CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

CAPPA Co-Organises “Our Future Is Public’’ Conference 2022 In Chile

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Over 500 participants, including civil society and social movements from 50 countries came together to discuss strategies for strengthening and reclaiming public services for the realization of economic, social, political, and cultural rights at the Future is Public conference held in Santiago, Chile. The four-day hybrid event co-organized by CAPPA and other partners happened from November 29 to December 3, 2022.

The interaction of economic, social, political and environmental crises in recent times have more than ever, defined the importance of the public sector and the significance of a democratic ownership of public infrastructure. In particular, climate emergency, rising social economic inequalities and the disruptive coronavirus pandemic have reaffirmed and exposed the multiple structural flaws and limitations of neoliberalism to respond to cascading global crises and ensure a dignified life for humankind.

In the end, only a radical transformation of the world’s economic system can confront current challenges, and create democratic, and sustainable societies. It is within this context that, actors from a range of diverse movements, sectors and regions are linking up and actively mobilizing to reclaim and build public services to work for all.  The first ‘‘Future is Public’’ conference was held in Amsterdam, in 2019 and brought together over 400 participants who gathered to discuss strategies for remuncipalization and building democratic ownership of essential services. In October 2021, the movement launched a collective civil society global manifesto on public services that was signed by over 200 organizations.

L-R: Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director, CAPPA, Neil Gupta, Director of Water Campaign, Corporate Accountability & Aderonke Ige, Associate Director, CAPPA, at the opening plenary of ‘’Our Future is Public’’ conference

As for this year’s conference, the choice of Chile as a venue was quite deliberate and offered a fitting setting for the global convening of social movements, civil society, communities, academia, and political leaders. Following massive protests embarked on by citizens dissatisfied with the country’s economic status quo and state of governance in 2019, Chileans decided by referendum to rewrite their constitution. It is widely believed in the country that a new constitution which captures the concerns of all layers of the Chilean society is what is needed to rebuild public confidence and navigate the country’s governance challenges.

Now, civil society actors and organizations across the world are looking on with rapt attention and hope that the experience of the Chilean Constitutional Convention will serve as a global reference point that emphasizes the thoughts that recalibration and reorganization of societies for pro-public interest are indeed possible. At the Future is Public conference in Chile, the essence of all the exchanges anchored on three major objectives:

  1. to build and reinforce alliances and relationships between actors and movements;
  2. to raise consciousness and strengthen political momentum as regards the importance of democratic public services; and
  3. to revisit the notion of the public by exploring an ecosystem of public delivery and collective ownership models.

After an opening plenary that intimated participants with the context and objectives of the conference, the General Secretary, Public Services International (PSI), Rosa Pavanelli; Mayor Municipality of Santiago, Chile, Irací Hassler; and Executive Director of GI-ESCR, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda, all gave welcome remarks that also highlighted the importance of the conference.

The first two days of the conference were devoted to sectoral meetings that reviewed global health, education, agriculture, economic justice and social protection, care, energy, food systems, housing, transportation, waste and water. The final two days focused on a collective discussion on cross-cutting themes including climate emergency, gender equality, economic and tax justice, and democratic ownership of public ownership.

L-R: Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director, CAPPA; Aderonke Ige, Associate Director, CAPPA; Neil Gupta, Director of Water Campaign, Corporate Accountability

CAPPA’s interventions at the conference, through its representatives, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director, CAPPA and Aderonke Ige, Associate Director, CAPPA, evaluated global water and education systems and put forward recommendations for achieving collective and sustainable public systems and infrastructure. The four-day conference climaxed with plenary sessions and workshops that focused on democratic public ownership, economic and climate justice.

  CAPPA’s representative, Aderonke Ige, sharing at the water sector workshop
Aderonke Ige, staring at the water sector workshop
CAPPA’s publications on display at the conference
Reconnecting partners and movements for cohesive resistance against corporate capture and the strengthening of democratic public ownership. L-R: Akinbode Oluwafemi (CAPPA), Ndivile Makoena (GenderCC, South Africa), Baba Aye (PSI), Aderonke Ige (CAPPA), Neil Gupta (Corporate Accountability) #OFIP22 #OurFutureIsPublic
L-R: CAPPA, (Aderonke Ige), TNI, Katie Sandwell and Corporate Accountability (Neil Gupta), at the water sector open forum.
Water sector session on Day 1, with a few of the representatives of indigenous communities of Latin America
CAPPA’s Associate Director, Aderonke Ige, addressing the plenary on Democratic public ownership of resources
Plenary Panel on Climate Justice
CAPPA’s Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi making an intervention during the climate justice plenary session
Group photograph of movements representatives at the Conference

CAPPA’s Aderonke Ige was the keynote speaker at the Democratic Public Ownership plenary where she spoke on strategies for building people’s power and engaging state authorities towards participatory and democratic governance processes. Drawing on CAPPA’s dynamic campaigns for the democratic operation of water infrastructure in Africa, she highlighted the unique features of the Our Water Our Right    (OWOR) campaign in Nigeria and across Africa.

The OWOR movement is a network of civil society actors, trade unionists, grassroots mobilizers, community groups and active citizens working together to defend public water services against privatization and other anti-democratic and people management processes. Some strategies employed by the movement to bolster its campaign include:

  1. Adopting the use of social contracts as influential tools for securing accountability from political authorities and representatives
  2. Designing community parliaments as a model for building people’s power and envisioning alternative realities for water governance
  3. Leveraging media resources to interrogate and amplify contemporary water issues of public interest

At a plenary session on climate justice, CAPPA’s Akinbode Oluwafemi interrogated the issue of a loss and damage finance facility for vulnerable communities in the global south and small island states. He maintained that the conversation on loss and damage must be treated as reparations for historical carbon emissions that have caused grave environmental damage to communities, and not as handouts or charity to Africa.

The highly interactive conference concluded with a synthesis of all workshop sessions, and a draft declaration of the outcomes of the conference.

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