Questionnaire on Climate Change and the Right to Adequate Housing: the experience of affected communities


Ms. Raquel Rolnik was appointed 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, in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council . During her mandate, amongst other issues, she will focus on the potential impact of climate change and the right to adequate housing for all. In October 2009, she will present a report to the UN General Assembly addressing and analysing the impact of climate change on the realisation of the right to adequate housing.

During the drafting of the report, it would be interesting if movements dealing with issues related to housing and habitat could report on their experiences, as well as on alternative solutions and demands from the communities affected by climate change, so that these concerns and visions may be reflected in the report.

In order to facilitate this process, HIC has prepared a brief questionnaire to gather information, data and cases from civil society and communities. We hope that responses to this questionnaire will serve as reference material for the Special Rapporteur’s assessment of the impact of climate change and related phenomena on the fulfilment of the right to adequate housing.

The Special Rapporteur understands climate change as it has been defined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”.

Please, kindly respond briefly. If you wish to provide further information such as data, bibliography, reports, photos and videos, it will be welcome as an annex.



As Special Rapporteur, Ms. Rolnik is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. The UN first decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur to examine questions relevant to the right to adequate housing in 2000. Her mandate involves reporting annually to the Human Rights Council on the status of the realization of the right to adequate housing throughout the world, and identifying practical solutions and good practices towards this end. An architect and urban planner, Ms. Rolnik has extensive experience in the area of housing and urban policies.



Framing the situation

Are you, or your organisation, familiar with situations where the effects of climate change have impacted on the fulfilment of the right to adequate housing of a given community?

– please describe the situation and the communities affected.
– please describe the manner in which the communities are affected and how long this situation has been going on.
-please describe whether there has been population displacement due to such situation.
– please describe whether and in what manner there have been groups more affected than others due to this reason.

Access to information and participation

Has there been any intervention – from government/international agencies etc – aiming at solving the problem? If so, please describe such intervention.

Are local and national authorities aware of the situation?

If so, have you, or your organisation, received any information, including through notifications, consultations, public hearings, community meetings, information by the press or any other kind of communication?

In case there has been any local or national government reaction – including re-settlement, construction of new infrastructure, or any other measures addressed to redressing the situation, have you or your organisation participated in decision-making and implementation of such measures?

Reactive measures

Has any kind of measure or strategy to solve the problem been implemented? If so, who has implemented them?

Were you provided information on how these measures or strategies were funded / financed?

Do these measures and strategies involve infrastructure works or buildings? If so, please describe them. In case they are of a multiple use nature – that can vary within time and according to the season of the year – please describe all such uses.

Are these strategies non-structural measures (change in the use of the land, zoning, new urban laws)? If so, please explain if you consider that these measures impact or could potentially impact the housing situation of affected communities, as well as their livelihood.

Do you, or your organisation, consider that these measures are taking into account traditional knowledge and customs of the affected communities?

In case you have further information on the situation and issues described above, please send all relevant material as annexes:



Please find below a brief section regarding the right to adequate housing, extracted from the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the relationship between climate change and human rights.

15 January 2009

5. The right to adequate housing

35. The right to adequate housing is enshrined in several core international human rights instruments and most comprehensively under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as an element of the right to an adequate standard of living.51 The right to adequate housing has been defined as “the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity”.52 Core elements of this right include security of tenure, protection against forced evictions,53 availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location and cultural adequacy.54

36. Observed and projected climate change will affect the right to adequate housing in several ways. Sea level rise and storm surges will have a direct impact on many coastal settlements.55 In the Arctic region and in low-lying island States such impacts have already led to the relocation of peoples and communities.56 Settlements in low-lying mega-deltas are also particularly at risk, as evidenced by the millions of people and homes affected by flooding in recent years.

37. The erosion of livelihoods, partly caused by climate change, is a main “push” factor for increasing rural to urban migration. Many will move to urban slums and informal settlements where they are often forced to build shelters in hazardous areas.57 Already today, an estimated 1 billion people live in urban slums on fragile hillsides or flood-prone riverbanks and face acute vulnerability to extreme climate events.

38. Human rights guarantees in the context of climate change include: (a) adequate protection of housing from weather hazards (habitability of housing); (b) access to housing away from hazardous zones; (c) access to shelter and disaster preparedness in cases of displacement caused by extreme weather events; (d) protection of communities that are relocated away from hazardous zones, including protection against forced evictions without appropriate forms of legal or other protection, including adequate consultation with affected persons.59

51 ICESCR, art. 11. See also Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 25, para. 1; ICERD, art. 5 (e) (iii); CEDAW, art. 14, para. 2; CRC, art. 27, para. 3; ICRMW, art. 43, para. 1 (d); CRPD, arts. 9, para. 1 (a), and 28, paras. 1 and 2 (d).
52 CESCR general comment No. 12, para. 6.
53 See CESCR general comment No. 7 (1997) on the right to adequate housing (art. 11 (1) of the Covenant): Forced evictions.
54 CESCR general comment No. 12, para. 8.
55 IPCC AR4 WGII Report, p. 333.
56 IPCC AR4 WGII Report, p. 672.
57 A/63/275, paras. 31-38.
58 UNDP Human Development Report 2007/2008, Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world, p. 9.
59 In this regard the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2, annex) provide that “at the minimum, regardless of the circumstances, and without discrimination, competent authorities shall provide internally displaced persons with and ensure safe access to: … basic shelter and housing” (principle 18).

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To download the questionnaire in word, click here