence, in line with the stated position to not only criticise but also offer viable alternatives, TNI supported the development of a Public-Public partnership between the Colombian municipal company EMCALI and the Uruguayan state telecom company ANTEL, to not only defend public ownership, but to improve efficiency. ANTEL committed itself to sign an agreement with EMCALI to provide technical assistance in the process of modernising the company.

While the official agreement and implementation needs to be seen in 2018, this was already a big step in thwarting the takeover of public services by private interests. An added outcome of this process was that the Uruguayan trade union SUTEL signed a MOU with the Colombian union SINTRAEMCALI, further cementing regional solidarity.

Protecting the right to water in Lagos, Nigeria

TNI's partner in Nigeria, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), achieved a breakthrough when it mobilized public resistance and thwarted the implementation of the Lagos State Environment laws. These laws were widely perceived to be anti-people as they further denied poor people access to clean water and criminalised the informal sector. With input from TNI, ERA's Our water Our rights campaign successfully removed the problematic parts of the legislation by activating networks and mobilizing actors across the 30 different areas of Lagos.  The 2016  report Lagos Water crisis: Alternative roadmap for public water sector, served as a key tool of advocacy and mobilisation.

As a result of the campaign, the Lagos State government in 2017 allocated $185 million to ensure the provision of clean water for Lagos residents. This was a massive achievement, as the government had previously insisted that there was no funding available for the water sector, and had presented public private partnerships (PPPs) as the only viable solution.

Restoring Public Water Management

TNI's partner, the Amrta Institute, supported a civilian lawsuit filed by the Coalition of Jakarta Residents Opposing Water Privatization (KMMSAJ). The lawsuit, going  all the way back to 2012, aims to annul water privatization concession contracts in Jakarta.

In one of the most iconic legal decisions in support of public control of resources, Indonesia's Supreme Court ordered the termination of water privatization, and the restoration of public management, in order to ensure the human right to water.

TNI co-published a report: Social Justice at bay, on the Dutch role in Jakarta´s coastal defence and land reclamation. The report offered a staunch critique of the National Capital Integrated Development Programme (NCICD). The research was supported by the Save Jakarta Bay coalition, with leadership by TNI's ally, the Indonesian Association of Traditional Fisher People.

In addition, TNI supported long term partner, the Platform for Public Community Partnerships in the Americas (PAPC), which was closely involved in the process of formulating a law for the management of community water aqueducts in Colombia. In 2017, the bill, which aims to legally protect the heritage of community-led water management in Colombia, was finalized. The bill was validated as a popular initiative through different national meetings, and movement partners explored a strategy for its presentation to the Colombian Parliament.

Democratic access to public energy worldwide

A rapidly expanding field of work for TNI is that of Energy Democracy, which  is concerned with shifting power in  all aspects of the energy sector – from production to distribution and supply, from finance to technology and knowledge – to energy users and workers. The broad goal is to link community solutions and public policies for energy transformation.

In 2017, TNI engaged in the Energy Democracy Now! Convergence organized by Friends of the Earth Europe and the European Federation of Renewable Energy cooperatives (REScoop). TNI organized several  workshops on energy democracy and politics. Building capacity and networks at the local, regional and international levels with CSOs, academics/researchers, trade unions, progressive political parties, as well as progressive media. As a sign that the messaging and advocacy is working, the subscriber list grew to 261 members, and some of the new members were organizations who had previously expressed skepticism about the initiative.

TNI, together with partners, Centre of Science and Technology For Rural Development  (COSTFORD and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED), also successfully organized a workshop on energy democracy in Kerala, India. This helped in spreading and further cementing the discourse  of energy democracy.

TNI  assisted in bringing about A future without NAM, a conference about re-nationalising the Dutch gas company in Groningen. It was notable that Dutch political parties the SP, Groenlinks, PvdA, and Christian Unie were involved. In general, interventions and activities by TNI and its partners ensured that “Energie Democratie” discourse gained traction in the Netherlands in 2017.

Movement rooted in ideas

TNI takes pride in providing intellectual and knowledge support to its many partners. As part of this strand of work, TNI facilitates the New Politics initiative, a 'decentralised think tank’, which aims to stimulate innovative thinking around the design and expansion of counter-hegemonic alternatives, focusing on the identities and roles of social movements, civil coalitions and political parties.

2017 was a prolific year in this regard, with multiple publications, including Thomas Marois' report on how “How public banks can help finance a green and just energy transformation”, to a primer on commons transition and P2P networks, as well as the events and conferences in Cape Town South Africa and in Quito, Ecuador, among others.

