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London market closure plan threatens “dynamic cultural centre” - UN rights experts

GENEVA (27 July 2017) – Plans to close a London market as part of a gentrification project represent a threat to cultural life, a group of United Nations human rights experts* has warned today.

Seven Sisters Indoor Market in the London Borough of Haringey faces closure under the redevelopment plans, and the UK authorities should be mindful of the consequences on the economic, social and cultural rights of the people living and working in the market, the experts say.

“If granted, the Compulsory Purchase Order under review would result in the expulsion of the current residents and shop owners from the place where they live and earn their livelihoods, and would have a deleterious impact on the dynamic cultural life of the diverse people in the area,” the experts added.

The market comprises around 120 small shops, most of them family-run and with a few employees. “More than 55% of the business owners are of Latin American or Hispanic origin or descent, with the remaining portion representing 21 different origins,” they said.

“The regeneration project would force their activities to stop or relocate. This has a disproportionate impact on people belonging to minorities and their right to equal participation in economic, social and cultural rights,” the experts added.

Also called the “Latin village”, the market is a renowned space for social and cultural interactions among the shop owners and their families, the people of the area and the wider Latin American London community. It operates in effect as a cultural centre, regularly hosting cultural activities and providing space for intercultural gatherings, and is particularly important for women.

“The market provides a dynamic cultural space, inclusive of people from a diversity of places and from different generations, that is a great example of London’s cultural diversity,” they noted.

“The destruction of the market and scattering of the small businesses to other premises would not only seriously affect the economic situation of the people working there, but it would also make this cultural life simply disappear.”

Since 2008, local residents and shop owners have been part of a legal battle to preserve the market and the area, challenging planning applications, organizing protests and raising awareness about the importance of the site.

“We are concerned that, despite the continuous engagement of the civil society coalition around this site, no suitable alternative to expulsion and the destruction of the market has been identified or meaningfully discussed with the affected people,” the experts said.

The experts also noted that, according to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the private investment firms involved in the regeneration project –which have been contacted by the experts- should conduct effective human rights due diligence in meaningful consultation with affected individuals and groups.

“In addition to the duty of State to protect individuals from violations of their human rights by third parties, all business enterprises have an independent responsibility to respect all internationally recognized human rights and address adverse human rights impacts,” the experts concluded.

The group of UN human rights experts has been in contact with the Government of the United Kingdom regarding their concerns.

(*) The experts: Ms. Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Mr. Surya Deva, current Chairperson of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights; and Ms. Rita Izsak-Ndiaye, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Human Rights Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work

UN Human Rights, country page: United Kingdom

For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms. Johanne Bouchard (+41 22 91 79 630 / jbouchard@ohchr.org) or write to srculturalrights@ohchr.org

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

You can access this news release online    

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