Accommodation remains inaccessible for many people in both developing and developed countries. Many people live and die in the open air. Almost a quarter of the world's urban population lives in slums or overcrowded, uncontrolled settlements. More than 1.8 billion people worldwide live in"poor housing conditions".
This is stated in the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing Leilani Farha, which was discussed today at the session of the UN human rights Council. Speaking to the members of the Council, Leylani Farha stressed that the housing crisis is largely related to the crisis of justice, because people do not have the opportunity to defend their right to housing in court.
According to the Special Rapporteur, millions of people worldwide are homeless as a result of evictions. So, in the USA each year more than 2 million families are forcibly evicted – 4 per minute. Many of them do not have the means to pay for at least a temporary shelter and,even more, to pay for lawyers in order to defend their right in court.
“The time for excuses, justifications and looking the other way when access to justice is denied for the right to housing has long passed,” - said the Special Rapporteur.
“Rampant evictions of those living in informal settlements and encampments, disregard of court orders and the rule of law and criminalisation of people who are homeless suggest one thing: those whose right to housing has been violated have not been recognised and treated as equal members of the human family,” - stressed Leylani Farha.
“As long as States deny access to justice for the right to housing, they perpetuate a hierarchy of human rights, exposing the discriminatory position that some rights (and thus some rights holders) matter more than others.”
In the report, Farha suggests that the global housing crisis is rooted in a crisis in access to justice because without access to justice, housing is not properly recognised, understood or addressed as a human right.
The Special Rapporteur outlined how compliance with the obligation to progressively realise the right to housing should be adjudicated; how forced evictions and criminalisation must be prevented through access to justice and participation in decision-making; how national human rights institutions and informal justice systems should complement the role of courts; and how private actors are required to ensure access to justice not only for direct harms, but also to ensure that investments or development plans are consistent with the realization of the right to housing.