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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL BEGINS CLUSTERED INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON ADEQUATE HOUSING AND FOREIGN DEBT

28 February 2018

The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting began a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Farha, and with the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky.

Ms. Farha said that her thematic report on human-rights based housing strategies recognized that one size fits all was not possible and instead offered 10 key principles that could be applied in any local context.  Human rights were essential to housing strategies.  They incorporated universal norms which brought coherence and coordination to multiple areas of law and policy through a common purpose and shared set of values.  The 10 key principles of a rights-based housing strategy included, among others, that housing strategies must be based in law and affirm the right to housing as a legal right; must prioritize those most in need and commit to ensuring equality; must adopt a comprehensive and whole-of-government approach; and must ensure rights-based participation.  She believed that the goal of ensuring adequate housing for all by 2030 was achievable.  She spoke about her mission to Chile.

Mr. Bohoslavsky said that the thematic report outlined core issues for the development of the guiding principles on human rights impact assessments of economic reform programmes and policies.  In it, he had identified challenges for the guiding principles and outlined aspects to bear in mind about their scope, content and timing.  He had also discussed the evolution of structural adjustment responses to financial crises and their impact on human rights.  Additionally, he had identified initiatives and tools already available to address these programmes.  He had argued that, for both economic and legal reasons, economic reform programmes and policies must be inclusive and advance human rights.  Economic reform policies revealed a deep-seated structural neglect of human rights in their formulation.  That neglect was the driving force behind the development of the guiding principles.  He spoke about his missions to Tunisia, Panama and Switzerland.

Speaking as a concerned country on Ms. Farha’s report, Chile said it sought to ensure social inclusion and had made it a priority to provide more quality housing.  It had implemented pilot projects for housing cooperatives, with an option for collective ownership and management, while bearing in mind the needs of women, indigenous peoples, migrants and the elderly. 

Tunisia, Panama and Switzerland spoke as concerned countries on Mr. Bohoslavsky’s reports.

Tunisia, speaking as a concerned country, said that the visit of the Independent Expert on foreign debt was part of the constructive cooperation of Tunisia with the Human Rights Council.  Despite many challenges, Tunisia had carved out for itself a clear path for the protection of human rights.  The Organic Law on Reconciliation aimed at improving the environment for entrepreneurship and it waived the responsibility of civil servants in case of mistakes, except in case of misappropriation of public funds for personal gain. 

Panama, speaking as a concerned country, said the report incorrectly said that external debt was not having a negative effect on the quality of life of Panamanians.  The Government was closely monitoring growth and inclusion and Panama was identified as one of the most inclusive emerging economies in the world.  Those facts contradicted some of the views expressed in the report of the Independent Expert. 

Switzerland, speaking as a concerned country, stressed that upholding human rights was its foreign policy priority.  Switzerland was fully committed to the cause of combatting money laundering, financing of terrorism, and illicit financial flows.  The Independent Expert’s report only provided a partial picture and criticisms did not account for the broad context.  Switzerland stressed the importance of the commodities sector, adding that efforts were being undertaken to ensure State and private sector responsibility. 

The Council will resume the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on adequate
housing, and with the Independent Expert on foreign debt on Thursday, 29 February, at 9
a.m. 


At 4 p.m., the Council will hold a high-level panel discussion on the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.


Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the 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 (A/HRC/37/53).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the 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 – mission to Chile (A/HRC/37/53/Add.1).

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/HRC/37/54).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights – mission to Tunisia (A/HRC/37/54/Add.1)

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights – mission to Panama (A/HRC/37/54/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights – mission to Switzerland (A/HRC/37/54/Add.3)

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights – comments by Tunisia (A/HRC/37/54/Add.4).

