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International Developments

HIC-HLRN Addresses UN SR Report on Housing Segregation

On 16 March 2022, Habitat International Coalition addressed the UN Human Rights Council’s 49th regular session in the interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on adequate housing Balakrishnan Rajagopalon the subject of his recent report to the UN General Assembly and his latest reporton discrimination and spatial segregation in housing. The following incorporates that oral intervention with an update on the Special Rapporteur’s upcoming contributions to the UN General Assembly (GA) and Human Rights Council (HRC).

 

 

At the 1st UN Habitat Conference in 1976, governments declared: “The ideologies of States are reflected in their human settlement policies. These being powerful instruments for change, they must not be used to dispossess people from their homes and their land, or to entrench privilege and exploitation.” Now 45 years on, we still lament racism and casteism as ideological root causes of structural forms of spatial segregation and discrimination.

 

However measured, housing inequality and forced evictions, as gross violations, mean costs, losses and damages to victims, for which they are entitled to reparation. The SR’s report reminds us how walls, planning codes and “redlining” can appear as the “petty apartheid” symptoms of wider “grand apartheid” that seeks to fragment and dissipate an entire people.

 

Such is the scale of housing discrimination across historic Palestine, where Israel’s systemic apartheid remains institutionalized in its government and parastatal bodies affecting housing and spatial reality. That case epitomizes the extreme extent of a state’s raison d’être whereby Israel’s housing segregation and discrimination are key instruments used against the Palestinian people as a whole.

 

That lesson is especially relevant to the 49th HRC session, with this current report of the SR on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 on the practice and maintenance of the system of apartheid.

 

In its 49th session, the HRC adopted a new resolution, sponsored by Germany, Brazil, Finland and Namibia, on the right to adequate housing endorsing key recommendations of the Special Rapporteur. The resolution calls for the strengthening of ombudspersons, national human rights Institutions and equality bodies to address discrimination in housing, including systemic forms of discrimination and for promoting the role of civil society organizations supporting the interests of affected persons. The Council again called on states to prevent and end homelessness and to eliminate its criminalization. The latest HRC resolution recalls last year’s first resolution of the General Assembly on homelessness and expresses concern about the increased risk of homelessness and evictions as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It furthermore includes new text on climate change and on the impact of COVID-19.  

 

The Council also expressed its deep concern at the lack of progress regarding discrimination in the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing affecting women, and underlining the need to urgently act to ensure their security of tenure, irrespective of their family or relationship status, their equal access to credit, low-cost housing, mortgages, home ownership and rental housing, including through subsidies, to ensure in situations of domestic violence immediate access to emergency shelters, including through legislative measures, and to guarantee women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all aspects of housing-related policymaking, including housing design and construction, community development and planning, and transportation and infrastructure, among others.

 

The next thematic reports of the SR on adequate housing will address the right to adequate housing and violent conflict. The report will be presented in October 2022 to the General Assembly in New York. For this report no formal call for inputs will be issued, but interested stakeholders and organizations can send concise submissions, not exceeding four (4) pages, in English language, highlighting key issues, concerns, reports or articles published by them to: ohchr-srhousing@un.org  by 6 May 2022.

 

Next year’s report to the HRC will focus on the climate crisis and the right to adequate housing. For this report a call for submissions/questionnaire will be issued during the next weeks. Submissions can be made until 30 June 2022. The announcement will be found on the website of the SR on adequate housing.

 

The adoption of resolution is a milestone for recognizing and combatting housing discrimination and racial discrimination in the context of housing. It also recalls all guidelines developed by previous SRs on the right to adequate housing, including the most recent Guidelines for the Implementation of the Right to Adequate Housing.

 

While the resolution asks States to strengthen significantly their mechanisms for remedies at national level, it regrettably did not recommend ratification of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR, which gives individuals and victims of housing rights violations the opportunity to bring an individual complaint before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights after exhaustion of domestic remedies. This inconsistency between progressive language on improving access to remedies in the national sphere, on one hand, and the failure to mention the most-important international UN mechanism for seeking relief for violations of economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand, requires continued attention and further demands of all defenders of the human right to housing and land.

 

 

Watch the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing’s interactive dialogue with the 49th session of the Human Rights Council.

 

See Habitat International Coalition and Member submissions to the Special Rapporteurs call for inputs on discrimination and spatial segregation:

 

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

Habitat International Coalition (HIC)

Habitat International Coalition – Middle East/North Africa

HIC-HLRN on Palestine/Israel

Kushian Society for Development and Human Rights (Nuba Mountains, Sudan)

Land Research Centre - Jerusalem (Palestine)

 

Photo: View of the Human Rights Council. Source: UN.

 


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