The United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, has made an urgent plea to put an immediate stop to all forced evictions of earthquake survivors in the Caribbean Nation.
Ms. Rolnick with Jean-Christophe Adrian at the Tapis Rouge (red carpet) camp for displaced people in Port-au-Prince. Photo (C) UN-HABITAT / R. Precht
During a visit to Haiti 8-11 June during which she toured camps now home to survivors of the earthquake, Ms. Rolnick, condemned what she called every eviction of persons without the provision of an adequate housing alternative as "a grave human rights violation".
She called for rapid reconstruction and safe return of internally displaced persons to their neighbourhoods of origin. She also supported UN-HABITAT's proposal for a comprehensive strategy for reconstruction and return.
The massive 7 magnitude earthquake on 12 January 2010 was one of the most devastating to hit the country in some 250 years, claiming many thousands of lives and destroying homes, property and large sections of the capital and other major towns.
Ms. Rolnick said reconstruction had to be seen as an opportunity for improving housing conditions in unplanned settlements, adding it had to be guided by sound urban planning.
She participated in a workshop on the right to adequate housing in post-disaster Haiti, organised jointly by UN-HABITAT, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Mission for the Stabilisation of Haiti.
Participants agreed on the importance of a rights-based approach to reconstruction that doesn't leave out tenants and other vulnerable groups.
The Special Rapporteur welcomed an initiative of President Michel Martelly to launch large-scale reconstruction through the sustainable return of the residents of six camps, facilitated by owner-driven repairs and reconstruction of homes and the provision of improved services in their neighbourhoods of origin.
Ms. Rolnik also suggested that criteria of vulnerability should be used to identify priority camps, such as those most prone to disasters and floods, as we enter the cyclonic season.
In view of preventing landowners from forcibly evicting people living in camps on their land and finding sustainable solutions to the problem of the camps, Ms. Rolnik encouraged the government to deliver a clear message on what is going to happen to both camps and neighbourhoods of origin as part of a participatory urban planning process. She urged all stakeholders to use the reconstruction process as an opportunity to transform unplanned settlements into vibrant neighbourhoods with adequate housing.
Ms. Rolnik recognised the successful work carried out by UN-HABITAT in Haiti. She also cited a survey initiated by UN-HABITAT and adopted by other agencies to establish the pre-earthquake occupancy status of residents in unplanned neighbourhoods, as an effective means to strengthen tenure security and inform reconstruction and return.
She said formal landownership should not be a prerequisite for reconstruction. Instead, the authorities should de-link landownership from the right to use the land to live there, based on the recognition of the social function of land in the specific post-disaster context.
UN-HABITAT continues to advise the Government of Haiti and local authorities, and works with partners, on the reconstruction and strategic urban planning process, and the envisaged restructuring of the capital Port-au-Prince for a better urban future in Haiti.