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Detroit: UN experts to discuss impact of water disconnections on human rights

GENEVA / NEW YORK (15 October 2015) – Two United Nations human rights experts will visit the city of Detroit (Michigan- USA) from 18 to 20 October 2014, to learn more about the impact of large-scale water disconnections on low-income, marginalized and vulnerable groups and their human rights to water and sanitation and to adequate housing.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, and the Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, will meet with individuals affected by water disconnections, civil society organizations as well as local authorities, and will visit neighborhoods in Detroit where water service has been disconnected.

“Issues of affordability, non-discrimination and access to justice for affected groups are vital,” the independent experts said. “A response by local and federal authorities to the water shut-offs which is aligned with international human rights standards is crucial and would serve as inspiration to other cities around the world that are faced with similar challenges.”

This informal visit arranged by civil society will allow the experts to discuss follow-up to the recommendations made to the United States on the basis of official country visits in 2009 (housing) and 2011 (water and sanitation), and to the concerns raised in a public statement* on this matter issued in June 2014.

Ms. Farha and Ms. Albuquerque will hold a press conference on Monday 20 October at 1:30 pm at the Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Riverfront Hotel.

Leilani Farha is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. She took her function in June 2014. Ms. Farha is the Executive Director of the NGO Canada Without Poverty, based in Ottawa, Canada. A lawyer by training, for the past 20 years Ms. Farha has worked both internationally and domestically on the implementation of the right to adequate housing for the most marginalized groups and on the situation of people living in poverty. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/HousingIndex.aspx

Check the report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing on the 2009 mission to the USA: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/CountryVisits.aspx

Catarina de Albuquerque is the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. She was appointed by the Human Rights Council in 2008. Ms. de Albuquerque is a Professor at the Law Faculties of the Universities of Braga, Coimbra and of the American University’s Washington College of Law. She is a senior legal advisor at the Prosecutor General’s Office. She was awarded the Human Rights Golden Medal by her country’s Parliament. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/WaterAndSanitation/SRWater/Pages/SRWaterIndex.aspx

Check the report of the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation on the 2011 mission to the USA: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/18/33/Add.4

Detroit: Disconnecting water from people who cannot pay - an affront to human rights, say UN experts: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14777&LangID=E

The Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to monitor and promote the rights to adequate housing and to water and sanitation worldwide. The Rapporteurs are not United Nations staff, do not represent any government or institution, and receive no remuneration for their work. For more information check: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For more information about the visit, please contact Madoka Saji (mobile: +41 79 44 44 917 / msaji@ohchr.org) or Juana Sotomayor (mobile: +41 78 77 60 371 / jsotomayor@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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