1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Markets, Business and Regulation (2000 - 2009)

Social Policy, Regulation and Private Sector Involvement in Water Supply

  • Project from: 2005 to 2006


Background and objectives

This project builds upon the successful completion of previous United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) research on Commercialization, Privatization and Universal Access to Water. Seven case studies—Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Finland, India, the Philippines, and South Africa—were carried out, exploring a range of experiences of water service provision and focusing, in particular, on those actively involving the private sector.

The current research project will take the inquiry further in order to investigate the effects of private sector involvement in water supply in terms of access, equity and affordability. In the context of private sector involvement, it will explore the kinds of social policies that aim to ensure access to water for all sections of society, including the poor, as well as the nature and results of regulatory mechanisms that have been put in place.

From an academic perspective, the project aims to determine how relevant the theory of private sector involvement in natural monopolies like water supply is. The project’s findings are also likely to have major policy implications for governments and international agencies. Within the general context of economic liberalization and deregulation being promoted by many international development agencies, the research will investigate whether governments are indeed adopting appropriate policies to solve the problems related to water supply.

Case studies

Case studies will be carried out in Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, France, Hungary, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. They will enable an in-depth examination of the debates surrounding private sector involvement within the specific political, cultural and economic settings of each country. Household data collected in selected countries and cities will be used to analyse issues related to access and affordability. Household expenditure data will also be disaggregated for different income groups and used for cross-sectional analysis.

This research is being carried out with the support of United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) core funds.