February, 10, 2020, New York – The Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) released a Statement today calling for a national and international movement to declare access to water a human right that should not be subject to profiteering by corporate interests. The Statement was released against the backdrop of a rash of water crises that are disproportionately impacting marginalized Black communities across the U.S. and on the African continent. It reads in part:
“From the man-made water crisis and suspension of democracy in Flint, Michigan, the disastrous neglect of the antiquated water system in Newark, New Jersey to the profit, greed-driven privatization of water in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, unaffordable rates and water shut-offs in Baltimore, Maryland, Detroit, Michigan, and other cities across the country, to the diseases harming residents in rural areas because of leaking, corroded septic tanks, Black people have borne the brunt of water injustice in the U.S.”
The Statement was an outcome of a Roundtable of civil rights and human rights organizations on Water as a Human Right convened in Washington, D.C., October 22, 2019 at the request of the Corporate Accountability Project. Akilibode Oluwafemi, Deputy Director of Environment Rights and the Our Water, Our Rights Campaign from Lagos, Nigeria was a Special Guest. He shared with the groups the insidious effort of multinational corporations in collusion with governmental authorities to privatize the public water systems in Nigeria and to criminalize ordinary citizens for drilling for wells as a source of water on communally held lands. Mr. Oluwafemi, who has faced death threats for his uncompromising opposition to privatization schemes, appealed to the organizations at the Table to support Our Water, Our Rights Campaign in its efforts to maintain public water systems in Nigeria. The leaders responded with a strong declaration of support:
“Our Water Our Rights Coalition stands as a symbol of the power of people coming together and fighting for a water system that serves their communities instead of corporate interests. Accordingly, we call on the Lagos State Government to abandon its efforts at water privatization and listen to the voices of the people who are demanding a public water system with the investment needed to work for all Lagosians.”
Dr. Ron Daniels, President of IBW and the Convener of the Roundtable, indicated that issuing the Statement was the beginning of a national and international mobilization to declare access to water a human right. “We intend to make the concept of water as a human right and the crises cities and nations are facing a major issue at the forthcoming State of the Race Conference V, tentatively slated for December 2-6, in Newark, NJ (hosted by Mayor Ras. J. Baraka), where we will be discussing strategies for building democratic economies,” Daniels commented. “I hope the Participants at the Conference will agree to reach out to organizers in Flint, MI to explore the possibility of an Emergency National/International Summit on Water as a Human Right in that city in 2021,” he concluded. IBW plans to circulate the Statement widely to national and international press and via social media platforms.
Review the Full Statement on Water as a Human Right with signatories by using the link below.