Presentation of Reports

LEILANI FARHA, 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, stated that she was presenting her thematic report on human-rights based housing strategies and her report of a mission to Chile.  Two missions did not take place since the Government of Japan postponed the visit on a short notice.  Ms. Farha noted that homelessness was on the rise, forced evictions continued unabated, increasing numbers of individuals lived in informal settlements without basic services, and housing in many cities had become unaffordable even for the middle class.  A fundamental shift of approach was needed whereby housing would be recognized and implemented as a human right.  A right based approach would clarify who was accountable to whom and it would imply that all levels of government were accountable to people, particularly marginalized groups.  The obligation to realize the right to housing lay with States and could not be delegated to private actors. 

She said her report recognized that one size fits all was not possible and instead offered 10 key principles that could be applied in any local context.  Human rights were essential to housing strategies.  They incorporated universal norms which brought coherence and coordination to multiple areas of law and policy through a common purpose and shared set of values.  The 10 key principles of a rights-based housing strategy included that housing strategies must be based in law and affirm the right to housing as a legal right; strategies must prioritize those most in need and commit to ensuring equality; strategies must adopt a comprehensive and whole-of-government approach; strategies must ensure rights-based participation; strategies must ensure accountable budgeting and tax justice; strategies should include human rights based goals and timelines; the importance of accountability and monitoring; the importance of ensuring access to justice; the need for strategies to clarify the obligations of private actors and regulate financial, housing and real estate markets; and that housing strategies must implement international cooperation and assistance.  She believed that the goal of ensuring adequate housing for all by 2030 was achievable. 

Talking about the visit to Chile, she said that since the 1990s the Government had invested billions of dollars in housing, resulting in the 64 per cent home ownership rate.  Security of tenure had been guaranteed.  However, much of the housing was of low quality and on the outskirts, contributed to segregation.  A national registry existed for homeless people, and in line with 2030 Agenda Chile was reminded to work on resolving this issue.  Deteriorating conditions for migrations were also noted with concern, as well as laws discriminating against women owning property.  She concluded by noting that her upcoming mission to the Republic of Korea would take place in May. 

JUAN PABLO BOHOSLAVSKY, Independent Expert on the effect of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, presented his thematic report and three mission reports, and thanked Tunisia, Panama and Switzerland for having welcomed him for official visits in 2017.  The thematic report outlined core issues for the development of the guiding principles on human rights impact assessments of economic reform programmes and policies.  In it, Mr. Bohoslavsky said he had identified challenges for developing the guiding principles and outlined aspects to bear in mind about their scope, content and timing.  He had also discussed the evolution of structural adjustment responses to financial crises and their impact on human rights.  Additionally, he had identified initiatives and tools already available to address these programmes.  He had argued that, for both economic and legal reasons, economic reform programmes and policies must be inclusive and advance human rights.  And to do so, human rights impact assessments were essential.  The report would serve for discussion, consultations and as a tool for participation in the process of developing the guiding principles throughout 2018.  One of the conclusions of the report was that economic reform policies revealed a deep-seated structural neglect of human rights in their formulation, insufficient protection of the most vulnerable, deepening inequalities, and a lack of attention to participation, consultation, transparency and accountability.  This neglect was the driving force behind the development of the guiding principles for assessing the human rights impact of economic reform programmes.

Turning to the three mission visits, Mr. Bohoslavsky stated that Tunisia’s transition to democracy stood out in the region.  The revolution of 2011 had resulted in significant improvements in the human rights situation and its 2014 Constitution, enshrining international human rights standards, including in relation to equality between men and women, served as a source of well-deserved pride.  However, the current economic reform programme contained several measures that were likely to have negative impacts on the enjoyment of human rights, deepening existing inequalities and poverty. 

Regarding his visit to Panama, Mr. Bohoslavsky stated that Panama was a banking and financial centre of crucial importance, proud of the strength of its economic model and the growth experienced in recent years, among the highest in the world.  More worrisome, however was the persistence of inequalities: for example, in 2016 about 2.8 per cent of the urban population lived in extreme poverty, while the corresponding figure for the rural population was 24.8 per cent - nine times higher.  With regard to the issue of illicit financial flows, he pointed out that even when a large number of companies, trusts and transactions involved in the disclosures of the so-called "Panama Papers” were created or carried out in that country, it was possible to trace their origin up to a large number of jurisdictions.

