UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Monday appointed the UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, to represent him in reviewing the humanitarian aspects of the Zimbabwean Government's eviction of illegal dwellers and informal traders.
Mr. Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric told journalists at the UN Headquarters' daily briefing. “President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has agreed that the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General should visit the country as soon as possible to study the scope of the recent eviction of illegal dwellers, informal traders and squatters, and the humanitarian impact it has had on the affected population.”
Mrs. Tibaijuka will visit Zimbabwe shortly and will report on the situation, he said.
Earlier this month, Miloon Kothari, who is the Commission on Human Rights' Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, reminded the Zimbabwean authorities of their obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, which the country ratified in 1991 and which bars such evictions unless strict conditions are met.
One of the conditions is that “evictions should never result in rendering individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violations of other human rights. Governments must therefore ensure that adequate alternative housing or resettlement is available for all those affected before executing an eviction order,” he said, asking the Zimbabwean Government for an urgent reply to his appeal.
As the specialized UN agency dealing with housing issues, UN-HABITAT has stated that forced evictions pose one of the main barriers to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal targeted at the significant improvement of millions of slum dwellers by the year 2020. The agency believes there is a great advantage in adopting a policy that promotes dialogue to give room to all protagonists to find solutions that are in the best interest of all. Towards this end, UN-HABITAT has always reminded governments of their obligations and requested them to fully comply with those international agreements which they have ratified.
“Unfortunately the practice of forced evictions continues in a number of countries where the rights of citizens are too often ignored – more particularly the rights of those who do not have the capacity or voice to speak for themselves. These practices of forced evictions are worsening the lives of millions of urban poor each year and are considered unnecessary especially as there is considerable international evidence that it is possible to arrive at innovative negotiated solutions that meet the needs of all the parties concerned,” Mrs. Tibaijuka said in a statement on the state of forced evictions around the world.
Mrs. Tibaijuka decried reports of large scale evictions taking place in Zimbabwe, where homes are being demolished and burnt, which indicated that 200,000 people have been rendered homeless and many more have lost their livelihoods as a result of a decision by the Government to engage the “ Nurambatsvina ” (or “drive out trash”) operation.
“Though the Government has pointed out that these evictions are part of a larger process of relocation that is providing the displaced people with alternative solutions, there is concern that the evictions have impacted gravely on the social and economic lives of the poor. This has led to a call to halt them by Miloon Kothari, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Housing Rights.
Mrs. Tibaijuka also referred to a spate of evictions in Mumbai, which according to announcements by the authorities is being “modernised” and which has left 90,000 shanties demolished, and 350,000 people homeless.
Other areas UN-HABITAT noted with concern were Pakistan where the building of the Lyari Expressway is threatening 250,000 families; in the State of Para in Brazil, where there is the imminent risk of evictions of thousands of families and in Accra, Ghana, there are pending evictions of traders and residents of informal housing along railway lines.
In some tsunami stricken areas, even after the suffering endured by the residents from this unprecedented natural disaster, the authorities were preventing displaced persons from re-entering previous settlements under the guise of the future risk of another tsunami.
Through its Global Campaign for Secure Tenure, UN-HABITAT has been advocating the end to forced evictions and requesting governments to dialogue with stakeholders in finding alternative solutions.
In furtherance of these efforts an International Advisory Group on Forced Evictions was established to assist member states to monitor, identify, and promote alternatives to forced evictions. This group presented its first report in April 2005. This report highlighted the fact that around the world there are about 6 million people who are being evicted or threatened with evictions.
The Advisory Group report documents cases of 15 countries from Thailand, Pakistan, Kenya, United States of America, United Kingdom, Uganda, Ghana, the Philippines, Indonesia, Argentina, Peru, Senegal, Greece, and Brazil, where evictions are ongoing or threatened. While detailed figures are indicated in the report, it is worth noting that in some cases, the numbers reach staggering proportions: Pakistan : approx 250,000, Kenya : approx 186,175, Ghana : 30,000, Quilombo Community , Brazil : approx 1,350, and Senegal : approx 22,750.
The report also documented many innovative solutions, which have been tried and succeeded in addressing the issue of forced evictions by proposing alternatives agreeable to all parties.
The full report