Working With International Forums

 UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing U.S. Mission

From October 22nd to November 8th, 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik conducted an official mission to the United States. This was the first official visit by a UN Special Rapporteur on Housing to the U.S.  NESRI's Housing program co-facilitated the visit with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.  The Special Rapporteur on Housing is appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country's housing situation. 

 The general objectives of this visit were:
  • To examine and report on the status of the realization of housing rights in the United States;

  • To engage in dialogue with the U.S. government regarding its progress in securing these rights;

  • To visit and dialogue with local communities where indivdiuals and families have been directly impacted by the national housing crisis; and

  • To identify practical solutions and best practices in the realization of rights relevant to the mandate.

The mission investigated the foreclosure crisis, growing homelessness, and concerns around low-income housing with respect to public housing and Section 8 rental assistance. The Special Rapporteur visited communities in  New York, Wilkes Barre, Chicago, New Orleans, Pine Ridge, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The site visits were coordinated by members of the of the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights and allies. 

On February 12, 2010, Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik released her final report on the U.S. mission.  Many of the concerns communities across the country expressed to her were included in the report.  The report provided the U.S. government with important recommendations as they relate to public and subsidized housing, foreclosures, indigenous housing and homelessness including:

  • putting in place a moratorium on the demolition of public housing;

  • adequately addressing youth homelessness, including programs for youth over the age of 18;

  • dealing with racial discrimination in housing;

  • ending the over-reliance on private market strategies and solutions to the housing crisis; and

  • ensuring that housing policies are crafted with real resident participation and input.

NESRI, along with community allies and partners, filmed and released a peoples' documentary that captured the organizing and strategy that went into ensuring that the Special Rapporteur heard directly from the people.  The trailer was shown during the Special Rapporteur's official release of her final report at UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. 

International Advisory Group on Forced Evictions Mission to New Orleans

NESRI's Housing Program organized and facilitated the Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (AGFE) fact-finding mission to New Orleans in July 2009.  

AGFE investigates and reports on instances and allegations of forced evictions around the globe.  The body is comprised of housing rights experts from around the world and reports directly to UN-HABITAT, the UN agency charged with human settlement.  AGFE defines “forced evictions” in adherence to the human right to housing framework and includes development-based eviction as a form of forced evictions.  After a series of conversations with members of AGFE, NESRI submitted a formal request to the body to conduct a fact-finding mission to New Orleans, which was subsequently approved.  The New Orleans’ visit marked AGFE’s first fact-finding mission to the United States. 

During the fact-finding mission, independent experts from AGFE (which included NESRI’s Housing Program Director and a member of our partner May Day New Orleans) traveled to affected communities across the city, focusing on three principal issues:
  • the demolition of public housing;
  • the displacement of Mid City residents to make way for the Louisiana State University hospital; and
  • growing homelessness.       

The international delegation  investigated violations of residents’ human right to housing through the forced eviction of thousands as part of the city’s ongoing post Hurricane Katrina redevelopment.  During the weeklong mission, the delegation met with diverse communities in New Orleans – those that had either been the victims of forced evictions or were facing imminent evictions.

In planning the visit, NESRI’s Housing program worked with UNITY for Greater New Orleans, the Louisiana Justice Institute, Loyola Law School, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights,Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and the Committee to Reopen Charity Hospital, to name a few, to organize site visits that would demonstrate for the AGFE mission the widespread impact of the city’s rebuilding process.  We also arranged a town hall meeting where close to 200 residents gave testimony before the AGFE members.  The delegation also met with local and federal government officials to discuss their preliminary findings.    

The forced evictions investigated during the mission to New Orleans come as a result of a rebuilding process that favors private sector interests over the interests of residents. This emphasis on private sector development is being felt across the country with devastating effects, especially during the current economic crisis, which has its roots in the housing sector. While post-Katrina redevelopment policies have had a disproportionately adverse impact on poor and low-income African American communities, the ongoing lack of affordable housing, and the evictions to make way for private sector development, is a significant issue for all residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

 The final report on the mission can be found in Resources.