People's Stories Democracy

View previous stories

The right to adequate housing is enshrined in international human rights law
by NRC, OHCHR, agencies
28 Aug 2018
Troubling trend sees evictions in Somalia double, reports the Norwegian Refugee Council
Over 204,000 people were forcibly removed from their homes this year, nearly double the same period last year, with many people made homeless multiple times.
"Tens of thousands of people who fled drought and violence are being forced from their homes again, only this time from forced evictions. Many of these families were forced to leave with little or no notice. Some have been evicted multiple times, without due process. This is unjust, and violates their rights," said Evelyn Aero, from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
Last year''s drought and conflict, plus flooding this April, led to a massive migration to urban areas. But the shelter situation was already critical, with limited public land available to establish new settlements. Many people who ended up as squatters on public or private land have been evicted in Mogadishu due to a building boom. Displaced families who occupy dilapidated public buildings also risk being forcefully evicted, as many are being rebuilt. Most evictions are done without due process, including without prior notice.
Over 204,000 people were evicted between January and July, almost double the 122,000 evicted over the same period last year, according to the Housing Land Property Sub-Cluster of Somalia. This surpassed the total evicted for all of 2017.
Fadumo Noor, a pregnant mother of four, endured four evictions from Mogadishu settlements. "This is the worst eviction I ever faced. I was at my uncle''s funeral when my family was being evicted. I came home and saw all my children outside, holding pieces of our shelter and belongings. We weren''t given any prior warning."
Similarly, Halimo Sidow''s family had no time to pack up before leaving: "I faced evictions twice before, however we expected those. This one was unexpected and it''s very difficult to come to terms with. I wasn''t home when the eviction took place, I came back to see my children on the street." Halimo a farmer with eight children in Mogadishu, had fled drought in Lower Shabelle.
"The Somali authorities and landowners must protect citizens rights to adequate shelter and housing. Displaced families should not be forced from their shelters with nowhere to go. They should follow due process, and be given sufficient advance notice to relocate with dignity. These families must be resettled to locations where they can access decent shelter and humanitarian aid. We also urge international donors to increase shelter and housing funding, so more displaced families will have secure homes," said NRC''s Aero.
While the government has taken note of the crisis and taken steps to address this problem, more efforts are needed. These include developing policies and laws on land, improving access to land for displaced families, and strengthening protection for people displaced.
26 July 2018
Kenya: Stop forced evictions from Nairobi’s Kibera settlement, say UN rights experts.
UN human rights experts have condemned the massive eviction of residents of the Kibera informal settlement in southwest Nairobi, and are urging the Kenyan authorities to halt all mass evictions until adequate legal and procedural safeguards are in place.
The Government has bulldozed hundreds of houses and destroyed at least five schools. The eviction operation which started in the early hours of 23 July 2018 is expected to leave more than 30,000 people homeless. It has already left about 2,000 children without schooling.
“The destruction of houses, schools and a place of worship in one of the poorest communities of Kenya flies in the face of commitments made by the Government to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals” said Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.
The evictions were carried out in spite of an earlier agreement – between the Kenya Urban Roads Authority, the National Land Commission and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights – that would have set in motion a resettlement and compensation process in compliance with human rights.
“These evictions were started without adequate notice, and with no arrangements for resettlement and compensation in place. Residents watched their homes and schools being bulldozed, and later searched for their belongings and school books in the rubble of destroyed buildings. Many had nowhere to go and were forced to spend their night in the open during the East African winter,” Ms Farha added.
“Forced evictions constitute a gross violation of human rights, as they affect the human rights to adequate housing, food, water, health, education and work. In this case, the eviction even infringes a judicial injunction not to evict Kibera residents, and casts doubt on whether mandatory safeguards provided under the Kenya Lands Law and a national law to protect people forced to leave their homes were adhered to.
“Under international human rights standards, all those evicted, irrespective of whether they hold title to their property, should be entitled to compensation for the loss, salvage and transport of their properties,” Ms Farha stressed.
The demolitions have taken place to allow for the construction of a public road.
“Even if the project was justified for the public good, the human rights of all affected people should be respected,” noted Dante Pesce, the Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
“Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Government has an obligation to protect against business-related human rights abuse, and business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights, including identifying, preventing, mitigating and accounting for how they address adverse human rights impacts caused by them.
