Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Philippines cited as a violator-country at the UN’s Third World Urban Forum

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For Immediate Release on June 19, 2006

Philippines cited as a violator-country at the UN’s Third World Urban Forum

The country can face international sanctions and embarrassment at the Third World Urban Forum (WUF III) in Vancouver, Canada, June 19-23, said a coordinator of the Eviction Watch of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), a regional network of grassroots community organizations, NGO's and professionals actively involved with urban poor development processes in Asian cities.

Teodoro Añana, the ACHR’s watchdog on housing rights in the country, said the international community may stop turning a blind eye to forced evictions of informal dwellers caused by prestige construction projects, once the Philippines is cited as a housing rights violator-country at the WUF III.

In a People’s Tribunal Order which Añana will present to the WUF III at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, he points out that the government led by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has violated the international standards laid down by international treaties. These treaties are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the UN guidelines on the right to adequate housing and forced evictions contained in General Comments No. 4 and 7 respectively.

Añana is concerned about the forced evictions of more than 20,000 families along the North and South railways since last year. “The government plans to forcibly evict another nearly 100,000 families, the country’s largest-ever evictions of poor communities. However, it has failed to provide adequate relocation in terms of decent housing, basic services such as water and electricity, schools and clinics. It justifies the slow pace as incremental development,” he said.

“The governments of South Korea and China are accomplices in these massive violations of human rights by ignoring UN General Comment No. 2 on avoiding involvement in projects which, inter alia, involve large-scale evictions or displacements of persons without the provision of all appropriate protection and compensation,” Añana added.

He points out that the implementing agencies excluded 20-30% of the evictees on the railroad because they did not comply with some requirements or because of cut-off dates, thereby rendering them homeless or badly-housed, citing the studies done by the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization working on the urban poor issues. Government also made many evictees sign waivers or quit claims, believing that in this manner the Philippine government may be absolved from observing its obligations imposed on it by Philippine housing laws such as the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), Añana said.

The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations through UN-Habitat to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and policies. It is a biennial gathering that provides for effective participation of non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, urban professionals, academics, governments, local authorities and national and international associations of local governments.

It is projected that in 2007, the majority of the world’s 6 billion people will be urbanized. One-third of them will be slum dwellers, many trapped in a cycle of poverty but overlooked by governments and with no prospects of improvement. The trend is accelerating, it is said, because by 2030, nearly 4 billion people, or 80 percent of the world’s urban dwellers, will live in cities of the developing world. -30-

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