Kesinee Dulyarat, PPSEAWA International Representative to the UN/NY, attended the 58th Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD58) from 10-19 February 2020 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Commission is the advisory body responsible for the social development pillar of global development. The priority theme was affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness. Kesinee highlighted two meetings she attended:
- “The Rise of Homelessness in Ageing Women” on 11 February organized by Soroptimist International and the NGO Committee on Ageing
- “Building a Housing First Approach & Implementing Inclusive Best Practices” on 14 February organized by the Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN
PPSEAWA also submitted a statement co-signed with nine other Non-Governmental Organizations in Special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council to the CSocD58 Commission:
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 25.1 states that: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
The Secretary General’s Report on the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (E/2019/68) shows that inequalities within and among nations continue to be a significant concern. These inequalities are marked by narrowing disparities of opportunity, income and imbalance of power amidst progress and development even in the developing economies. The poor are still excluded and rejected evidenced by growing number in homelessness situation. Fordham University’s 2019 Pope Francis Global Poverty Index estimated that in 2016 about 1.9 billion people or over 26% of the world’s population is lacking adequate housing.
Homelessness is a complex social problem with a variety of underlying economic and social factors such as poverty, lack of affordable housing, unemployment, uncertain physical and mental health, addictions, and community and family breakdown. Homelessness is also the consequences of the growing inequalities within countries due to uneven distribution of wealth caused by taxation systems favoring the rich and corporations and the lack of social protection systems including floors. These socio-economic factors combined with environment - climate crisis contribute to the duration, frequency, and multi-dimensional homelessness. To be fully homeless is to live without shelter. Likewise, there are those who suffer partial homelessness which can include uncertain, temporary informal and substandard shelter facilities or student homelessness. Among the homeless it is the girls and women suffer more due to lack of security and increased sexual assaults. Homelessness is difficult to define. Therefore, governments struggle when creating and implementing policies to effectively eradicate. There is no single solution that fits all.
We welcome the International Monetary Fund’s new strategy on social spending to increase social funding in support of the most vulnerable groups. Women and girls are most adversely affected for reasons of security from sexual assaults when they are homeless.
Homelessness calls for urgent action from government policy makers to invest in public spending affordable housing and social protection systems and floors. A reform of the national budget policies to review and cut down military budgets and reallocate resources to address the needs of its vulnerable populations such as adequate housing for the people need to in the priority.
We call on member states on the adverse impacts of mining and extractive industries to vulnerable populations and contribute to environmental displacement of affected communities and workers, especially indigenous peoples. These are drivers of homelessness. The serious human rights violations perpetrated by mining companies and their financial supporters must be addressed and justice must be served. Governments of host countries are duty bearers to their citizens. Countries of origin of multinational mining companies must ensure and follow international obligations according to “Do No Harm” principle. Mining companies must pay their due taxes to the host countries.
Financialization of housing projects, a phenomenon which occurs when housing is treated as a commodity for wealth production and investment rather than a social good must be addressed and countered by strong policies and public spending ensuring shelter to the most vulnerable. As a result, housing becomes inaccessible to low income populations. The United Nations Human Rights Commission, Office of the High Commissioner, the estimated global real estate represents nearly 60 percent of the value of all global assets or $USD 217 trillion – with residential real estate comprising $USD 163 trillion or 75 per cent. This represents more than twice the world’s total GDP.
Right to housing is a human right and part of international human rights law, a legally binding instrument. The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing stated in her report that “housing conditions for Indigenous Peoples around the world are overwhelmingly abhorrent and too often violate the right to adequate housing and are more likely to suffer inadequate housing and negative health outcomes as a result, they have disproportionately high rates of homelessness and they are extremely vulnerable to forced evictions, land-grabbing and the effects of climate change”. In addition, the report also reiterated that Indigenous people who live in urban areas deal with racism from homeowners and cause limited access to housing. Pope Francis consider housing as one of the important indicators of material well-being. Human beings have a right to an adequate physical space to have safe, secure and nurturing environment. Adequate housing provides households access to basic sewage, safe drinking water, garbage collection and electricity.
Therefore we (10 Organizations) jointly make the following recommendations to the Commission and the United Nations Member States:
- Policies to mandate adequate housing and social protection systems including floors as a human rights obligation of the States.
- Link the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIP) to the UN’s legislation on the right to adequate housing.
- Policies to stop financialization of housing and enable affordable housing to low income People, particularly single women and girls.
- Protect the land and livelihood of indigenous people when mining is inevitable
- Mandate Companies to provide safe working and living conditions to workers
- Ensure decent housing when people are forced to be displaced
- Support the local and sub-national government to address the issue of housing by enabling them to do the work.”