9 March 2010


Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

Population growth, migration to urban areas, conflicting needs for existing land, and insufficient financial and natural resources have resulted in widespread homelessness and habitation in inadequate housing.

In every country children, men and women sleep on sidewalks, under bridges, in cars, subway stations, and public parks, live in ghettos and slums, or "squat" in buildings other people have abandoned. The United Nations estimates that there are over 100 million homeless people and over 1 billion people worldwide inadequately housed.

These statistics are evidence for the difficulty governments have in guaranteeing access to housing for their citizens, but they also raise complicated questions about the extent of the obligations of governments to do so.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to adequate Housing Ms Raquel Rolnik, recently presented her annual report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in which she focused on the negative effect on the right to housing of mega-events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup and offered reflections on her recent visit to the Maldives and the US where she expressed serious concern about the ‘new face of homelessness’ in which working poor, including many families, find themselves living on the street and in transitional housing.

Further information about the interactive dialogue involving the special rapporteur can be found at the websites of the International Service for Human Rights and of the Human Rights Council

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