The First Conference for the Right to Housing in Tunisia
As a result of an initial appeal the day after the World Assembly of Inhabitants, a steering committee was formed to set up the first Conference on the Right to Housing during the World Zero Eviction Days - For the Right to Habitat taking place next October. Invitation: to sign the call for support and participate in regional preparatory meetings. The goal: to make housing a national priority through the voices of inhabitants and other concerned parties.
A Right to housing for all, a legal obligation in Tunisia as elsewhere
The Right to decent housing is undoubtedly one of the main elements needed for a reasonable standard of living, being a fundamental right in line with a respect for human dignity. In order to guarantee a place to live to the largest possible number of people, law-makers have tried to give access to home ownership to less well-off sectors of the population. It is worth questioning, however, if this same legislation ensures that the poorest are provided with good housing conditions or an improvement in their housing conditions. Or if these laws give any benefit to the middle classes who are anxious to own their own home.
The Right to housing is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948 as a component of the Right to an adequate standard of living in the same way as food, clothing, medical care and necessary social services, and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) of 16 December 1966, based on the same document, which was ratified by Tunisia in 1969. It provides clear guidance on the steps to be taken to ensure that domestic law conforms with the country's international obligations. It is important to remember and not neglect the important demands for economic, social and cultural justice expressed by large swathes of the population during the uprising. Therefore, it will be essential to guarantee and protect economic, social and cultural Rights within the internal public order, as enshrined in the definition of human Rights in international law, on an equal footing with civil and political Rights, to satisfy the aspirations of Tunisian men and women, and in particular, the most marginalized individuals and groups.
Therefore, this ratification imposes obligations on all powers of the State and all levels of government: executive, legislative and judicial as well as local and central governments. So it is up to a whole series of public authorities to mobilize and implement legislative, political, administrative, budgetary, educational and other measures necessary for the respect, protection and implementation of Human Rights.
In addition, as a member of the UN and a party to most of the Human Rights treaties, Tunisia has undertaken a commitment to respect the fundamental principles of Human Rights, i.e. the universality and indivisibility, interdependency and interrelatedness of these Rights.
Unfortunately, the current government not only refuses to do anything to support this priority of its population, but also wants to delete any reference to universal Human Rights in the country’s next Constitution.
This Conference for the Right to Decent Housing, apart from establishing the current state of precarity that several growing categories of the population are experiencing, will aim to emphasize that the ICESCR is the main source of obligations and that the doctrine and jurisprudence of the CESCR provide the authoritative interpretive framework for ESCR.
Thanks to these international treaties, individuals have the right to a completely accessible and effective redress giving them full access to their rights, whether in the form of restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition of prejudice. Only the latter cannot be enforced by the courts, but there is a requirement that public policies and programs are put into place.
One objective of this Conference is to put back on the agenda the need and fundamental importance for a State’s actions to demonstrate respect for the fundamental principles of Human Rights and for them to be taken into consideration by the Tunisian authorities. Thus, the Constitution must establish standards and basic mechanisms to help ensure compliance with these principles, and in particular the obligation for fully transparent accountability.
Out! Civil society wants to continue the revolution of dignity
For more than two years Tunisia has been living a revolution in action, triggered by a popular uprising on 17 December 2010, with demands about work, freedom and patriotic dignity. Two years later, the Tunisian revolution seems to be hanging on the thread of political discussions that are meant to decide the future of the country. And although the question of freedom remains very important, the social dimension remains the top priority of the sit-ins, marches and demonstrations organized by civil society. Not least of all the "Out" sit-in, which has been going on for more than a month, to demand the resignation of the Government and the Constituent Assembly in the wake of their failure to meet the legitimate demands of a large group of people, headed up by the populations of areas that are always marginalized and ignored.
A revolution diverted by policies responsible for unemployment and homelessness
Marginalized regions are sinking into poverty and insecurity, with an unemployment rate that is increasing day by day. As of 20 August 2013, the unemployment rate remains high, according to the National Statistics Institute, which does not rule out the possibility of a 4% rise, with 3,100 new unemployed young graduates over the last year, and an even higher rate unemployment rate among women (26.9%) because of the policy of discrimination practiced by the Government and public and private institutions.
This unemployment demonstrates the indifference of a government incapable of providing basic needs, such as guarantee decent housing, leading to precarity, if not outright homelessness.
According to the figures in April 2013, there are 4,000 children living on the streets, and that only takes into account the children.
Never has a revolution has been so diverted from its purpose; a revolution that was intended to demonstrate the dignity of a people, unfortunately ended up as an insult to human dignity and consciousness and is now the cause only of distress and profound discontentment. A revolution that shames the dead and the wounded, as it is now devoid of substance.
Tunisia, a land with thousands of years of history, is in the process of being stripped of its heritage and its social, historical, cultural, political and civilizational memory.
The why and how of the Conference on the Right to adequate housing
Against this backdrop, and considering the need for proper solutions to the problems of the increasingly unstable housing situation and the emergence of homelessness, serious violations of Universal Human Rights including art. 11 of the ICESCR, and in view of the economic crisis and the real estate speculation that are contributing to family indebtedness, the shrinking middle class that is every day increasingly joining the ranks of the poor, the rehousing of families in dangerous and impermanent neighborhoods on the outskirts of cities, civil society has taken an important step. The decision was made to organize the country’s first conference for the Right to Decent Housing, as part of the World Zero Evictions Days – for the Right to Habitat next October.
Therefore, a Steering Committee to oversee the organization of the Conference was formed on August 14, 2013, based on the significant interest shown by a number of Tunisian civil society members, individuals and organizations at local, regional, national level and in the Maghreb region, as well as internationally.
Working committees have created a specific program, with the first steps being collecting signatures supporting the Call for support and organizing regional preparatory meetings.
So the time has come to make the Right to housing for all people a national priority through the voice and proposals of inhabitants and other stakeholders, and build the foundations for exchanging and acquiring the necessary tools to work effectively on the ground, lay the groundwork for a national network on the theme of decent housing, capable of mobilizing directly concerned subjects, strengthen the group promoting the Maghreb Alliance of Inhabitants, and open international horizons through the help and support of the IAI and its many partner networks such as the participation of Raquel Rolnik, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, who instantly joined in this initiative, among others.
You are all therefore invited to sign the Call to create a social foundation in support of the Conference.
The Volunteer translator for housing rights without frontiers of IAI who has collaborated on the translation of this text was: