Asian quake toll spotlights safe housing as human right, says UN expert

14 October 2005
North West Frontier Province, Pakistan

The tragic toll in the earthquake that devastated Pakistan last week is a wake-up call for governments, international organizations and all other actors to guarantee the universal human right to safe housing that can withstand such disasters, according to a senior United Nations rights expert.

“The human right of everyone to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living is enshrined in article 11(1) of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 'Habitability' is one necessary element of this human right,” the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Miloon Kothari, said in a statement yesterday.

“This tragedy must reinforce the resolve of all international actors, including UN agencies and programmes, States, civil society and the private sector, to work towards the progressive development of safe housing standards worldwide, including compliance with building standards based on the fulfillment of the right to adequate housing,” he added.

He stressed that the standards dictated by 'habitability', including durability of homes to withstand earthquakes and other disasters, should guide the reconstruction efforts in the affected areas in northern Pakistan and India, where more than 35,000 people were killed, over 50,000 injured, and up to 2.5 million left homeless.

“In the process of rebuilding the lives and homes of those affected, it is vital that immediate humanitarian needs be complemented with post-disaster relief and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes based on international human rights standards,” he said.


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