World Habitat Day, Monday 3 October 2011
GENEVA (3 October 2011) – “Not much to celebrate on World Habitat Day, when close to a third of the global population continues to live in slums and unplanned settlements, often located in areas exposed to serious environmental risks and hazards,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on Housing, Raquel Rolnik, and on Internally Displaced Persons, Chaloka Beyani.
“There is a dangerous combination of rapid urbanization, much of it to precarious, unplanned areas, and an increased frequency and intensity of climate change-induced disasters. This will likely affect many societies in a profound way,” warned the UN experts. “States and the international community can no longer afford to ignore the specific vulnerabilities of informal settlers to climate change-induced disasters, and the increasing risks they face.”
“Many poor urban populations live on sites unsuitable for housing, like mountain slopes, areas prone to flooding, sea surges or other environmental and weather-related risks,” they said on World Habitat Day, focused this year on ‘Climate Change and the Cities’. “Such locations are left to the poorest, who do not have access to other, safer, places.”
“Disasters magnify and deepen inequalities,” stressed the Special Rapporteurs. “People living in informal settlements are particularly affected by climate change induced disasters. After a disaster, they are more exposed to eviction and land grabbing as they lack legal protection and their rights to tenure are not recognized.”
Disasters also highlight the inadequate housing conditions and the precariousness of informal settlements. “From a human rights perspective, it is crucial to upgrade settlements and their grossly inadequate living conditions as part of disaster prevention and response”, said the UN experts.
Another worrying trend is the erosion of livelihoods, in part provoked by climate change, which is a key ‘push’ factor for the increase in rural to urban migration. “In situations of internal displacement, rapid assistance and protection is also necessary to prevent internally displaced persons from simply disappearing into urban slums and informal settlements”, they noted.
“In observing World Habitat Day this year, we call on States and international agencies to recognize informal settlements and the human rights of their inhabitants, and to address their unique needs and vulnerabilities as an integral and indispensable part of disaster risk reduction and recovery efforts.”
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. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/housing/index.htm
Mr. Chaloka Beyani (Zambia), professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010.
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