Situation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of People Living in Urban Shantytowns in the Americas

Petitioners listen to the
Commissioners’ opening remarks 
(courtesy of the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights)

José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Rosa María Ortiz, Tracy Robinson, Paulo
Vannuchi, Emilio Alvarez Icaza Longoria

PetitionersCentro de
Estudios Legales y Sociales
Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ), Coalición
Internacional del Hábitat
 (HIC-AL), El Barzón
, Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres
(CEDEHM), Centro de Estudios y Promoción del
 (DESCO), Centro Operacional de Vivienda y Poblamiento (COPEVI), Consultoría Especializada en
Justiciabilidad de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (CEJUDESC), Centro de Estudios Urbanos y Regionales de Argentina (CEUR), Centro de
Intercambios y Servicios Cono Sur
(CISCSA), Centro de
Investigación, Documentación y Asesoría Poblacional
(CIDAP), Defensoría del
Derecho a la Salud, Centro de Capacitación en Ecología y Salud
Espacio de
Coordinación de Organizaciones Civiles sobre Derechos Económicos, Sociales y
Federación de
Asociaciones para el Desarrollo del Hábitat Popular
 (FODHAP), Federación Uruguaya de
Cooperativas de Vivienda por Ayuda Mutua (FUCVAM), Foro Nacional de Reforma
Urbana (FNRU) / FUNDAR Centro de Análisis e Investigación / Grupo de Estudios
sobre Educación en Cárceles (GESEC), Instituto Brasilero de Derecho Urbanístico
(IBDU), Instituto Polis,Observatorio de
Fenómenos Urbanos y Territoriales – Facultad de Arquitectura y
Urbanismo- Universidad Nacional de Tucumán
Servicios Jurídicos y Sociales
, Red Hábitat, Red Mujer y Hábitat América LatinaSUR-Corporación de Estudios Sociales
y Educación
,Terra de Direitos, Unión
Popular Revolucionaria Emiliano Zapata (UPREZ)

before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported on the situation
of economic, social, and cultural rights of people living in urban shantytowns
in Latin America. Petitioners began with some background statistics. For
instance, the Petitioners estimated that around 80% of Latin Americans live in
cities. Of these city dwellers, 180 million individuals are impoverished and
125 million people live in shantytowns. The Petitioners suggested that an
average 2-8% of the GDP of each Latin American nation has been invested in
housing projects without strong results in return. For example, despite this
kind of investment in Mexico, an estimated five million families have abandoned
their homes since 2010.

The Petitioners then had
two individuals speak to current issues facing shantytown inhabitants. The
first speaker was from a barrio named Rodrigo Bueno in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The second speaker was from the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. The
Argentine representative began with a brief history of the barrio: it was
originally a trash dump, but people moved in and created a neighborhood. The
barrio lacks basic municipal services like water, electricity, or sewers,
despite its location across the street from a new luxury development that has all
of these services.

The Mexican representative explained how
the Government housing projects have failed his State. He claimed the main
problem is that housing is treated as a commodity instead of a human right. For
instance, untenable loans cause people to abandon their homes, leading to
approximately 106,000 abandoned homes in the City of Juarez. Finally, the
representative expressed concern about a Governmental movement to transfer the
housing debts from the civil courts to the criminal courts, which he believed
would criminalize poverty.

The Petitioners concluded by asking the
Commission and the States to give these violations of human rights adequate
attention. Additionally, the Petitioners requested that the Commission look
into these issues and examine the role of transnational corporations in the
creation of poverty. Finally, the Petitioners requested a press communiqué to
address these outstanding issues.

In response, Commissioner Vannuchi
expressed a relief that this issue was being brought before the Commission for
the first time and excitement at the prospect of this topic being further
explored. He asked for a full report from the Petitioners so that their studies
could be included when the Commission begins to make its end of the year
proposal to form a special rapporteurship for this issue.

Commissioner Ortiz also thanked the
Petitioners for presenting this topic for the first time. She asked how the
essential right to housing impacted the rights of children and adolescents to
have a family and a nurturing community. She was also curious to know how the
lack of State presence in these shantytowns impacts youth criminal rates.

Commissioner Robinson questioned whether
Petitioners had any information on shantytowns in the Caribbean and North
America. After noting how LGBTQIA individuals are often pushed into these
neighborhoods, the Commissioner wondered if the Petitioners had any information
about how these individuals’ lives are impacted in shantytowns.

Executive Secretary Icaza Longoria asked
about whether any agreements signed between the Coalición Internacional del
Hábitat and some major cities had positively impacted these areas.
Regarding impacts on these areas, Commissioner Orozco expressed concern about
being able to establish benchmarks for future work. In closing, Commissioner
Orozco asked the Petitioners to provide indicators that could be used to
determine whether any progress had been made.