Finally, on Switzerland, Mr. Bohoslavsky noted that the country was a prominent financial centre and a leading global location for cross border management of private assets, with an estimated world market share of 25 per cent.  Integrating human rights due diligence in its financial sector and lending policies would therefore significantly reduce risks and prevent adverse human rights impacts.  The country had adopted a human rights policy aiming for coherence and the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad.  Mr. Bohoslavsky said there was still a need to strengthen the accountability, regulation and supervision of the Swiss financial market to prevent adverse human rights impacts caused by illicit financial flows and to prevent that funds of illicit origin could be deposited in Switzerland in the first place.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Chile, speaking as a concerned country on Ms. Farha’s report, expressed satisfaction that the original goal of the visit had been fulfilled, namely studying the State’s legislation on adequate housing and the progress made.  Chile commended the Special Rapporteur’s attention to the country’s projects to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  It reminded that many of the recommendations made by Special Rapporteur arose from structural problems in the country.  The Government of Chile had been adopting increasingly robust policies for vulnerable groups and a non-discriminatory approach.  It sought to ensure social inclusion and had made it a priority to provide more quality housing.  It had implemented a series of housing policies in urban and rural areas, and it had included pilot projects for housing cooperatives, with an option for collective ownership and management.  State subsidies and policies had played a key role in providing more quality housing.   In that endeavour, Chile tried to pay attention to the needs of women, indigenous peoples, migrants and the elderly. 

Tunisia, speaking as a concerned country, said that the visit of the Independent Expert on foreign debt was part of the constructive cooperation of Tunisia with the Human Rights Council.  Democracy-building was the most important phase for any country.  Despite many challenges, Tunisia had carved out for itself a clear path for the protection of human rights.  Concerning the Independent Expert’s report, Tunisia noted that the Organic Law on Reconciliation aimed at improving the environment for entrepreneurship and it waived the responsibility of civil servants in case of mistakes, except in case of misappropriation of public funds for personal gain.  The law did not lead to double standards; it tried to close the old files.  Responding to the Independent Expert’s observations concerning recent social protests, the delegation noted that the Government had adopted measures to preserve the purchasing power of vulnerable groups, and it tried to improve education and training for the youth.  In spite of vandalism and violence, the authorities had dealt with the protesters with restraint and in line with law.

Panama, speaking as a concerned country, said that in order to bring about positive outcomes to issues identified by the Independent Expert in the report, it was necessary to account for the context of each State.  The report incorrectly said that external debt was not having a negative effect on the quality of life of Panamanians.  The Government was closely monitoring growth and inclusion and Panama was identified as one of the most inclusive emerging economies in the world.  These facts contradicted some of the views expressed in the report.  A Financial Action Task Force of Latin America report recognized the high level of participation of authorities in national risk assessment strategies.  Falling in line with Financial Action Task Force recommendations was a process that must account for existing barriers.  Panama reiterated its standing invitation for Special Procedures wishing to visit the country, assuming they would abide by their mandates.

Switzerland, speaking as a concerned country to the report of the Independent Expert, said upholding human rights was a foreign policy priority.  Switzerland was fully committed to the cause of combatting money laundering, financing of terrorism, and illicit financial flows.  The Financial Action Task Force’s recommendations were being implemented to that end.  The Government was pursuing a proactive policy for countering illicit assets, with some $ 2 billion being returned to origin countries.  Following from these successes, an agreement had been reached with Nigeria and the World Bank to allow for the return of illicit funds to Nigeria.  The Independent Expert’s report only provided a partial picture and criticisms did not account for the broad context.  Switzerland stressed the importance of the commodities sector, adding that efforts were being undertaken to ensure State and private sector responsibility.  Switzerland would remain committed on the matter at the international stage


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18/012E