Issues Home About Contact Us Issue 27 - December 2022 عربى


Neologisms are polysynthetic terms, or compound words, newly formed from actual words, often derived from their original classical or other foreign languages to address new situations. Some neologisms are especially relevant to this issue of Land Times/أحوال الأرض. For example, “domicide” is the subject of the current UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing proposing international law recognition of this crime of attacking homes.

This neologism follows the post-World War II-era legal usage of “genocide,” coined by Polish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin in 1944, combining the Greek word γένος (people, or “race”) with the Latin suffix -caedo (act of killing).

In the case of domicide, the verb“to kill” may not seem a suitable reference to inanimate objects and non-living things. However, looking deeper into the etymology, we find derivatives with related meanings such as “to cut,” “to hew,” “to tear,” “to strike” or “to beat.” In other words, domicide is the act of striking houses and homes.

HIC-HLRN reports its support of the proposition here, while reporting on the long history of the term “ecocide,” from its origin before the first UN Conference on the Human Habitat at Stockholm, in 1972. The 50-year anniversary of that pivotal norm-setting process in 2022 reminds us how long it takes to develop needed specificity in international law.

The Vietnam War neologism “ecocide,” coined by Prof. Arthur W. Gaston in the context of US invasion forces’ use of agent orange, was raised by Swedish PM Olof Palme at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment 50 years ago. Now, its legal definition is formally proposed as an amendment to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court.

The term, “apartheid,” borrowed from the Afrikaans language (pronounced: apart-hāt), has accrued legal specificity. Features in this issue clarify how the term is now commonly applied to the situation in Palestine, after at least 60 years of usage in the scholarly literature. From the perspective of institutionalized discrimination in housing and land, HIC-HLRN contributes to the debate here, while also reporting on the latest progress of the Human Rights Council mechanisms on Palestine.

Multiple crises in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) explored here converge to involve public health, food sovereignty and climate change. This year’s climate-change summit (CoP27), hosted in the MENA region, saw negotiations resolve to establish a loss-and-damage fund, but failed to reach vital agreement on progressive carbon-reducing commitments. HIC-HLRN and this LT issue offer recommendations for human-centered climate justice in any loss-and-damage process. This approach also amplifies HIC President Adriana Allen’s “climate justice IS a human right” statement of last year, whose central visions calls for reshaping climate action from a technical effort to cut emissions into an approach that also addresses human rights and social inequality.

Food sovereignty and food systems were the focus of HIC representatives in the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and its 50th session through the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism. The report by Hala Barakat illuminates the issues involved and values at stake for stakeholder engagement in that policy forum.

The anticipated new stakeholder-engagement mechanism for UN Habitat could become as productive a policy advisory platform, Such is the vision HIC-HLRN is putting on the table, as summarized here.

Meanwhile, LT monitors and reports contributions to the UN’s often too-divergent Human Rights and Sustainable Development Systems. These a groundbreaking report covering housing and land rights conditions under Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, as well as the global context of climate change. HIC-HLRN’s October 2022 World Habitat Day violation database report illustrates how to identify environment-hazard and climate -change-related housing and land rights loss, cost and damage as violations (i.e., in light of human rights obligations and norm-based remedies). That forensic exercise produces many lessons.

These outcomes leave observers with mixed feelings, described in another neologism: “ambivalence.” Sigmund Freud constructed that term from the Latin “ambo” (meaning both) and verb “valēre” (meaning to be strong). This mixed feeling of being repelled and attracted at the same time reflects the sense that, amid certain—however slow—progress, current efforts at remedy against the dominance of parochial interests are insufficient to resolve current and future crises.

On the optimistic side is the plethora of timely concepts and international norms established by states, while violations of the same persist. Words and language evolve, while implementation still falls short.


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