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UN expert urges World Bank to increase protection and promotion of the right to adequate housing

GENEVA (6 March 2013) – United Nations independent expert Raquel Rolnik, today urged the World Bank to take into account all aspects of the right to adequate housing when revising its safeguard policies. The Bank is currently undergoing a two-year consultative process to review and update its environmental and social safeguard policies.

“As Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, I have witnessed the crucial impact the safeguards policies have on the right to adequate housing of people affected by Bank-financed projects,” Ms. Rolnik told the Human Rights Council during the presentation of a comprehensive report* on the compatibility of the current World Bank’s safeguards system with the right to adequate housing.

“When safeguards fail to address crucial aspects of the right to adequate housing, or are not adhered to in design or implementation, projects may result in forced evictions, displacement, involuntary resettlement and a general deterioration in standards of living of communities,” she noted. “At any given time, involuntary resettlement triggered by active Bank-financed projects affects over 1 million people, two-fifths of which are likely to be physically displaced.”

Ms. Rolnik commended the Bank for being the first international financial institution to develop a safeguard on involuntary resettlement, which later served as a model to other international and regional financial institutions.

In light of the Bank’s current review of safeguards, the independent human rights expert focused her mission report to the World Bank on these issues, and also submitted her suggestions and recommendations to the review process.

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the commitment by World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, at the October 2012 Annual General Meeting in Tokyo not to dilute the Bank’s safeguard policies in the review process. However, Ms. Rolnik called on the World Bank to take a bolder stand, and to seize this opportunity to raise the bar of protection and bring its safeguard policies into line with international human rights standards and obligations in a comprehensive manner.

In her report, the Special Rapporteur makes a number of suggestions on ways in which the Bank’s current policy and practice with regard to involuntary resettlements could be improved, such as a more robust commitment to participation and the inclusion of independent assistance for affected communities.

She also recommends that impact assessments on the right to adequate housing should be in place prior, during and after the implementation of new financing instruments such as Development Policy Loans and Program for Results Financing and better linkages should be in place between analysis and operations design.

Ms. Raquel Rolnik (Brazil) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2008. Ms. Rolnik is an architect and urban planner with extensive experience in the area of housing and urban policies. Learn more, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/housing/index.htm

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to the World Bank: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.46.Add.3_English.pdf

Check the World Bank safeguard review process: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/PROJECTS/EXTPOLICIES/EXTSAFEPOL/0,,contentMDK:23275156~pagePK:64168445~piPK:64168309~theSitePK:584435,00.html

For more information and media requests, please contact Lidia Rabinovich (+41 22 917 9763 / lrabinovich@ohchr.org) or write to srhousing@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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