“This would have required a proper consultation with the affected communities, an in-depth assessment of the impacts, including through the collection of data to assess how many residents and properties would be affected, and an official resettlement action plan with adequate compensation. But, as these requirements have been lacking, this action does not meet the expectations under international human rights standards,” Mr. Pesce made clear.
“The Kenyan authorities must halt all ongoing demolitions and destruction of people’s homes in Kibera. They should also take all necessary steps to guarantee the rights to adequate housing and to education through a participatory process with affected individuals where compensation, resettlement and reintegration of children in school facilities are addressed,” the UN experts said.
The experts urged the Government to adopt laws requiring appropriate consultation, resettlement and compensation for development-based evictions in line with international human rights standards as recommended by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
July 2018
Hungary: UN expert expresses outrage at attempt to criminalise homelessness.
Hungary’s move to make homelessness a crime is cruel and incompatible with international human rights law, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing said.
In an letter sent to the Government of Hungary, Leilani Farha said that the Government’s proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary is pushing homeless people into illegality. The proposed amendment would render illegal living in a public space.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Government would fail to discharge its duty under international human rights law to address and prevent homelessness and then have the audacity to treat the homeless population in the harshest of ways through fines they obviously cannot pay and the threat of imprisonment. And what is this “crime” they have committed? Merely trying to survive.”
There are currently about 50,000 people in Hungary living in a situation of homelessness, one third of them are estimated to sleep rough while about two thirds are living in emergency shelters. It is reported that there are insufficient emergency shelters to accommodate the entire homeless population in Hungary and that shelters do not conform with either short or long-term housing needs.
The proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary is one in a long line of legislative moves aimed at controlling and eliminating the homeless population in Hungary, comprised predominantly of people living in poverty, persons with disabilities, refugees and migrants, and Roma.
In November 2012, the Constitutional Court of Hungary deemed such laws unconstitutional. In response, the Fundamental Law of Hungary was amended in April 2013 to again provide authorisation to local governments to penalise the use of public space for habitual residence. And the latest amendment sent to Parliament on 14 June 2018 would make living in a public space generally illegal.
“Should the constitutional amendment be passed, Hungary would not only violate the right to adequate housing as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights,” said the Special Rapporteur.
“Removing homeless people from public space by force without providing sufficient short and long term accommodation, and subjecting them to fines or imprisonment may also constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in contravention of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” underlined the expert.
“I therefore urge the Members of Parliament not to adopt an amendment of the Fundamental Law of Hungary that is obviously incompatible with human rights law,” said the expert.
Ms. Farha recalled that Hungary has committed itself to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes ending homelessness by ensuring by 2030, access for all to adequate, secure and affordable housing.
“Instead of further criminalising homeless people in contravention of international human rights standards, Hungary should concentrate its efforts on adopting a rights based national housing strategy aimed at eliminating homelessness by 2030 in conformity with its international commitments and its human rights obligations,” concluded Farha.
July 2018
Ukraine: Forced evictions of Roma people triggered by the destruction and burning of homes are a gross violation of human rights and must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted. (OHCHR)
Ukraine must take immediate action to stop what amounts to a “systematic persecution” of the country’s Roma minority, who have been targeted in a series of violent attacks, says a group of UN human rights experts.
“We unequivocally condemn these heinous acts of intimidation and violence against members of the Roma minority in Ukraine. We are also seriously concerned at the growing hatred and racially-motivated violence against this community – and in particular against its most vulnerable members, women and children,” the UN experts said.
The attacks began in April 2018, and were allegedly perpetrated by members of extreme right-wing groups. The targets included women and children who were attacked in different regions of the country, including the capital Kyiv, as well as in Kharkiv, Ternopil and Lviv.
Roma settlements were set on fire and residents intimidated, assaulted, and forced to leave their homes. It’s reported that the perpetrators were members of extreme right-wing groups.
In the village of Velyka Berezovytsia in Ternopil, shots were fired at Roma residents who were also intimidated and assaulted. The majority of those present at the time were children.
“These attacks demonstrate a disturbing pattern of systematic persecution of Roma in Ukraine, compounded by rising hate speech and stigmatization, which appears to be nurtured by the current political and economic situation in the country,” the UN experts said.
