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Right to adequate housing in Kazakhstan: challenges and ways forward

ASTANA (13 September 2010) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, warned about the high rate of forced evictions carried out in Kazakhstan to give way to large-scale development projects aimed at promoting economic and social development.

“Forced evictions can only be justified in the most exceptional of circumstances, and in accordance with the relevant principles and procedures established under international human rights law,” said Ms. Rolnik at the end of her official visit to Kazakhstan to gather first-hand information on the status of the realisation of the right to adequate housing in the country.

The UN independent expert noted that “since independence, Kazakhstan has been making enormous efforts to promote economic and social development.” An important component of this strategy has been the promotion of urban renewal and city beautification programmes, which include the construction of what has been described as a modern, world-class capital city.

The Government has made significant efforts to create an enabling environment for private construction companies, commercial banks and financial institutions. It has also promoted access to mortgage-based credit with a view to facilitating access to adequate housing for its citizens.

The realisation of large-scale development projects has attracted a large number of individuals and families from the poorest areas of Kazakhstan as well as from abroad in search of employment opportunities and a better standard of living. However, it has also resulted in many people being deprived of their homes and land. “I am extremely concerned about the high rate of forced evictions carried out in the country,” Ms. Rolnik said.

The Special Rapporteur also noted that when the financial crisis hit the country, many households were evicted as a result of their inability to pay back their mortgages, while others were deceived by private construction companies who were unable to complete the work.

“I cannot but note the efforts the Government has made for the completion of constructions which had been slowed down or halted as a result of the crisis,” the Special Rapporteur said. “Nevertheless, many families are still waiting for their homes, and I encourage the Government to strengthen its efforts to find a long-term solution for affected households.”

Ms. Rolnik encouraged the reinforcement of a constructive and open dialogue between the Government, NGOs and affected households on access to adequate housing. “This would be the most tangible positive effect of my visit,” the UN independent expert said.

The Special Rapporteur will present a report on her mission containing her findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council next March.

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. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. An architect and urban planner, Rolnik has extensive experience in the area of housing and urban policies.

For further information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, please visit the website: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/HousingIndex.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Kazakhstan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/KZIndex.aspx