The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Long Journey, Recent Victory: Human Right to Water in Mexico
April 3, 2012
Great news! I’m excited to share with you that a Mexican appeals court overruled an initial judgment in one pending case brought by the Habitat International Coalition of Mexico (HIC-AL), a UUSC civil-society partner working to implement the human right to water in Mexico. HIC-AL is working on behalf of the residents of Ampliacion Tres de Mayo, a community of 100 families who were cut off from a water network by the local municipality. For the first time, the district appeals court judge recognized violations of the human right to water and ordered the utility to give more water to the community.
The legal journey for the residents of this rural community began after more than 10 years of purchasing water for their basic needs, because the local water utility failed to provide them with services. The community got in touch with HIC-AL asking for their assistance. With UUSC support, HIC-AL presented four cases on their behalf to challenge this situation and gain a court ruling that states that the residents of Ampliacion Tres de Mayo have a right to water. Although the idea for all of the cases was the same, each case went before a different judge, per Mexican law at the time.
In the first case, the court decided that the applicant must show proof of ownership of the property where she lives before it would even consider her claims that her right to water was violated. In the case brought on behalf of Lydia Velazquez Reynosa, the judge did not analyze the human right to water and dismissed the case because Lydia is not the owner of the house where she lives. HIC-AL supported the community to appeal this decision. In the appeal, HIC-AL explained that the right to water is not linked to property ownership and bolstered their arguments for adequate water services beyond four hours per week, asking the appeal judge to analyze the violations of the human right to water.
As a result of the pressure from the cases and to counteract the efforts of HIC-AL and the community in pursuing their right to water, the authority installed a water line and began providing water to the community twice per week, about four hours total. And a few days ago, we received the great news from Maria Silvia, HIC-AL’s legal officer, that the appeal tribunal has ruled in their favor and accepted their argument! The court has decided to rule on the merits of the case and analyze the violations of the human right to water.
Looking back on their journey, Maria told us shortly after the judgment was announced: “Thanks to the line, we gave water to these women and their families; now more than 100 families have water. But it is not enough to put the line and provide water four hours per week. Certainly four hours per week is a violation of their human right to water.”
Maria can testify that recognizing the human right to water and realizing it are two different things. She said, “To have a real change we need a lot, more than a law. You cannot only change things because you have a better constitution — everyone has to apply pressure, including NGOs and local community groups.” This victory comes as we are reflecting on Earth Day and reminds us that human rights and positive social change do not occur overnight!