Children’s Rights are Human Rights: A human rights approach for homeless children NAEHCY Conference November 15, 2009 Eric Tars Human Rights Program Director/ Children & Youth Attorney Phone: 202-638-2535 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.nlchp.org wiki.nlchp.org
Why Today? • 4.5 million people homeless, 1.5 million children • 2 million homeless from foreclosures in next 2 years • Wall Street bailout • Squeezed budgets
Why Human Rights? “I think it is necessary to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Why Human Rights? Human Rights are based in human dignity.
Why Human Rights? • Human rights are universal and interdependent. • Human rights combine traditional civil and political rights with economic, social, and cultural rights. • Human rights allow different actors to see their causes under same umbrella.
Setting the stage • International human rights framework for housing and education for children • Origins • Treaties • Specific standards • Using human rights in the U.S. • Challenges & Opportunities
Origins of Human Rights We have adopted a second Bill of Rights among these are … …the right of every family to a decent home;… …the right to a good education. • Franklin Delano Roosevelt, State of the Union Address (1944)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights Art. 25(1): Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself [/herself] and of his [/her] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of … circumstances beyond his [or her] control.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights Art. 26: Everyone has the right to education… Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
International Covenant on Economic, Social, & Cultural Rights Article 11(1): The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living forhim[/her]self and his [/her] family, including adequate food, clothing and housing and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.
International Covenant on Economic, Social, & Cultural Rights Article 13: …Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms…
Convention on the Rights of the Child Articles 28-29: State parties recognize the right of the child to education…directed to the development of the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.
What do economic & social rights require? • Progressive realization • Relative standard, dependent on resources • Non-discriminatory impact & intent • Respect, protect, fulfill
Progressive Realization • 1978 -2006: HUD budget cut by 60% • NCLB not fully funded • Recession budget cutbacks
Relative to resources • War in Iraq/Afghanistan: $918 billion • Number of affordable housing units we could have built: 7,057,801. • Number of elementary school teachers for one year: 14,904,312 • Number of Head Start placements for one year: 125,579,800
Non-discrimination • Both intentional and disparate effect • Persistent legacy of racial segregation • Importance of transportation, Title I funding to homeless students
Respect, Protect, Fulfill • Respect - refrain from interference • Protect - prevent private interference • Fulfill - take active steps to ensure
Elements of the Right to Housing • General Comment 4 • Legal security of tenure • Services and infrastructure available • Affordability • Habitability • Accessibility • Location (work, school, child care) • Cultural adequacy
Guaranteed legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats. 4.5 million people are homeless annually, including 1.5 million children Foreclosure crisis No right to a lawyer in housing court Legal Security of Tenure
Housing Costs should not compromise other basic needs Millions forced to choose between rent or food or medical care In no part of US can a minimum wage worker afford a 1 BR apt. Affordability
Adequate housing must be in a location which allows access to: employment options, health-careservices, schools, child-care centers Services unavailable in poor, minority neighborhoods Location
Elements of the Right to Education • General Comment 13 • Availability • Accessibility • Acceptability • Adaptability
Schools available in sufficient quantity, with sanitation facilities, trained teachers, materials, computer facilities, etc. MV - enrollment provisions make schools available But often, children turned away without rights Availability
Non-discrimination Physical accessibility Economic accessibility MV anti-segregation Transportation Supplemental services Accessibility
Form and substance, including curricula and methods must be relevant, appropriate, and good quality MV provides for availability & access, but schools may still be unacceptable Acceptability
Education must be flexible to adapt to the needs of communities and students MV “remove barriers to the enrollment and retention of homeless students and youth” Adaptability
Human Rights Review • American origins, followed by UDHR, ICESCR, and CRC • General Comment 4 • General Comment 13 • Availability • Accessibility • Acceptability • Adaptability
Using Int’l Law in the US • Challenges • Ratification • RUDs • Strategy: • Not straight enforcement, but read US law consistent with international law
Ratification • Signed by President, ratified by 2/3 of Senate • Art. VI (2) [A]ll Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
U.S. Ratified Treaties • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD or CERD) • Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
U.S. Non-Ratified Treaties • International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) • International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (Migrant Workers’ Convention)
Reservations, Understandings, & Declarations • Reservations limit scope of treaty - e.g. we know the treaty says no hate speech, but that conflicts with our 1st Amendment. • Federalism understanding promotes state & local role in treaty implementation • Non-self-execution declaration means can’t sue directly under treaty
Treaty as Interpretive Guide • Charming Betsy Legislation passed following the U.S.’s accession to a treaty should be interpreted to be consistent with that treaty (as supreme law of the land), unless Congress includes a specific directive that the U.S. intends to contravene international law. See Murray v. The Schooner Charming Betsy, 6 US (2 Cranch) 64 (1804).
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Human Rights Committee (HRC) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Also Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Treaty Enforcement
Shadow reporting • US Reports to Committees • NGOs (social justice organizations) issue shadow reports • Advocacy in Geneva • Concluding Observations from Committee
HRC Concluding Observation 22 The Committee is concerned by reports that some 50 % of homeless people are African American although they constitute only 12 % of the U.S. population. (articles 2 and 26) The State party should take measures, including adequate and adequately implemented policies, to ensure the cessation of this form of de facto and historically generated racial discrimination.
Human Rights after KatrinaAnti-camping ordinance • Would have criminalized sleeping on streets • Opposed with Constitutional arguments • Combined with Human Rights Committee and CERD recommendations
Human Rights after KatrinaAnti-camping ordinance Laws criminalizing homelessness will certainly have a disproportionate impact on African American communities in New Orleans and fly in the face of these recommendations.
Treaty as Interpretive Guide …Just over a month ago at the review before the CERD, a representative of the U.S. government stated that many agencies of the U.S. government ... have responsibilities for implementing the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination including the states of the United States, as well as other governmental entities such as its cities and counties… -Opening Statement to CERD cited in New Orleans Advocacy Letter
Right to Education Advocacy • National Dignity in Schools Campaign • Empowering directly affected victims to act as own advocates • Create own human rights standards • Use own human rights opportunities • Children’s Rights Day - November 20 • Human Rights Day - December 10
Other Concluding Observations • HRC 2006 - Critiqued continued racial segregation and lack of active steps to remediate • CERD 2008 - Critiqued continued racial segregation and substandard housing • Critiqued achievement gap and school-to-prison pipeline, recommends affirmative action and decreased criminalization of schools.
Using Human Rights in U.S. • Review • Ratification • RUD’s • Charming Betsy - interpretation principle • Revolving door of international law into national law
Upcoming Opportunities • Universal Periodic Review • H.Res 582 - Children’s Right to Housing • Other human rights venues
Housing and Human Rights:The Rising Wave • Human Rights can contribute to policy, litigation, and community organizing solutions • Human rights can work at the local, state, and federal level
Discussion & Questions Eric Tars 202-638-2535 email@example.com www.nlchp.org wiki.nlchp.org