“We deplore the absence of effective measures to protect members of the Roma minority against such actions by the Ukrainian authorities, and in particular by the national and local police. We are also concerned to hear allegations of a prevailing climate of impunity and lack of accountability with no prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of such criminal acts,” the experts stressed.
“It is important that such hate and racially-motivated crimes are effectively prosecuted, with the additional aggravated grounds of ‘racial, national or religious enmity or hostility’ taken into account, instead of being merely considered as ‘hooliganism’.
“Forced evictions triggered by the destruction and burning of homes are a gross violation of human rights and must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted”, the experts added.
The UN experts note that the Minister of Interior, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Ukrainian Parliament and the Ombudsperson have publically denounced the attacks.
“We urge the Ukrainian authorities to take all appropriate measures to comply with their international human rights obligations, including with regard to the protection of the rights of individuals belonging to national, ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities. They must investigate all attacks against the Roma minority, and provide remedies for all damages, including adequate compensation for victims.
Those who lost their homes and property during the attacks need to be provided with safe and secure alternative housing by the authorities, until adequate compensation is provided. In our view, coordinated and sustained actions are necessary to prevent such attacks, ensure justice, and end impunity.”

Visit the related web page

Government can be a powerful force for good - but only when it works for the people
by Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator for Massachusetts
21 Aug. 2018
Senator Elizabeth Warren offers a plan to help End Corruption in Washington.
"These reforms have a simple aim: to take power in Washington away from the wealthy, the powerful, and the well-connected who have corrupted our government and put power back in the hands of the American people."
United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered a major address at the National Press Club to lay out her policy solutions that would fundamentally change the way Washington does business and restore the American public''s faith in democracy. In her remarks, Senator Warren unveils her anti-corruption legislation, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, to eliminate the influence of money in the federal government and ensure that it works for American families.
The legislation contains six big ideas:
1. Padlock the Revolving Door and Increase Public Integrity by eliminating both the appearance and the potential for financial conflicts of interest; banning Members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, federal judges, and other senior government officials from owning and trading individual stock; locking the government-to-lobbying revolving door; and eliminating "golden parachutes".
2. End Lobbying as We Know It by exposing all influence-peddling in Washington; banning foreign lobbying; banning lobbyists from donating to candidates and Members of Congress; strengthening congressional independence from lobbyists; and instituting a lifetime ban on lobbying by former Members of Congress, Presidents, and agency heads.
3. End Corporate Capture of Public Interest Rules by requiring disclosure of funding or editorial conflicts of interest in rulemaking comments and studies; closing loopholes corporations exploit to tilt the rules in their favor and against the public interest; protecting agencies from corporate capture; establishing a new Office of Public Advocate to advocate for the public interest in the rulemaking process; and giving agencies the tools to implement strong rules that protect the public.
4. Improve Judicial Integrity and Defend Access to Justice for All Americans by enhancing the integrity of the judicial branch; requiring the Supreme Court follow the ethics rules for all other federal judges; boosting the transparency of federal appellate courts through livestreaming audio of proceedings; and encouraging diversity on the federal bench.
5. Strengthen Enforcement of Anti-Corruption, Ethics, and Public Integrity Laws by creating a new, independent anti-corruption agency dedicated to enforcing federal ethics laws and by expanding an independent and empowered Congressional ethics office insulated from Congressional politics.
6. Boost Transparency in Government and Fix Federal Open Records Laws by requiring elected officials and candidates for federal office to disclose more financial and tax information; increasing disclosure of corporate money behind Washington lobbying; closing loopholes in federal open records laws; making federal contractors - including private prisons and immigration detention centers - comply with federal open records laws; and making Congress more transparent..
Corruption in the USA: The difference a year makes. public opinion survey compares 2017 with 2016. (Transparency International)
The US faces a wide range of domestic challenges related to the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, which is Transparency International’s definition of corruption.
Key issues include the influence of wealthy individuals over government; “pay to play” politics and the revolving doors between elected government office, for-profit companies, and professional associations; and the abuse of the US financial system by corrupt foreign kleptocrats and local elites.
The current US president was elected on a promise of cleaning up American politics and making government work better for those who feel their interests have been neglected by political elites.
Yet, rather than feeling better about progress in the fight against corruption over the past year, a clear majority of people in America now say that things have become worse. Nearly six in ten people now say that the level of corruption has risen in the past twelve months, up from around a third who said the same in January 2016.
