Victory in Italian Referendum an Inspiration for Water Justice Movements | Food & Water Watch
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Wenonah Hauter--One of Seven Women Working to Change the Food System

Food Tank: The Food Think Tank
June 14th, 2011

Victory in Italian Referendum an Inspiration for Water Justice Movements

Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Europe

Brussels – The results are in, and Italian citizens came out en masse this weekend and have overwhelmingly opted to overturn the laws promoting water privatisation in Italy. It is the first time since 1995 that a referendum managed to reach a quorum in Italy and of the 57% of the electorate that voted (about 26 million), 96% voted to keep their water services public.

“The success of the referendum in Italy is a true display of the power and potential of grassroots activism. The Italian Forum of Water Movements and Italian citizens managed to mobilize an entire nation and raise awareness around the human right to water and defending water as a common good,” declared Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Europe.

One of the laws on water privatization that was overturned is article 15 of the “Ronchi Decree,” named after Andrea Ronchi, Minister of Community Policy from 2008-2010. It stipulated that by 2011, private companies that wished to participate in the public water services sector could do so with “equal treatment and no discrimination” and they were encouraged to buy up to 70% of any listed public water company.

The second law that was overturned is article 154 of the “Environmental Code” which states that the price of water services will be decided on the basis of a guaranteed return on investment. This meant that the private water companies could then charge as much as they wanted to guarantee a higher profit and further their view of water as an economic good instead of a common good.

“Even when all the odds were against them, Italian citizens, associations and networks managed to come together and make their voices heard.”

“The success of the referendum is seen as a blow to the Berlusconi government, but we must not forget that this referendum was born out of a water movement that refused to put its precious resource into the hands of profit seeking private companies,” said Hauter.


Gabriella Zanzanaini, gzanzanaini(at), +32 (0)488 409 662

Food & Water Europe is the European program of Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization based in the United States that works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.