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Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal

Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing

Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal (USA) assumed his function 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, on 1 May 2020. He is Professor of Law and Development at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A lawyer by training, he is an expert on many areas of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, the UN system, and the human rights challenges posed by development activities.

He is the founder of the Displacement Research and Action Network at MIT which leads research and engagement with communities, NGOs, and local and national authorities. He has conducted over 20 years of research on social movements and human rights advocacy around the world focusing in particular, on land and property rights, evictions and displacement.

Mr. Rajagopal has a law degree from University of Madras, India, a masters degree in law from the American University as well as an interdisciplinary doctorate in law from Harvard Law School.

Prof. Rajagopal served as a human rights advisor to the World Commission on Dams and has advised numerous governments and UN agencies on human rights issues. During the 1990s he worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia where he was responsible for human rights monitoring, investigation, education and advocacy, and provided support to national authorities in law drafting. 

He has held visiting professorships and fellowships at many prestigious institutions around the world. He has delivered numerous distinguished lectures and keynote speeches, such as:

  • “International Courts and Second and Third Generation Human Rights” at the Brandeis Institute for International Judges
  • “Rethinking the Right to Development: Challenges and Opportunities” at the 3nd Inter-American Conference on Human Rights, Bogota, Colombia
  • “ Right to housing: Comparative perspectives” at the Human Rights Law Resource Center, Melbourne, Australia
  • Special lectures at the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica
  • Rechtskulturen Lecture at the Institute for Advanced Study/Wissenschaftskolleg zu, Berlin, Germany
  • Valerie Gordon Human Rights Lecture at the Northeastern University School of Law
  • Annual Hansen/Hostler Distinguished Lecture on Global Justice at San Diego State University
  • Annual New Frontiers Lecture at the Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies
  • keynote speeches at various conferences, including the joint annual conference of the Australian and New Zealand Societies of International Law

Prof. Rajagopal has published numerous scholarly articles, and book chapters and is the author/editor of three books. He has also led or contributed to field and research reports on evictions, displacement, housing and related human rights and development policy issues. He has published widely in the media on human rights, international law and issues concerning the South including in the Boston Globe, the Hindu, the Wire, Washington Post, the Indian Express, El Universal, the Nation, and the

Former mandate holders

Ms. Leilani FARHA (Canada)

Ms. Raquel ROLNIK (Brazil)

Mr. Miloon KOTHARI (India)