UN rights expert calls on all to oppose the ‘human tragedy’ of forced evictions

21 June 2006

Describing the impact of forced evictions as a “human tragedy,” a United Nations expert on adequate housing has called on all States to urgently halt the practice, including the so-called development-based evictions that are often justified as being linked to slum-clearance drives or in other ways serving the “public good.”

“Many contemporary cases of forced evictions, those without due process or the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection, constitute a gross violation of human rights and indicate a systematic disregard of recognized human rights standards on the part of States,” Special Rapporteur Miloon Kothari told delegates at the World Urban Forum III gathering in Canada on Tuesday.

“One of the main priorities that should emerge from the World Urban Forum III is the urgent need for States to halt the practice of forced evictions and displacement.”

Mr. Kothari, who is an unpaid expert serving in an independent personal capacity, highlighted that forced evictions and displacements occur due to different reasons and are “taking place in countries world wide, ranging from democratic to authoritarian States.”

He also cited so-called development-based evictions, which include those that are often planned or done under the pretext of serving the “public-good,” such as large-scale infrastructure or other development projects.

“Most of these ‘development-based’ evictions have one or several common features that contravene recognized human rights standards…I call on all actors at the World Urban Forum to unequivocally oppose forced evictions as a means of achieving ‘development.’”

He said that generally, general rule, forced evictions affect the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized sectors of society and intensify inequality and social conflict, contributing to segregation, ghettoization and the creation of “apartheid cities” and rural settlements. “Above all, the impact on those affected can often be characterized as a human tragedy.”

The Special Rapporteur also said that the issue of the “global housing and living conditions crisis” that the world faces should be tackled in the context of achieving the antipoverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), “which should serve to focus worldwide efforts in overcoming the critical deficiencies in global development.”

He urged governments “to abide by their international human rights commitments to uphold the human right to adequate housing especially for the millions that continue to be forced to live in inadequate and insecure housing and living conditions.”

Keynote speakers will be addressing the various issues of urban living and the numerous challenges it poses throughout the five days of the meeting, and yesterday the focus was on the urban poor, according to a press release from UN-HABITAT – the agency that aims to achieve sustainable development of human settlements.

“It is now a generally accepted truth of our time that urbanization will throw up one of the biggest challenges,” said Lindiwe Sisulu, South Africa’s housing minister.

“When coupled with poverty it creates the complexity of problems that we seek to unravel today. Within the context of developing continents, the two are inextricably linked. And this is why urban shelter has become such a pressing issue. For nothing defines the reality of the developing world more starkly than through this prism.”


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