Human Rights Council adopts new resolution on discrimination, racism, women, climate change

The Human Rights Council adopted a new resolution on adequate housing by consensus. The resolution was presented by Germany, Brazil, Finland and Namibia.  Its main focus is on racial discrimination in the context of housing. The resolution endorses several recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing <https://www.ohchr.org/en/special-procedures/sr-housing/right-housing-disast
ers-and-post-conflict-settings
>  in his recent reports on housing discrimination (A/76/408 <http://www.undocs.org/A/76/408> ) and on spatial segregation (A/HRC/49/48 <https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/2022-03/A_HRC_49_48_AdvanceUnedit edVersion.docx> ).  The resolution also covers discrimination of women, endorsing some recommendations made by the former Special Rapporteur on violence against women in her report on integrated services, shelters and restraining orders (A/HRC/35/30 <https://undocs.org/A/HRC/35/30> ). The resolution calls for the strengthening of ombudspersons, national human rights Institutions and equality bodies to address discrimination in housing, including systemic forms of discrimination and for promoting the role of civil society organizations supporting the interests of affected persons.  The Council called again on States to prevent and end homelessness and to eliminate its criminalization. It furthermore includes new text on climate change and on the impact of COVID-19.

Key provision of the Human Rights Council resolution on adequate housing

Discrimination, systemic, structural and institutional racism

In the resolution the Human Rights Council expresses its deep concern about the effects of racial discrimination and of systemic racism, including as it relates to structural and institutional racism, on the enjoyment of human rights for all, including, inter alia, on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and emphasizing in this regard the need to ensure the universal ratification of and the full and effective implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It also encourages States to examine the extent and impact of systemic racism on the enjoyment of all human rights for all, including, inter alia, on the right to adequate housing, and to adopt effective legal, policy and institutional measures that address racism beyond a summation of individualized acts that promote housing choice and economic opportunity and achieve diverse, inclusive, integrated and representative communities, and recommending that progress be
measured according to indicators grounded in impact rather than intent.

The resolution calls in its operative paragraph 2 upon States to ensure equality and non-discrimination when fulfilling the right to adequate housing including by considering:

(a)       Prohibiting all forms of discrimination, in particular racial discrimination as well as racism, in the context of the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living by
public and private entities, including public and private housing and credit providers and home value appraisers, and through technology platforms for credit scoring, tenant screening and mortgage loan applicants, and ensure that housing and anti-discrimination legislation provides sufficiently dissuasive fines or other dissuasive sanctions for housing discrimination and leads to diverse, inclusive communities;

(b)       Regularly monitoring and identifying any forms of systemic discrimination, in particular racial discrimination in relation to housing, including spatial segregation, and adopt special, positive measures and
policies at the local, national and regional levels to eliminate such discrimination, in conformity with international human rights law;

(c)       Establishing accessible and sufficiently resourced non-judicial mechanisms, such as equality bodies, ombudspersons and national human rights institutions, that have the competence to investigate individual and collective complaints of housing discrimination, including systemic forms of housing discrimination and spatial segregation, and that monitor discrimination in relation to housing through age-, disability- and sex-disaggregated statistical analysis, surveys and other means, make recommendations for eliminating housing discrimination and provide legal advice and effective remedies to victims of housing discrimination.

Discrimination of Women and Violence against Women

The Council also expressed its deep concern at the lack of progress regarding discrimination in the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing affecting women, and underlining the need to urgently act to ensure their security of tenure, irrespective of their family or relationship status, their equal access to credit, low-cost housing, mortgages, home ownership and rental housing, including through subsidies, to ensure in situations of domestic violence immediate access to emergency shelters, including through legislative measures, and to guarantee women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all aspects of housing-related policymaking, including housing design and construction, community development and planning, and transportation and infrastructure among others.

It called upon States

(k)       To ensure women’s equal right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living in all aspects of housing strategies, including through equal access to credit, mortgages, home ownership and rental housing, to take the safety of such housing properly into account, especially when women and children face any form of violence or threat of violence, and to undertake legislative and other reforms to realize equal rights for all with respect to property and inheritance;

(l)        To guarantee the full, effective and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of housing-related policymaking, including housing design and construction, community development and planning, and transportation and infrastructure, including women living in informal housing or in camps;

(m)     To undertake additional efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence, both online and offline, including sexual and gender-based violence and domestic violence, especially against women and girls, in compliance with international human rights law, including through the use of restraining orders, the provision of alternative housing, crisis centres, shelters, hotlines and medical, psychological and counselling services.

Homelessness

The Human Rights Council recalls  last year’s first resolution of the General Assembly on the issue of homelessness (A/RES/76/133 <http://www.undocs.org/A/RES/76/133> ) and expresses concern about the
increased risk of homelessness and evictions as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution calls in its operative paragraph 1 (n) on Sates to take all measures necessary to eliminate legislation that
criminalizes homelessness, and to take positive measures with a view to prevent and eliminate homelessness by adopting and implementing laws, administrative orders, cross-sectional strategies and programmes at all levels that are, among others, gender-, age- and disability-responsive and based on international human rights law.

Climate Change

The resolution expresses deep concern that climate change increases the frequency and intensity of both sudden-onset natural disasters and slow-onset events, and that these events have adverse effects on the right to adequate housing and recalls the need to accelerate action on mitigation, enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change, including through resilient urban planning and housing design, and in this regard affirming the need for the continued implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030,  It also recognizes that the consequences of climate change are felt most acutely by those that are already in vulnerable situations or are most sensitive to impacts of climate change, such as children, persons living in informal settlements, people living in least developed countries, small island States and rural and local communities, and indigenous peoples.

In operative paragraph 1 the resolutions calls upon States
·         to take the right to adequate housing into account in strategies for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change;

·         To work with affected communities and individuals to develop and promote environmentally sustainable and sound housing design, construction and maintenance to address the effects of climate change while ensuring the right to adequate housing;

·         To enhance international cooperation and assistance, in particular capacity-building, for mitigation and adaptation measures to assist especially those countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse
effects of climate change, to promote and protect human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing.

COVID-19

The resolution expresses concern on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing and that the COVID-19 pandemic perpetuates and exacerbates existing inequalities, and that those disproportionately at risk are women, children, in particular girls, persons with disabilities, older persons, migrants, as well as other persons in a vulnerable situation, and expressing deep concern about the increased risk of eviction, homelessness and the increased occurrence of domestic violence as a consequence of the pandemic.

It calls upon States to consider adopting or extending special measures to prevent and avoid evictions provoked by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, paying special attention to persons in vulnerable situations.

Access to justice

The resolution also calls upon States to provide, in an accessible, affordable, timely and effective manner, an effective remedy and equal access to justice and administrative procedures in complementing judicial
recourses for all for violations and abuses in the context of the realization of the right to adequate housing, including housing discrimination and spatial segregation.

Conclusion

The adoption of resolution is a milestone for recognizing and combatting housing discrimination and racial discrimination in the context of housing. It also recalls all guidelines developed by previous Special Rapporteurs on the right to adequate housing, including the most recent Guidelines for the Implementation of the Right to Adequate Housing (A/HRC/43/43 <http://www.undocs.org/A/HRC/43/43> ). While the resolution asks States to strengthen significantly their mechanisms for remedies at national level, it regrettably did not recommend ratification of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR which gives individuals and victims of housing rights violations the opportunity to bring an individual complaint before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights after exhaustion of domestic remedies.
This inconsistency between progressive language on improving access to remedies at national level on one hand, and the failure to mention the most important international UN mechanism for seeking relief for violations of economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand, requires continued attention of all human and housing rights defenders.

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