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The UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing

CWP and UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing

Did you know that CWP’s Executive Director is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing?

What is a UN Special Rapporteur?

The Human Rights Council at the United Nations is the world’s highest authority on human rights; one of the Council’s responsibilities is the appointment of Special Rapporteurs, who are independent experts responsible for globally monitoring the status of specific rights around the world.

Special Rapporteurs are also responsible for responding to complaints about alleged violations of human rights and representing the United Nations in their country visits. Special Rapporteurs are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

In June 2014, Canada Without Poverty’s Executive Director Leilani Farha was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing. She was appointed for a three year mandate and joined two other Canadian colleagues, Francois Crépeau (Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants) and Chief Wilton Littlechild (Member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).

Ms. Farha has worked on the implementation and realization of housing rights for the past 20 years, both in Canada and at the international level. Domestically, she worked for housing rights for many years as the Executive Director of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA). During her tenure at CERA, Ms. Farha helped to launch an unprecedented legal challenge defending the Charter (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) rights of homeless individuals. The case sought to implement UN recommendations regarding homelessness as a violation of human rights. Internationally, Ms. Farha spearheaded the creation of human rights standards on women and the right to adequate housing within the UN system.

What does the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing do?

In addition to missions to countries across the world and developing country reports, Ms. Farha presented her first thematic report to the General Assembly of the UN. This report explored unique responsibilities of sub-national (state, provincial and municipal) governments with regards to the right to adequate housing. Watch a video of Ms. Farha’s presentation here.

Ms. Farha stressed the importance of engaging sub-national governments with the international standards for adequate housing. However, that is not to say that national governments are off the hook; rather, they must ensure that sub-national governments have the resources and authority to achieve the standards.

To that end, Ms. Farha wrote an opinion piece in the Guardian in March 2015 on the responsibility of governments to prevent homelessness and protect those living in precarious housing, particularly during the cold winter months.

Ms. Farha’s latest report as Special Rapporteur can be found here. This report explores homelessness as an urgent global human rights crisis.

Ms. Farha continues her role as CWP’s Executive Director alongside her role as UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing.