Statement in solidarity with the People’s Water Forum

by | May 23, 2024 | News

End Water Poverty condemns the suppression of the People’s Water Forum (PWF) in Bali, Indonesia, and stands in solidarity with water defenders asserting their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

While the World Water Forum continues “at the very epicentre of Bali’s premier luxury destination”, local and international civil society at the People’s Water Forum have been silenced.

In recent days participants at the People’s Water Forum have experienced intimidation, harassment, and repression by law enforcement. On 18 May the Indonesian government pressured the university that planned to host the Forum to cancel the event. On 20 May the Patriot Garuda Nusantara (PGN) paramilitary group disrupted a PWF press conference, confiscating banners and billboards. Some participants reported that the PGN were physically violent against them.

According to a press release published on the Peoples’ Water Forum website, around 40 water defenders – including frontline community representatives – had been trapped inside the Oranjje hotel in Denpasar without access to food and water. When Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation, attempted to visit those in the hotel he was threatened and denied entry by uniformed men and masked men in plain clothes.

The Coalition for the Right to Water (KRUHA), who coordinate the PWF network in Indonesia, note that the actions of the Indonesian state follow a pattern of anti-democratic behaviour towards critical civil society. As Amnesty International states, “the intimidation and violent attack on the organisers and participants of the People’s Water Forum is a serious attack on a peaceful assembly.”

With most grassroots groups and community leaders already excluded from the official Forum due to its prohibitive fees, the People’s Water Forum offers a vital space for civil society to organise, share knowledge and promote alternatives to privatisation and the corporate capture of global water governance. This crackdown on water rights activists undermines progress towards a just, equitable and sustainable water future for all.

End Water Poverty joins local civil society in Indonesia in amplifying the following demands:

  1. Law enforcement must cease all forms of harassment, intimidation and repression targeting the PWF.
  2. The Indonesian government must immediately restore both the constitutional and human rights of Indonesian water defenders.
  3. The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights must investigate the violation of water defenders’ civil and political rights.
  4. The international community must denounce this attack on civil society and affirm that water is a human right and common good.