A survey by Transparency International, the US Corruption Barometer 2017, was carried out in October and November 2017. It shows that the US government and some key institutions of power still have a long way to go to win back citizens’ trust.
The results show: 44 per cent of Americans believe that corruption is pervasive in the White House, up from 36 per cent in 2016. Almost 7 out of 10 people believe the government is failing to fight corruption, up from half in 2016. Close to a third of African-Americans surveyed see the police as highly corrupt, compared to a fifth across the survey overall.
55 per cent gave fear of retaliation as the main reason not to report corruption, up from 31 per cent in 2016. 74 per cent said ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.
Office of the President seen as most corrupt
The survey asked about the degree of corruption in nine influential groups. These included the national government (the president’s office, members of congress, government officials), public officials who work at the service level (tax officials, the police, judges, local officials), and those who are not part of government but who often wield strong influence (business executives, religious leaders).
Of these categories, government institutions and officials in Washington are perceived to be the most corrupt in the country. The results show that 44 per cent of Americans now say that most or all of those in the Office of the President are corrupt, up from 36 per cent who said the same last year.
Additionally, many people hold an unfavourable view of big business. Almost a third of people in the United States think that most or all business executives are corrupt.
In comparison, judges are seen to be the cleanest, with just 16 per cent thinking that they are highly corrupt.
A higher proportion of African-Americans surveyed view the police as highly corrupt: 31 per cent, versus an average of 20 per cent across all those surveyed.
Weaker government efforts to stop corruption
The findings also reveal that people are now more critical of government efforts to fight corruption. From just over half in 2016, nearly seven in ten people in the United States now say that the government is doing a bad job at combatting corruption within its own institutions – this is despite widespread commitments to clean up government.
Voting still the most effective action people can take
At the same time, the survey reveals that despite increased concerns about the level of corruption, many people feel empowered to make a difference, demonstrating that citizens can engage with the issue.
When we asked what actions would be most effective at fighting corruption, using the ballot box came out top. Twenty-eight per cent said that voting for a clean candidate or a party committed to fighting corruption is the most effective thing they could do. However, this figure has declined from 34 per cent in 2016.
There has been a slight increase in the proportion of people saying that some form of direct action away from the ballot box would be most effective – speaking out on social media, joining a protest march, joining an anti-corruption organisation, signing a petition, talking to friends or relatives, or boycotting a business. Collectively, a quarter of people in the United States now think these are the most effective things they can do, up from 17 per cent in 2016.
A further 21 per cent said that reporting corruption was the most effective solution.
Fear of retaliation prevents more people from reporting corruption.
In reality, however, many people don’t come forward to report corruption when they see or experience it. When we asked why that might be, Americans now overwhelmingly say it is because they are afraid of suffering retaliation as a result. Over half of people (55 per cent) cited this as the main reason more people don’t come forward: a substantial increase since 2016, when only 31 per cent said the same.
Americans have expressed their frustration with Washington and its elected officials in myriad ways. Yet there are things that can be done to ensure that institutions are clean and that taxpayer dollars are spent in alignment with the public''s concerns and not just with special corporate and elite interests.
Transparency International calls on the US Government to address the following:
Transparency in political spending: Make all spending on politics genuinely transparent, with: real-time information accessible in online, machine-readable form to the public; transparency on political spending by publicly traded companies; transparency to the public on every level of influence, from political ad campaigns, to lobbying, to bundled campaign contributions.
Prevention of revolving doors: Stop the unchecked exchange of personnel among corporations, lobbyists and our elected and high-level government officials.
Establishing who owns what: End the use of anonymous shell companies, which can be a source of conflict of interest and/or vehicles for illicit activity.
Strengthening the ethics infrastructure: Reinforce the independence and oversight capabilities of the Office of Government Ethics.
Protection of whistleblowers: Improve and implement laws and regulations to protect the whistleblowers who expose corruption and other misconduct by the government and its contractors.
Providing basic access to information: Increase access to information about the government, as a means to empower the public to fight corruption.
Transparency International has highlighted how corruption and inequality can create fertile ground for populist leaders, but that such populist politics do little to actually stop corruption. The findings of the US Corruption Barometer 2017 reinforce this message. America needs actions – not just words – towards a cleaner and more open government.

Visit the related web page

View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook