January 30, 2020

Mercy Global Action Addressing Links Between Homelessness and Extractivism

The 58th session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development (CSocD) will meet from 10-19 February to discuss "Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness".  Homelessness has been a key theme for this past year at the United Nations and remains a key focus of Mercy Global Action (MGA). 

To add our voice to this paradigm shift, we have submitted an oral statement to the Commission.  In this statement, MGA affirms the intentionally inclusive and universally applicable definition of homelessness proposed by the Expert Working Group in Nairobi.  The Expert Working Group defined homelessness as “a condition where a person or household lacks habitable space with security of tenure, rights and ability to enjoy social relations, including safety. Homelessness is a manifestation of extreme poverty and a failure of multiple systems and human rights.” 

Today, in the absence of a globally applicable definition, very little data exists on people experiencing homelessness and the causes of this crisis.    Without data, it is difficult to engage United Nations Member States and call upon international law because there is a lack of effective tools needed to measure and track homelessness. Establishing a universal definition for homelessness is imperative as it will promote effective research internationally and provide the framework appropriate for holding States accountable for human rights obligations.         

MGA’s statement highlights one particular cause of homelessness: the link between extractive industries and homelessness.  Extractivism is a key contributor to the destruction of land and communities as well as pollution that drives people away and destroys their livelihoods. This link can often be an overlooked factor in violations of the human right to adequate housing.  Mining and other extractive industries, such as oil and gas drilling, pipelines, large scale corporate agriculture, lumber, dams, and more can contribute to homelessness.  Many of these businesses often operate internationally and evade legal ramifications and taxes that could support and restore communities and homes.

In our oral statement, we call upon Members States to address homelessness in four ways:

  • Adopt the universal and inclusive definition of homelessness proposed by the Expert Working Group. 
  • Implement and design policies that ensure the meaningful engagement of local communities including: free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples, due diligence on human rights- including the right to housing- especially regarding the impact of extractive industries.
  • Implement social protections, including floors to ensure no one is left behind.
  • Hold corporations accountable for the damage they cause and require appropriate remediation to rebuild vibrant communities. 

Mercy Global Action will continue to shift the paradigm towards accepting housing as a human right and holding both States and extractive industries accountable for degradation and displacement.

-Amanda Carrier rsm, Intern, Mercy Global Action

Read the Statement

Messages to: Angela Reed rsm - Leader, Mercy Global Action

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