Special Rapporteurs on housing and food present annual reports
Monday, 14 March 2011 18:13

On 8 March 2011 the Human Rights Council (the Council) held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Mr Olivier de Schutter, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Ms Raquel Rolnik (see UN press release). A majority of comments focused on the right to food, however many of the NHRIs and NGOs focused their comments on the right to adequate housing.


Mr Olivier de Schutter’s presentation and report focused largely on the current global food crisis, the high amount of food that lesser developed countries import, climate change, and how poverty and not the lack of supply is the root cause of hunger. Mr de Schutter reported on the need to modernise agricultural practices by moving towards agro ecology (imitating nature in the field), which could help to combat climate change and benefit farmers.


Mr de Schutter’s recent visit to China had been covered extensively in the press. During the interactive dialogue, the delegation simply said it appreciated his visit, and hoped the Special Rapporteur found it helpful too. Key issues raised during the dialogue were the continued challenges for women in farming (including their lack of credit and therefore their inability to purchase land), the need for sub-Saharan Africa to make its own fertiliser instead of relying so heavily on imports, how food dependency is a vulnerability, and the need to deemphasise global markets to encourage local buying. Mr de Schutter emphasised the need to engage farmers in developing a long-term solution to combat rising food prices, and to increase transparency in the market.


Discussing the right to adequate housing Ms Rolnik highlighted that the most vulnerable members of a society are disproportionately affected by inadequate housing. She underlined the prevalence of conflict-based violence and natural disasters as primary causes for a lack of adequate housing.


Ms Rolnik recently visited Croatia and Kazakhstan. The Special Rapporteur’s analysis of Croatia focused primarily on the rights of displaced minorities to adequate housing. She noted progress in terms of the numbers of ethnic Serbs returning to their homes of origin in Croatia since the end of conflict between the two states, although she regretted that the rights of the Roma minority to adequate housing continued to be frequently undermined. The Croatian delegation and the Ombudsman for Croatia both assured that the State was doing its best to overcome difficulties in this area. In her responses, the Special Rapporteur recommended that all future peace accords should ensure that issues of housing and tenure would be dealt with in the aftermath of the conflict.


Regarding Kazakhstan, major shortcomings included a policy of alleged forced relocation of individuals in certain areas without adequate replacement of their current dwellings. The delegation did not fully acknowledge these shortcomings, contending that any cases of forced relocation were based on independent court decisions and included compensation as well as one year’s notice. Individuals also had the right to appeal


Palestine, Algeria, as well as  NGOs, all raised the plight of Palestinians in Israel as a particular area of concern, and requested that the Special Rapporteur deal with this issue more systematically in the future. Ms Rolnik did not, however, make any pledge to do so, no doubt seeking to avoid the political nature of this issue in the Council. Nigeria – speaking in its national capacity – rejected claims of having illegally evicted persons in the context of developing its capital city by arguing that ‘illegal structures’ had been removed in compliance with the law. In her response, the Special Rapporteur was very clear in her response that the very existence of so-called ‘illegal settlements’ was evidence of a lack of adequate housing for certain parts of the population.


The Special Rapporteur in her closing remarks reminded delegations that adequate housing did not only mean ‘4 walls and a roof’, but implied that individuals are able to live in communities that are in the vicinity of relevant services, in particular health services.

© by The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 2019