This week, our Human Right to Housing team is in New Orleans to participate in a fact-finding mission, led by the Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (AGFE), an advisory body to the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, which addresses unlawful forced evictions. The goal of the mission is to investigate housing rights violations in the city, both pre- and post-Katrina.
Tiffany Gardner, our Human Right to Housing Director, and Sam Jackson, founder of NESRI partner Mayday New Orleans, together with other local experts, are assisting the Advisory Group and observing their investigation. The New Orleans residents who met with the Advisory Group conveyed a clear, but fairly disturbing message. Residents, especially in low-income communities, were not only forced to leave their homes by local authorities, but are repeatedly denied their right to participation in any redevelopment plans. These actions on the part of local authorities constitute a blatant violation of residents’ human right to housing, as well as a breach of the principle of participation in the UN guidelines on internal displacement.
The New Orleans urban redevelopment model fails to take into account the views and accommodate the basic interests (and rights) of a substantial part of its residents, thereby depriving them of any viable opportunities to manage their return home. As a result, the communities that are so crucial to the spirit of New Orleans have been torn apart.
Residents’ testimonies before the Advisory Group put the situation in words that are much more telling. You can find the testimonies in a vlog from the mission, which we put together with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and Witness hosted (even featured as an editor’s pick) on their Hub. More updates and stories from the fact-finding mission will be posted on the blog over the next few days.