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ARTICLE 19 calls for free flow of information in discussions on water privatisation

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 15 November 2011 - The Senegalese government must do more to promote the free flow of information, transparency, and civic engagement in decision-making over water infrastructure. Water is too scarce a resource for discussions surrounding its distribution to be conducted in secrecy without consulting affected stakeholders, particularly the disadvantaged. ARTICLE 19 urges the Senegalese government to actively participate in tomorrow's debate on the impact on disadvantaged consumers of privatising the water infrastructure, organised by CICODEV Africa. The debate coincides with a visit to Senegal of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, who will also be promoting dialogue on these issues.

The Senegalese government is currently revising the terms by which it contracts the provision of water services in the country. The outcome of this discussion is likely to significantly affect the financial and geographical accessibility of water in the country, and therefore is a debate of immense public importance. However, the discussions to date have taken place behind closed doors, without consultation with affected stakeholders or civil society organisations. This violates international standards on the rights to freedom of expression and information.

ARTICLE 19 believes that the availability and accessibility of information is integral to empowering people to demand their rights to public services. Transparency and the free flow of information, including the right of all to seek, receive and impart information and ideas related to development, are fundamental to reducing corruption, promoting accountability and ensuring sustainable development. Tomorrow's stakeholders' debate organised by CICODEV provides an opportunity for engagement on these terms, and is therefore a positive step in the right direction.

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