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Detroit cuts off water to poor families, United Nations intervenes



There are certain basics needs to life. One of these basics is access to clean drinking water. Even the United Nations agrees to this concept and has passed numerous international agreements and understanding about access to water. So it comes as a shock to many that a major American city is violating these precepts. The city of Detroit has moved ahead with its plan to cut water services to accounts owing more than $150.

This past April, the city of Detroit initiated a plan to start cutting services to 3,000 customers a week. Since May the city has sent out 46,000 warning notices and cut off services to an estimated 4,531. The water utility company claims that nearly half of the city’s water accounts are delinquent and it is owed nearly $90 million from close to 150,000 customers.

Last week the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the following statement in regards to the city of Detroit for violating international standards “When there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections,” Catarina de Albuquerque, the office’s expert on the human right to water and sanitation stated. This week the United Nations has announced that it will intervene directly with the Obama administration and engage in high level talks regarding the Detroit water crisis. The cutting off of water to the city’s poor has been seen as a “human rights” violation by the U.N. Human Rights Council which has received a formal complaint. As such, the United Nations must intervene directly on a confidential level and then on a public level.

In 1977, the United States signed the U.N.’s International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights during the administration of then President Jimmy Carter. The agreement however was not ratified by the U.S. Congress and the U.N. holds no enforcement powers other than moral authority.