The following statement was issued by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Miloon Kothari, on the occasion of World Habitat Day, 3 October 2005:
The theme chosen by the United Nations for World Habitat Day 2005 is "The Millennium Development Goals and the City," which serves as a reminder of the enormous efforts needed to ensure that progress is made towards the achievement of the goals agreed upon by the international community and set out in the Millennium Declaration and reaffirmed at the World Summit 2005 held in New York in September.
The selection of Jakarta, Indonesia as the centre for this year’s World Habitat Day serves to highlight the enormous devastation and homelessness resulting from the 2004 tsunami. The recent Hhurricane Katrina that hit the United States also exposed the lack of disaster-preparedness and failures in state response. Both the Asian tsunami and the Katrina disaster have revealed the grossly inadequate housing and living conditions under which historically marginalized groups, such as the African-American population in the United States and certain indigenous peoples in Indonesia and India have survived for decades.
Such events also illustrate the undeniable link between poverty and vulnerability. Natural hazards turn into massive disasters for the vulnerable who are already marginalised in terms of their access to adequate housing, water, sanitation, health, electricity, land and other resources. Furthermore, the inadequate response to such disasters and the lack of consideration for the human rights of the affected creates a human-induced tragedy that exacerbates the plight of those already suffering. Nine months later, tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka and India are still living in inadequate shelters and continue to be denied access to information and participation in planning and decision-making processes related to rehabilitation. This fact highlights the need for human rights based disaster-preparedness and disaster-response policies. Post-disaster relief and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction must be based on international human rights standards and include mechanisms that ensure transparency and accountability. The survivors’ right to dignity and to adequate conditions of living suggests that access to relief must be recognised as a human right and should guide all rehabilitation efforts