In addition to the New Politics initiative, TNI has also located itself within an alliance that aims to collectively develop a relevant international platform to foster urban political transformation. The Transformative Cities initiative was launched with a new website, and the first call for applications was successfully made. The initiative received 32 applications, from diverse geographical regions and focusing on water, energy and housing.

TNI assisted many groups from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America to write applications for the Transformative Cities award,  and to enhance their capacity to increase the visibility of their social struggles, as well as  the political strategies they have employed for transformation. The evaluation methodology was developed with expert help, and a group of evaluators who have expertise in each field was formed to conduct the evaluation.

To further ground these specific policy victories, TNI's Public Alternatives program provided a strong evidence base to demonstrate the failure of public service privatization, and support for the growing trend towards remunicipalisation of public services with a study encompassing 1600 municipalities in 45 countries.

The report, which was picked up by media across the world,  demonstrates the power citizens, workers, and cities have to reverse the privatisation of services provision, and has become a reference point for progressive municipalist, labour, and trade movements. It has also helped in the attempt to develop alternative economic strategies.

The research findings generated policy debates in many countries, and TNI was invited on multiple occasions to present the book. These include the Fearless cities summit in Barcelona, the Energy Cities annual conference in Germany, the parliament discussions in Rome and Copenhagen, and the ATTAC Summer University, among others. It was especially important that the 30th World Congress of Public Services International (PSI), held in November in Geneva, had a panel on remunicipalisation. Summary reports in 12 languages were distributed in the congress, and thus embedded TNI’s approach and discourse in the Public Services union movement globally.


Key Publications


People

Satoko Kishimoto
Project Coordinator

Daniel Chavez
Senior Project Officer/Fellow

Edgardo Lander
Fellow

Hilary Wainwright
Fellow

Sol Trumbo Vila
Project Officer

Lavinia Steinfort
Programme Assistant


Partners and Networks

Global

  • Reclaiming Public Water Network
  • Municipal Services Project
  • Public Services International
  • Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED)
  • P2P Foundation

Americas

  • Plataforma de Acuerdos Públicos Comunitarios de Las Américas
  • University of Mexico
  • University of Costa Rica
  • University of the Republic (Uruguay)
  • ANTEL (Uruguay)
  • Blue Planet Project (Canada)
  • Havens Center for Social Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA)
  • Institute for Latin American Studies of the University of Buenos Aires
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees-CUPE (Canada)
  • Agua para todos, Agua para la vida (Mexico)
  • SINTRAEMCALI, the public sector union in Cali (Colombia)
  • IAEN – Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales (Ecuador)
  • el Instituto de Estudios de América Latina y el Caribe (IEALC)

Africa

  • University of the Western Cape (South Africa)
  • Environmental Rights Action (ERA) / Friends of the Earth Nigeria
  • Alternative Information & Development Centre (AIDC) (South Africa)

Asia

  • Amrta Institutefor Water Literacy (Indonesia)
  • Focus on the Global South (Asia)
  • Save Jakarta Bay Coalition
  • Indonesia Traditional Fisherfolks Union (KNTI) (Indonesia)
  • Legal Aid Institute (LBH) Jakarta
  • All Japan Water Supply Workers Union (ZENSUIDO) (Japan)

Europe

  • Corporate Europe Observatory (Belgium)
  • Public Services International Research Unit (UK)
  • European Public Service Unions (EPSU)
  • European Water Movement
  • Energy Cities – Local authorities in energy transition (Europe)
  • Austrian Chamber of Labour – AK (Austria)
  • Friends of the Earth Europe
  • Multinational Observatory (France)
  • Ingeniería Sin Fronteras CATALUÑA (ISF)
  • Aqua Publica Europea (European Association of Public Water Operators)
  • Forum Italiano dei Movimenti per l’Acqua (Italy)
  • SOSte to NERO (S.O.S. Water) (Greece)
  • Institute for Political Ecology (Croatia)
  • Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Brussels office
  • Platform London (UK)
  • Switched on London (UK)
  • Global Justice Now (UK)
  • Tax Justice Network Netherlands (NL)
  • transform! network (Europe)
  • Alter Summit (Europe)
  • We Own It campaign (UK)
  • Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees – Fagforbundet (Norway)
  • University of Glasgow (Scotland)
  • Universityof the Basque Country
  • European Alternatives