The Impact of Violence on the Right to Adequate Housing in the North of Central America
The right to adequate housing is a fundamental right, and is key to the full enjoyment of many economic, social and cultural rights. Housing is recognised and defined as part of the right to an adequate standard of living in various sources of international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 19661 . States are therefore responsible for upholding the right to adequate housing and adopting measures to ensure its fulfilment. Housing can be considered adequate if it provides: security of tenure, protecting its inhabitants against forced eviction and harassment, access to basic services, affordability, as well as habitability, accessibility, location and cultural adequacy. As displacement often leads to the loss of housing, special protections in terms of accessing the right to adequate housing are included in the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. These protections intend to ensure that displaced people can access safe homes and durable solutions.
In the North of Central America (NCA), access to the right to adequate housing is limited, due to various reasons. This snapshot highlights the main barriers preventing access to this fundamental right, particularly in the context of criminal violence and forced displacement. What are the existing vulnerabilities in the housing situation in the NCA? How does criminal violence affect this right? How are States and the humanitarian sector responding to the problem?
Security of tenure in the NCA has been impacted by decades of poverty, the absence of rule of law, corruption and discrimination.
Forced evictions, in particular due to large-scale development, agricultural projects and mining, and the impact of natural hazards, have gradually displaced communities and individuals, and left them unprotected.
Over the last few decades, rapid urbanisation has led to the creation of large irregular settlements in the peripheries of urban areas, with high levels of tenure informality.
This situation has been exacerbated by criminal violence and the current protection crisis. Faced with threats from criminal groups, people are forced from their homes, which can then be dispossessed (through usurpation or illegal/forced sales) or destroyed.
There are no specialised mechanisms for displaced people to protect their housing rights and ensure that their homes are not sold illegally, or to assist in the recovery of their properties. In general, very few displaced people file official reports to the authorities due to fear of reprisals.
The widespread lack of temporary shelters increases the vulnerability of displaced people.
The humanitarian response, still in its early stages, has little capacity to promote and ensure compliance with the right to adequate housing for people affected by violence in the NCA.
Several human rights organisations support communities affected by land conflicts and forced evictions, in particular with legal assistance, but affected people continue to live in precarious conditions.
A few humanitarian organisations offer temporary shelter for those displaced by criminal violence, but humanitarian efforts to ensure recovery and restitution of homes are obstructed by security issues, the absence of rule of law, and the limited humanitarian access to affected areas.
In Honduras, a pilot project (still to be approved and implemented) could provide solutions for the restitution process, and establish best practices for the other countries of the region.
· REDLAC Regional Protection Group for the NCA, led by the Norwegian Refugee Council and supported by AECID