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Kosovo* / Right to housing: Deep gap between law and reality, UN expert says

Albanian | Serbian

PRISTINA (28 May 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, today welcomed the inclusion of international human rights law in legislation and strategies at central and local levels in Kosovo.

However, at the end of a visit to Pristina and Mitrovica, the human rights expert expressed concern that the deep gap between law and its implementation renders housing inadequate for the most vulnerable groups in Kosovo, particularly internally displaced persons, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian minorities and women.

“Laws and strategies are clear about equality and non-discrimination and housing, and yet I heard testimonies of very poor housing conditions, including lack of water and electricity, for minority groups,” she said

Ms. Farha learned that the resolution of the complex issues related to land and property restitution, cadasters and the effective return to homes, is the top priority of all authorities and other actors with whom she met. “More proactive measures are required to address the unresolved tensions arising from conflict and displacement, and their implication for the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing,” she advised.

The Special Rapporteur was also struck by the inequality women face in Kosovo in relation to inheritance, housing, and property, all essential for the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing. “I also heard that women and children trying to escape domestic violence have few housing options and often have to return to violent situations,” she said.

The human rights expert was also informed of deplorable housing conditions in collective centers. “I was appalled to learn that some residents have been living in these centers --which were only meant as temporary accommodation-- for over 10 years,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.

“I urge the Kosovar authorities to move swiftly to close these centers and to ensure that all residents are resettled in dignified living conditions with access to services,” Ms. Farha said.

“The people of Kosovo, regardless of their ethnicity, share a keen sense that housing is far more than four walls and a roof, and is closely linked with community, employment opportunities and security,” the expert noted. “This should be the goal for all actors engaged in housing programmes.”

During her two-day visit to Kosovo, the Special Rapporteur met with central and local government officials, independent institutions including the Ombudsperson, civil society, lawyers, academics and the international community. She also had the opportunity to meet with some residents.

(*) All references to Kosovo should be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council resolution 1244, of 10 June 1999: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1244(1999)

Leilani Farha (Canada) is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. She took her function in June 2014. Ms. Farha is the Executive Director of the NGO Canada without Poverty, based in Ottawa, Canada. A lawyer by training, for the past 20 years Ms. Farha has worked both internationally and domestically on the implementation of the right to adequate housing for the most marginalized groups and on the situation of people living in poverty. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/HousingIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva (after the visit): Juana Sotomayor, OHCHR (jsotomayor@ohchr.org +41 22 917 9445 or srhousing@ohchr.org)
For attention for local media in local language: Sarah Crozier, Spokesperson, UNMIK in Pristina (+318 38 504 604 ext. 5475 / +377 44 500 107 / croziers@un.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts in Geneva:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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