On April 12, 2023, a website operating under the name The People's Voice wrote a piece arguing that "The World Economic Forum [WEF] is teaming up with the UN to set its sights on seizing control of the world's water supplies and holding humanity to ransom." The People's Voice is a rebrand of Newspunch, a long-time and well-known producer of disinformation.
The story used as a news hook the March 2023 UN Water Conference to rehash well-trod conspiracy theories about "global elites" and water scarcity. Newspunch supports these claims, as they do in most of their pieces, by mixing benign true statements with conspiratorial misinformation.
In this case, Newspunch bases its conspiratorial claims on these largely benign statements that appear on a WEF website describing the UN Water Conference, which — the page states — includes a report from a WEF commission,:
[T]he conference aims to raise awareness of the global water crisis and decide on action to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals. [...]
The Global Commission on the Economics of Water, launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2022, will report on game-changing ways to value and manage water as a common good. [...]
It's clear that we need to rethink our approach to how we can best allocate and value water. [...]
How can we share the cost of preventing or mitigating droughts and floods exacerbated by global warming? [...]
Newspunch takes a rhetorical leap when it answers that final question itself: "By turning over all human activity to the control of the United Nations and its select partners in global politics." As is clear, the statements on the WEF website do not actually make that argument.
As a solution to that problem, and in service of a snappy headline, Newspunch references an alleged statement made in 2005 by former Nestle CEO and Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, a WEF member, as if it held relevance to a meeting in 2023:
Now, in a disturbing development, the globalist elite are claiming that water is not a human right and the world's water supplies must be privatized and controlled by the elites.
The word "now" is doing a great deal of work here. This is a reference to controversial statements Brabeck-Letmathe made in the 2005 documentary "We Feed the World." In an interview in which he says he was taken out of context, he suggested that the position that water was a human right was "extreme."
Snopes first addressed the alleged quote in a 2018 fact check. While he never stated "water is not a human right" outright, memes have nonetheless paraphrased these remarks that way for years. In response to controversy, Nestle released a statement that said that Brabeck-Letmathe, "passionately believes that water is a human right." More importantly, the alleged statement has no relationship to the 2023 UN Water Conference and is not a position of the WEF.
Another reference certainly familiar to WEF conspiracy theorists is a phrase used in the opening of the Newspunch story suggesting that the organization's end-goal is for people to "own nothing and be happy":
[T]he global elite are making moves to have people "own nothing and be happy." The world will be controlled by an authoritarian one-world government and humanity, according to Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum, will be enslaved in a totalitarian system featuring mass surveillance, mandatory vaccinations and desperate servitude.
Using a phrase common in anti-WEF memes, the statement paraphrases an opinion piece on the WEF's website written in 2014 by Danish MP Ida Auken with the headline "Welcome to 2030: I own nothing, have no privacy and life has never been better." The article gained visibility amongst critics of the WEF in 2020. The piece was, the WEF has said, "Intended to spark debate about socio-economic developments" and was never a position of the WEF.
A final non-sequitur included in the piece is the inclusion of an Oregon man, Gary Harrington, who in 2012 was sentenced to 30 days in a Jackson County jail for, as Newspunch put it, "collecting rainwater." While this is a facetious way of describing the construction of multiple, unlicensed dams, the water-permitting policies of Jackson County, Oregon, in 2012 held no relevance to the 2023 UN Water Meeting
Because the statements made on the WEF website do not say what Newspunch's headline claims, and because mixing several unrelated conspiracy theories together does not change that truth, we rate this claim as "False."