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The water you need for survival is a human right, and must be made available to everyone, wherever they are, even if they cannot afford to pay for it.
The Internet (almost) exploded this week when Americans Against the Tea Party linked to a video with the title: “Nestlé Chairman: Water Not a Right, Should Be Given a ‘Market Value’ and Privatized.” In it, Nestlé Chairman and former CEO Peter Brabeck suggests that declaring water a right is ‘extreme’ and asserts that water is a foodstuff best valued and distributed by the free market. Video below — starts about at 2:00 mark. The rhetoric is admittedly absurd.
But before we rip out our hair in a fit of #OccupyNestlé rage, let’s talk back-story. The five-minute clip is part of a larger video about food security filmed in 2005. Every few months it surfaces, triggering a firestorm of criticism. This time, it even trended on Twitter. People were shocked at the inhumanity of Brabeck’s statement, and rightly so. Taken at face value, the video appears to pit the world’s largest seller of bottled water against the 783 million people struggling to access what little water they need to survive. That’s after allegations and rebuttals regarding Nestlé’s role in restricting water access to several poor communities.
The fact remains: humans have a right to clean water. Apart from making good moral sense, the right to water is recognized by the United Nations and protected by several treaties and national constitutions. But wait! Brabeck and Nestlé have since recognized the right to water. Nestlé’s corporate policy asserts “the right of all people to have access to clean water to meet their basic human needs...”
Brabeck states his position on his blog: Let me be very clear about this again here on the blog, because I think the video clip, which took my views out of context, isn’t clear about the point I was trying to make. The water you need for survival is a human right, and must be made available to everyone, wherever they are, even if they cannot afford to pay for it.
Perhaps the question was settled sometime between 2005 and the present. Perhaps Brabeck’s original comments were in fact desperately out of context. Perhaps we’re just meant to feel better. Whatever the case, most of us are left scratching our heads, wondering what having a ‘right to water’ really means.