“While our work in Geneva is done, our work here at home is just beginning.”
Eric Tars, human rights program director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has just returned to the U.S. from the United Nations Universal Periodic Review. He brings back news of three key outcomes of the process:
1. Thousands of American advocates have now been better educated in human rights standards – which they can use to help make human rights a reality at home.
2. Dozens of government officials, many of them in high positions in the federal government, have been educated as well. They now have an increased awareness of human rights standards and understand they must play a role in implementation.
3. There has been a substantial change in dialogue around human rights in the United States through this process.
The next review won’t occur for another four years. In the meantime, we’ll be working hard to hold the government accountable to the Human Rights Council’s recommendations, so that the human right to housing can be realized in the United States.
An update from the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva -
Other countries are demanding that the United States take a rights-based approach to issues like housing and education. More than 3/4 of Americans believe that housing is a human right, but the U.S. government does not view these as enforceable rights, and State Department representatives did little to respond to the concerns of UN member nations at today’s review.
Eric Tars: “Neither the economic crisis nor the foreclosure crisis…were addressed at all by the U.S. presentation today. The government needs to do much more to ensure that it is taking these rights seriously.”
This morning was the main event at the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, where the U.S. is being held accountable to its human rights obligations by the Human Rights Council. You can watch a webcast of the Review here.
Eric Tars, our human rights program director, participated in a side event yesterday on treaty ratification. To see what advocates from across the U.S. are saying about human rights, check out Eric’s video blog:
The United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) holds the U.S. accountable to its human rights obligations. Day 3 continued important testimony on human rights violations taking place right now in the U.S., and other countries are clearly taking notice – they’re submitting more and more questions on the issues mentioned in advocate testimonies.
Eric Tars, reporting from Geneva:
And see the full housing rights panel testimony, from Tuesday, here:
The United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) holds the U.S. accountable to its human rights obligations. Today was the main event for housing rights issues in the UPR process. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s own Eric Tars presents testimony in today’s video blog update from Geneva.
This week, Human Rights Program Director Eric Tars is in Geneva, Switzerland for meetings of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first ever Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United States. The UPR holds the U.S. accountable to its human rights obligations. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has been an active part of the UPR process, working to draw attention to widespread violations of the human right to housing right here in America.
Each day this week, we’ll be posting Eric’s video blogs. Let us know what you think!
Following her mission to the U.S. in 2009, the UN’s top expert on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, issued a report spotlighting the many failures of the wealthiest country on the planet to secure adequate housing for its people. This November 5, the U.S. will appear before the UN Human Rights Council for the first time undergoing the Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record, and will be held accountable for the violations, and recommendations made in that report.
The first Monday in October each year is World Habitat Day, a day to consider the housing needs of all people. The Habitat International Coalition (HIC) and International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI) have issued global Calls to Action for today, and the entire month of October. All local housing rights organizations are asked to sponsor a public action or protest in their communities in October, starting with the UN’s World Habitat Day on October 4, to raise the profile of the struggle for housing rights in opposition to policies of massive forced evictions, criminalization of the homeless, speculation and destruction of land and housing.
National and local organizations are called to link their current issues, demands and targets related to the right to housing to an October action leading up to the Universal Periodic Review and beyond. Groups can link any currently or newly planned actions—demonstrations, marches, cultural events, take-overs, take-backs, truth commissions, public hearings, and the like–to this global and national campaign.
To participate, simply forward a brief description of the your action for posting to the HIC website at www.hic-net.org, the IAI website at www.habitants.org, or the National Alliance of HUD Tenants website www.saveourhomes.org. We also ask local groups to post video or news clips about their actions on the campaign websites.
Over the past few months, the U.S. government has been holding consultations all across the country to prepare for their participation in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the UN Human Rights Council. We at the Law Center have been coordinating housing groups all across the country in participating in these consultations, ensuring both grassroots and technical expert voices on housing issues have been heard.
Last week, at a training on the UPR process in DC, David Sullivan, Attorney-Adviser at the U.S. State Department, was asked what human rights issue he thought was most urgent based on the consultations held to date. His answer:
“Housing. We have heard more about housing than you would believe in these sessions. If I had to pick the number one issue brought to the U.S. it would be housing.”
This is a huge credit to all the organizing we and the local organizers at each of these consultations has been doing. In a review that covers every human rights issue, over a time period that includes things like Guantanamo, racial profiling, immigration, Prop 8, and a economic crisis not seen since the Depression, the number one human rights issue the government is hearing about is housing.
So we know we’ve got their attention. Now let’s make some change.
Today we submitted a report on housing rights violations to the UN as part of the Universal Periodic Review process. Trying to squeeze all of the violations of housing rights into ten short pages was tough, but we came out with a very solid, strategic report that we can use to hold our government accountable to respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the right to housing for all in the U.S.
One of the best parts of producing the report was working with participants from a wide coalition of national and local housing organizations, ranging from DC policy advocates to local Section 8 housing tenants councils, people working on the disparate impact of HIV and homelessness on women, to documentary filmmakers bringing the forced evictions of artists in NYC to life. In all 14 different organizations contributed to the drafting and an additional 54 organizations endorsed the report.
We launched the report yesterday at an event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia – emphasizing that our country’s long legacy of protecting human rights is incomplete until those rights are protected for all. I spoke on a panel with a brave woman, Myra Young, one of the Witnesses to Hunger, mothers who are using digital cameras to document their daily experience raising children in Philadelphia on a limited income, fighting against slum lords, poverty, and violence in their communities. While our report laid out the legal analysis, her pictures were worth a thousand words to show the reality of what needs to change to bring the human right to housing home to the U.S.
We’ll remind you when it gets closer, but mark your calendars for the webcast of the official review from Geneva on November 5. Let’s work to make sure all those recommendations don’t stay just words on paper, but get brought back here to the Administration, Congress, and state and local representatives so we can make the right to housing real!
For the past two days, I’ve been in Chicago, participating in one of the final government consultations with community groups in preparation for the U.S. review by the UN Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) (see earlier posts on consultations in DC and NYC).
The government brought a full delegation of representatives from the Departments of State, Justice and Housing & Urban Development, which recognizes the key point that this conversation, even though it’s taking place as part of an international review, is inherently about how domestic policy protects – or fails to protect – human rights.
Speaker after speaker shared stories of one of the most acute failures in recent history: the ongoing housing crisis. At best, the government turned a blind eye to the consequences of deregulating the housing market so lenders could make huge profits off predatory loans. At worst, the government actively participated in creating segregated communities and destroying affordable housing with no plan to recreate it.
Though many stories were shared, I want to focus in on one that shows the intersection of the housing and justice systems, and where a simple change could make a huge difference. Read more »