United Nations Scolds Detroit for Human Rights Violations in Cutting Off Service to Those Who Have Not Paid Their Water Bills

If health care is a “right,” what about water?

The city of Detroit, Michigan, is the largest city in the U.S. to declare bankruptcy. As part of its efforts to become fiscally sound, when its customers were $115 million behind in delinquent payments for water and sewer, Detroit began turning off water service to the tens of thousands of residents who were 60 days or more than $150 behind. Activists in Detroit reported that decision to the United Nations, which sent two human rights lawyers, called U.N. special rapporteurs, to investigate.

The U.N. representatives, Leilani Farha and Catarina de Albuquerque, have now determined that Detroit is in violation of international human rights obligations that are binding on the U.S. As Fox News reports, one of the representatives, Catarina de Albuquerque, explained that:

It is contrary to human rights to disconnect water from people who simply do not have the means to pay their bills.

If health care and water are inalienable rights, what about food, clothing and shelter?

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.
  • Christopher Bowen

    The situation in Detroit – brought on by a combination of economics, corruption and other assorted problems – is already registering as a human health issue, with no one in the area able to make enough money to pay their bills as it is. The jobs simply are not there, and social malaise is rampant due to that. I don’t believe a slippery slope argument applies here, since cutting off water will make literally every other issue that much worse.

  • RavenNation

    Without agreeing or disagreeing with the premise of the post, it seems that part of the problem is that Detroit abrogated to itself the right to be sole provider of water. Since Detroit bankrupted itself, it seems problematic for a state-enforced monopoly to then cut off water supplies. As to water, food, clothing, & shelter see UN UDHR, Article 25, Paragraph 1 (I’m neither endorsing nor condemning the UDHR but that’s where they’re getting this from).


  • Sarah Baker

    The points you and Christopher Bowen are making are both valid ones. In my own mind, I see what Detroit is going through as the natural evolution of a dysfunctional symbiotic relationship between bad government and the people who are supposedly its beneficiaries but end up being its victims.

  • RavenNation

    Thanks for the response Sarah. I think we’re all pretty much on the same page, just coming at it from different angles.