Former Nestlé CEO: "Zugang zu Wasser sollte kein öffentliches Recht sein."

Every living thing requires water to live, it is a biological fact of life on the planet earth. Does this mean that every human being should have the right to water? A former Nestlé CEO thinks that the idea is "extreme". 

Nestle-CEO Peter Brabeck: "Access to water should not be a public right."

Nestlé-Konzernchef Peter Brabeck: "Zugang zu Wasser sollte kein öffentliches Recht sein."

Let's delve into the idea of the right to clean water and the concept of privatizing water for a moment before we look at the situation regarding this quote.



One would think it logical that humans should have the right to water, as it is necessary for survival. Water is not distributed evenly throughout space or between people, which is why cooperation with water resources between people is important, especially as the human population is constantly increasing, this is something I looked into on World Water Day, March 22nd. In 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Council declared that the human right to water and sanitation is part of "the right to an adequate standard of living". 

Now you ask, "how is water any different than food? You need both to survive, and corporations sell food for a profit." To that I say you ask a reasonable question, but let us look at the difference. Water can be viewed as a more basic resource than food, fresh water is present all over the globe as fresh water. Food has to be grown or farmed; requiring time, water (water?!), and sunlight. Water is necessary to make food so you can live and water is necessary for you to drink so you can also live some more. Governments have a duty to protect the rights of their citizens, and giving one the right to food is nearly impossible from a practicality standpoint. Unlike water, natural food supplies are not always sitting in a lake, waiting for a well, or running in a stream, the right to food would be hard to manage. But if you give your citizens the right to water they will be able to grow their own food, not only that, but farmers will be able to grow food for them, and grow it cheaper because they don't have to worry about the price of water fluctuating or being marked up from large corporations attempting to reap a profit. Water is also an essential human right because we use water for more than just drinking, it's our means of sanitation, from clothes washing to bathing. If you want an example of how corporations will control water, just look at the difference in price of bottled water and tap water.

Looking back at the way that corporations have exploited resources in the past, the premise of privatizing something everyone on the planet deeply relies on everyday becomes even scarier. 



Back to the Nestlé comment; to be completely honest, I am not sure how the quote got out. The first article I found (dated 4/17/13) cites the video at the end of this article, a video supposedly posted in 2010, which is possibly a shortened clip from the 2005 documentary We Feed the World. Somehow the quote popped back into the light seeing as the previously mentioned online article, additional online articles, and even a local radio station covered the topic. When Peter Brabeck was quoted as saying "access to water should not be a public right" he was most likely the CEO of Nestlé (in 2008 he stepped down, but he remains a chairman). The other thing which makes the emergence of this quote odd is that he never says it plainly. He is speaking in German throughout the video, and there is an English translation at the bottom. However, "access to water should not be a public right" is never directly translated to English at the bottom (although he basically states the same idea). It is entirely possible he said those words in German and it was mistranslated in the video and evidently picked up by the poster of the video who titled it with "Zugang zu Wasser sollte kein öffentliches Recht sein" which does translate to "access to water should not be a public right". Either way the morals which come out are disturbing, I have typed out the portion on water which was translated in the video, and both are shown below.
Water is of course the most important raw material we have today in the world. It's a question of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That's an extreme solution. And the other view says that water is a foodstuff like any other, and like any other foodstuff it should have a market value. Personally I believe it's better to give foodstuff a value so that we're all aware that it has its price, and then that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water, and there are many different possibilities there.

 

On a side note, the man shown above, Peter Brabeck, was awarded Ethecon's "Black Planet Award" while he was Nestlé's CEO in 2007. This is awarded to people "who have contributed to the destruction and downfall of our Blue Planet in an outrageous way", as CEO he was accused of monopolizing water resources, spreading contaminated baby food, and tolerating child labor.

UPDATE (Thanks for the tip, Meagan!): According to The Guardian, Mr. Brabeck truly believes that water resources are scarce and that water should be given a value to help conserve resources. He believes that individuals should only have a right to the water they truly need, the rest should be given a "value", in the spirit of managing water resources for conservation Brabeck took a leadership role in Water Resources Group.

Last year, a documentary film, Bottled Life, accused Nestlé of extracting ground water for its bottled brands at the expense of local communities, often in poor countries. While the company refused to take part in the film, it did post online a rebuttal of the allegations
Brabeck, in combative mood, responds that it is important to be less emotional and more analytical about the issues, although he acknowledges that pressure from civil society groups forced Nestlé to recognise that a company cannot create value for its shareholders if it doesn't create value for society in parallel. 
"The fact is they [activists] are talking first of all only about the smallest part of the water usage," he says. "I am the first one to say water is a human right. This human right is the five litres of water we need for our daily hydration and the 25 litres we need for minimum hygiene.
"This amount of water is the primary responsibility of every government to make available to every citizen of this world, but this amount of water accounts for 1.5% of the total water which is for all human usage. 
"Where I have an issue is that the 98.5% of the water we are using, which is for everything else, is not a human right and because we treat it as one, we are using it in an irresponsible manner, although it is the most precious resource we have. Why? Because we don't want to give any value to this water. And we know very well that if something doesn't have a value, it's human behaviour that we use it in an irresponsible manner.

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