Washington, DC – July 29, 2015 – Yesterday, on the 5th Anniversary of the UN General Assembly resolution on the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, the US Human Rights Network, along with more than twenty U.S. grassroots and national groups including the National Lawyers Guild, individuals, and universities filed a request for a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a regional human rights commission, regarding the human right to water in the United States.
The request is responding to the urgent situations nationwide involving a lack of access to clean and affordable water, and highlights several of those critical situations that represent key water challenges in urban, rural, and indigenous communities. The request includes information on African-American communities in Michigan, Maryland, and rural Alabama, Latino communities in rural California, and Indigenous communities in the Southwest that have been disproportionately affected.
Four years after the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation conducted an official country visit to the United States, but communities continue to suffer, and in some cases face even more dire conditions. During her visit she observed policies and practices impacting the access to safe and affordable water for disadvantaged communities and issued her report and a set of recommendations.
As Patricia Jones, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Senior Program Leader on the Human Right to Water points out: “Findings from the US Conference of Mayors and our own research document that for the lowest 20% income earners in the U.S., water and sanitation services command from 5-20% of monthly household income, 2-10 times the international guideline for the human right to water. Historic racism has locked lowest income populations in cyclical poverty that is pushing thousands out of their homes with mass water shut offs deployed by public utilities against those who cannot pay increasing rates, rising at 5-8% per annum and over 41% since 2010. No longer can the U.S. ignore this crisis federal and state agencies responsible for water must step in and address this suffering.”
If the IACHR accepts the request, the hearing will take place during the 156th session of the commission from October 19-23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The U.S. government will be required to respond and be present at the hearing, and answer requests for information.
Established in 1959, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights promotes the observance of and respect for human rights throughout the Americas. The commission is expressly authorized to examine allegations of human rights violations by all 35 member-states of the Organization of American States, which includes the United States, and to investigate specific allegations of violations of Inter-American human rights treaties, declarations, and other legal instruments. The Commission has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Salote Soqo, Bay Area Program Coordinator, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW) remarked: “The human right to water is essential to the realization of all human rights, which water-affected communities of color are also struggling with. This reality makes it more urgent and crucial that efforts to address the human right to water must be mobilized now. This hearing request is a starting point to increase visibility.”
“We look forward to the opportunity to discuss with the Commission and the United States government this critical situation of lack of access to clean and affordable water that disparately impacts racial minorities in urban, rural, and tribal areas across the United States.” Ejim Dike, Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN).
A copy of the request for the hearing can be found at: http://bit.ly/IACHRUSRighttoWater
The US Human Rights Network is a national network of organizations and individuals working to strengthen a human rights movement and culture within the United States led by the people most directly impacted by human rights violations. We work to secure dignity and justice for all. www.ushrnetwork.org
More information on organizations highlighted in the request can be found at:
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water: http://ejcw.org/
Michigan Welfare Rights Organization: http://mwro.org/
New Mexico Environmental Law Center: www.nmelc.org/
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee: www.uusc.org/campaigns/the-human-right-to-water
The hearing request was filed on behalf of the following groups and individuals: The US Human Rights Network (USHRN), UC Berkley, School of Law, International Human Rights Law Clinic (IHRLC), Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Co. Inc. , The Albuquerque, Center for Peace and Justice, Detroit/Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW), Food & Water Watch, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights , Human Rights Advocates, Massachusetts Global Action/Color of Water Project, The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, People’s Water Board, National Economic & Social Rights Initiative , National Lawyers Guild , New Mexico Environmental Law Center, The Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE), Northeastern University, Santa Clara University’s International Human Rights Clinic School of Law , Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Curtis Cooper, the Law Office of Curtis Cooper, Cynthia Soohoo, Associate Professor CUNY Law School, Edwards and Jennings, PC , Lyda et al. v City of Detroit, Dept of Water and Sewage, Pro Bono Legal Committee, and the Sugar Law Center.