Development in Indonesia must not threaten adequate housing for the poor – UN expert

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing Raquel Rolnik. UN Photo/Ryan Brown

11 June 2013 – Indonesia must ensure that urban and economic development do not put at risk adequate housing for poor citizens, a United Nations independent expert stressed today, adding that the Government must strive for inclusive progress.

“I am concerned that in some cases development is having a retrogressive impact on the right to adequate housing,” said the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, referring to reports of evictions in rural and urban areas to make way for new public and private developments.

Ms. Rolnik underlined that evictions are a gross violation of international human rights law. “I call on the Government to ensure that legislation regulating evictions is in line with Indonesia’s international human rights obligations and is duly enforced on State agencies and third parties,” she said at the end of her first visit to the country.

“More can and must be done to prioritize the poorest and most marginalized segments of society in Government housing policies and programmes.”

During her visit, Ms. Rolnik examined several housing policies and programmes, some targeting low-income households. While she commended the diversity of the programmes, which include the upgrading of informal settlements and low-income rental apartments, she expressed concern that the Government is currently concentrating its efforts and resources on housing finance policies, which may undermine access to affordable housing for the poor.

“Housing finance policies are inherently discriminatory against the poor – those living in informal settlements, working in the informal market and small-scale farmers, which represent the bulk of the Indonesian society, but cannot access formal credit and therefore cannot benefit from these policies,” she warned, adding that these policies are also accelerating the spike in housing and land prices.

Ms. Rolnik urged the Government to design and implement comprehensive land policy reform to increase the security of tenure of Indonesians and regulate the impact of market forces on land availability and affordability.

She also pointed to a strong community organization culture as an asset that the country can use to harness the power of individuals and implement a national pro-poor housing strategy based on human rights standards.

During her 12-day visit, Ms. Rolnik met senior Government officials, donor agencies, international organizations, national human rights institutions, financial institutions, civil society and communities in Jakarta, Makassar, Surabaya and Yogyakarta.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. They work in an unpaid capacity. Ms. Rolnik is scheduled to present her final report on Indonesia in March 2014.

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