“Human Rights and Struggles over Habitat, land and Environment”
HIC-HLRN, with Mazingira Institute, BEACON, Entishar Charitable Society and other HIC members, joined the group of local and global civil society organizations, including APRODEV partners and international human rights networks, to revitalize the “Human Rights Caucus” within the World Social Forum (WSF) to ensure the space for human rights issues, values and methods within WSF with the greatest possible engagement, visibility, effectiveness and pedagogical effect. The cooperating organizations proposed to achieve this strategically through both deliberative and skill-building activities within the Forum. To ensure success within the context of the first global WSF in Africa, the group formed the core of the “Human Dignity and Human Rights” Caucus (HDHRC) to incorporate lessons of past Forums, not least the positive and negative experiences of the recent polycentric experiment, as well as the Mumbai and Porto Alegre WSF achievements in advancing the human rights agenda.
To ensure the greatest relevance to the WSF participants, the HDHRC designed a framework to address struggles prominent within WSF, keeping in mind African priorities. Organising issues and priorities within the three full program days of WSF 2007, six major themes emerged:
- Human rights, faith and cultural diversity
- Human rights and struggles for social and economic justice
- Human rights and struggles for gender equity
- Human rights and struggles over habitat, land and environment
- Human rights and mobility and the citizenship gap
- Human rights and conflict, militarization and culture of impunity.
Under the six broad themes, the organizers also provided rapporteurs to record the global-local human rights movement’s “contentions, actions and connections,” reporting back to participants on the fourth day and leaving a written reference for future networking and collaboration to build on the various WSF 2007.
A large central tent was the site of the deliberations characterizing the global struggles on each theme. The surrounding events organized through the Caucus reflected the local struggles and specific strategies for advancing respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights.
HLRN was a co-organizer—with Food First Information & Action Network (FIAN) and Settlement Informational Network Africa (SINA)—and active participant in the “Human Rights and Struggles over Habitat, Land and Environment” theme.
At the conclusion of the WSF, rapporteurs Sophia Monsalve (FIAN), Mobola Fajemirokun (Development Initiatives Network, Nigeria) drew out the key human rights struggles/issues that have emerged from HDHRC events:
- Decline in the supply or outright disposal of publicly owned land or housing stock through privatization, This refers to the process of transforming public corporations into shareholder-owned companies and the subsequent sale by the new owners of the company"s land or housing stock at a considerable price increase.
- The adoption of neoliberal economic or fiscal policies that result in governments preferring to grant subsidies on housing rents for privately owned properties, rather than providing social housing for low-income groups.
- Commodification of agricultural land or water, when policy or legal reforms compel exodus from land used for farming due to tenant farmers’ inability to pay high land rents, or when evictions accompany debt-recovery actions craven by private interests, including the privatization of social good such as water and land.
- Post-tsunami reconstruction and land use in affected coastal states of Asia. This refers to the forced movement of affected communities further inland and the change in former communities’ land use when lands are turned over to private investors (e.g., for tourism purposes).
- High population growth and forced evictions in urban centres as part of renewal or beautification schemes, or in connection with the restoration of urban master plans. In some cases, the land involved may be sold off to private investors. The evicted persons are generally not resettled or provided with adequate compensation for the loss of their homes and/or livelihoods.
- Infrastructure projects with detrimental environmental impacts, for example, dams, power plants, etc., that international financial institutions fund and promote in developing countries.
- Marginalization and/or exclusion of indigenous peoples and pastoralists through the denial of their collective land rights.
- International trade activities in arms and diamonds (supporting occupation of Palestinian land), and mining and other extractive industries (generally) cerate land destruction and loss and environmental degradation on a grand scale.
The HDHRC concluded its events with the following proposals arising from the deliberations under the “Human Rights and Struggles over Habitat, Land and Environment” theme:
1. Addressing land problem in the Mochongos settlement and evictions in Lake Bogoria (Kenya)
Proposed by: Center for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance, Endoross Welfare Council and Kenyan Human Rights Commission
Description: The group should work for correct implementation of the settlement scheme. The Endoross community should benefit because they were neglected in the past. The government should also give legal rights to the community concerning the land issue.
2. Taking public-interest law initatives: Advocacy, policies and actions
Proposed by: HIC-HLRN, Development Initiatives Network and other HDHRC members
Description: Support fact-finding missions, exchange and networking, litigation, visits, sharing of experiences, outcomes from public interest litigation and enlightenment programs on the emerging regional human rights institutions.
3. Parallel reporting to UN human rights treaty bodies and other mechanisms
Proposed by : HIC-HLRN, FIAN and others.
Description: Hold States accountable to their obligations under treaties to respect, protect and fulfill the Human rights to adequate housing and land, as well as the right to feed oneself/right to food, and related rights. Toward that end, provide training and curricula for civil organizations to present their cases before treaty bodies as well as to other special mechanisms (e.g., special rapporteurs) of the UN human rights system.
4. Incorporate government and local authorities
Proposed by: City Council of Nairobi and other HDHRC members
Description: Land is a right of every human being of any country, and the governments and local authorities should be on the front line to solve the problems on land matters. As one cannot own a land without good governance and accountability, it is proposed that civil society work promoting housing and land rights engage with local authorities to develop human rights-based solutions.
5. Landmine action
Proposed by Environmental and Landmine Rehabilitation and Orphanage Service and other HDHRC members
Description: A task force for grassroots organizations for organizing such CBOs and struggling for education and advocacy.
6. Launch Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform in Africa
Proposed by: La Via Campesina, FIAN International and Land Research and Action Network
Description: the main objectives are to support local and national struggles to protect land rights of rural communities from the international level.
7. International task force for human rights organisations.
Proposed by : Somali Human Rights Organisation
Description: As the globe now operates like a one village, we propose a global umbrella to link all human rights organizations.
8. Education and training to the right to the city
Proposed by: Brazilian Forum of Urban Reform, Action Aid/Brazil, COHRE Americas and Institute for Social Policy
Description: To provide education material and training programs to capacitize social groups and organizations about the right to the city.
9. Recognising women’s rights to adequate housing, land, property and inheritance
Proposed by: Housing and Land Rights Network and others
Description: the objectives are to:
§ integrate the demand for women’s rights to adequate housing, land, property and inheritance in all actions on International women’s day (8 March) around the world.
§ launch national campaigns for reforms of law that discriminate & deny to women the right to own and inherit land.
§ conduct human rights education & training on women’s rights to housing & land.
10. Conduct joint fact-finding missions on land/habitat issues
Proposed by: HIC-HLRN and FIAN international
Description: to gain first hand information, develop networking and demonstrate practical solidarity with local struggles for advocacy and human rights problem solving in cases where housing am d land rights are violated.
11. Documentation for solidarity and resistance to housing and land rights violations
Proposed by: HIC-HLRN and other HDHRC members
Description: Two specific tools for documentation:
§ urgent action appeals, using housing & land rights network methodology, soliciting solidarity actions such as protest letters, and interventions before embassies of violating countries in various capitals.
§ documenting and mapping violations (evictions, demolitions, dispossession, deprivation arising from privatization) on violations database (www.hlrn.org )
12. Joint protest in G8 Summit to stop MNCs violating small farmers’ land rights
Proposed by: Church of North India, Synodical Board of Social Services
Description: Land in India has been under MNC pressure, causing courts to interpret laws so as to evict small farmers. People’s organizations have taken up these issues, but the solutions they deliver are temporary. For more-enduring impact, we believe that the solution lies in also addressing the powerful governments where the MNCs originate, which includes protecting before G8 meeting, as well as pressuring locally to stop forceful eviction of land.
In addition, from the other thematic events within the HDHRC came the following related proposals:
1. Human Rights and conflict, militarization and culture of impunity
Task Force on Human Rights in conflict, occupation and war
Proposed by: Entishar Charity Society (Sudan).
Description: The Task Force would involve international human rights organizations as well as grass-roots. The objective would be to raise information on conflicts and promoting judicial actions based on two principles:
§ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
§ the denunciation of double-standards.
2. Human rights and Mobility and Citizenship Challenges
Human Rights, migration & citizenship gap proposals.
Proposed by: Mazingira Institute et Lutheran World Federation
§ Address mechanisms used by governments to create citizenship gaps & challenge the exclusion and discrimination.
§ Address the problems through solidarity and networking
§ Provide strategies for integration as an option for refugees.
3. Human rights and Mobility and Citizenship Challenges
Global mobilisation against walls and for immigrant rights
Proposed by: Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo, Observatorio de Empresas Transnacionales and FIDH
Description: Wealthy countries are constructing walls against immigrants. This is the case in the Mexico/US frontier, in Palestine, in Europe. We propose a mobilization against walls and for an integration of peoples.