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COHRE names the 2007 winners of its Violator, Protector and Defender Housing Rights Awards

Roma in Jakubovany, SlovakiaRoma in Jakubovany, Slovakia

The “State Peace and Development Council” (SPDC) of Burma, Slovakia and (jointly) the Beijing Municipality and the Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (BOCOG), have been named as recipients of the 2007 Housing Rights Violator Awards by the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), for their systematic and severe violations of housing rights and continued failure to abide by their international legal obligations.

Each year, COHRE bestows its Housing Rights Violator Awards on three governments or public institutions guilty of particularly serious housing rights violations in the preceding year. COHRE has issued its Violator Awards since 2002.

COHRE’s Deputy Director, Jean du Plessis, said, “Although many governments and public institutions continue to violate the right to adequate housing, in 2007 the State Peace and Development Council of Burma, Slovakia and (jointly) the Beijing Municipality and the Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games stand out for their abysmal disregard for this basic human right. The military regime in Burma has displaced more than one million people from their lands and homes since 1962, disproportionately affecting ethnic nationality communities – which has included confiscating their lands. The SPDC’s brutal campaign against ethnic nationality communities – confiscating their lands, attacking and burning villages, killing thousands of civilians, raping women and looting property – is in clear breach of international law. The military regime’s ‘Burmanisation’ policy of ethnic cleansing and social engineering through forced relocation and land confiscation, which has led to the mass displacement of more than one million people from their lands and homes in Burma, is clear evidence of its complete disregard for human rights including the right to adequate housing. International law clearly and unequivocally prohibits forced evictions and the arbitrary confiscation of peoples’ homes and lands.”

“The Beijing Municipality and BOCOG have violated the housing rights of over 1.25 million residents of Beijing in pursuit of relentless economic growth, including the hosting of international showpieces such as the Olympic Games. The mass displacements and evictions implemented in Beijing are a clear case of the illegitimate use of evictions as a tool of development by the Beijing Municipality and BOCOG, in a bid to transform the city into a ‘world-class metropolis’ fit to host the ‘best Olympic Games ever.’ Despite courageous protests inside China, and condemnation by many international human rights organisations, the Beijing Municipality and BOCOG have persisted with these evictions and displacements. COHRE’s research has shown how the awarding of the Olympic bid to Beijing by the IOC has been used as a pretext to ride roughshod over rights of affected residents,” he said.

Du Plessis added, “Romani communities in Slovakia continue to face pervasive and persistent discrimination in access to housing. Roma frequently face segregation and forced eviction by local authorities. More than 120,000 Roma in Slovakia reside in slums – lacking access to basic services such as water and electricity – many of whom also live in segregated housing. The conditions in which these communities live are dehumanising and constitute a grave human rights violation by the Government of Slovakia. It is entirely unacceptable for a member of the European Union (EU) to allow such a situation to continue, particularly when the EU and other donor agencies have made available an extraordinary amount of resources to address inadequate housing and discrimination against Roma. There is absolutely no excuse for the Government of Slovakia to flaunt its international legal obligations in this manner.”

COHRE’s Housing Rights Protector Award, presented annually to a government or other public institution demonstrating a truly exceptional commitment to the protection and promotion of housing rights, has been awarded in 2007 to the Municipal Government of Naga City, Philippines, for its Kaantabay sa Kauswagan (Partners in Development) Programme, an initiative providing security of tenure and improved living conditions for thousands of its residents.

Du Plessis said, “COHRE commends the Naga City Government for assisting over 6,000 families to obtain legal title to their land, thereby safeguarding them from the threat of forced eviction, and for improving the living conditions of 27 urban poor communities by providing and upgrading infrastructure. The Naga City Government’s consultation with civil society and urban poor associations in the development and implementation of housing policies has produced effective remedies for thousands of inadequately housed people. The Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Programme’s success in implementing housing and poverty alleviation policies, anchored in the understanding that the participation of the urban poor is vital to sustainable development, is commendable. COHRE is honoured to present the Government of Naga City with the 2007 Housing Rights Protector Award for its Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Programme, which clearly demonstrates that the human right to adequate housing can indeed be made a reality if the political will exists.”

The Housing Rights Defender Award is presented annually by COHRE to an individual who has shown outstanding commitment to the realisation of housing rights for all people. The recipient of the 2007 Housing Rights Defender Award is Baseer Naveed, a housing rights activist from Karachi, Pakistan.

COHRE’s Du Plessis, said, “The award recognises Baseer’s outstanding contribution to the struggle for the right to adequate housing in Pakistan and his continued commitment to the cause in the face of profound loss. He lost a son, as a result of his work and activism to secure the housing rights of the poor in Pakistan. Baseer has worked tirelessly for over 20 years, mobilising communities against forced evictions and empowering urban poor leaders to advocate for the housing rights of their communities. One of Baseer’s most significant contributions towards the realisation of housing rights in Pakistan has been his key role in negotiating a resettlement plan for over 300,000 people affected by the construction of the Lyari Expressway in Karachi. COHRE is honoured to present the 2007 Housing Rights Defender Award to Baseer Naveed, who played a key role in negotiating a resettlement plan for those affected by the Lyari Expressway, and thereby creating a significant precedent in Pakistan concerning forced evictions. His efforts are testimony to the fact that the housin

GENEVA, 5 DECEMBER 2007:

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