Detroit: Where the United Nations Warns of Human Rights Violations
Despite an agreement reached between the city of Detroit and it suburbs—communities will pay $50 million per year in order to lease the pipes that supply fresh water to their homes—the United Nations claims that water shutoffs still in effect risk creating human rights violations. Two U.N. rapporteurs have advised Detroit’s government that its actions risk violating international human rights norms as a result of its shutoff policy. Human rights violations will occur if:
*Water shutoffs disproportionately affect African Americans.
*Water shutoffs cause health risks as a result of an inability to flush toilets.
*The price of water bills discourages people from flushing their toilets to save money.
*Families are displaced from their homes due to lack of water access.
*The city does not offer alternative accommodation to anyone displaced.
*Poor residents do not have access to legal remedies if they wish to challenge their water bills.
During their three-day visit to Detroit, U.N. special rapporteurs Catarina de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha warned that lacking a sufficient quantity of water, defined as 26 gallons per person per day, exacerbates inequality, stigmatize people, and renders the poor more vulnerable.
In his Big Think interview, Juan Enriquez, CEO of Mexico City’s Urban Development Corporation, warns that New York City risks the financial destiny of Detroit if it relies solely on the financial industry for solvency:
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