Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Sets the Bar

On June 24, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued its Concluding Observations concerning Sweden.  The Concluding Observations addressed a number of issues, including the investment processes governing the Swedish Pension Fund.  Two of the Committee’s statements are of particular interest to US human rights advocates. 

First, noting that human rights are often implemented on the local level, the Committee recommended that the Swedish government spearhead a human rights education campaign directed at subnational governments.  The government has already started this process by contracting with the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions to explore the idea of establishing a network of “human rights cities” around the country.  The Committee’s statement provides additional support for these ongoing efforts, which might serve as a model for similar US government support for local human rights implementation in the US.

Second, the Committee expressed concern regarding the numerous evictions of vulnerable EU citizens from informal settlements, a local practice that has been endorsed and even encouraged by the Swedish government.  The Committee reminded the government that such evictions should only be conducted when absolutely necessary, and that in all events, evicted individuals should be given access to long-term housing and basic services.  It remains to be seen if the Swedish government will now back away from its support for such evictions, and whether local governments will rise to the challenge of providing humane solutions to these EU citizens.  However, the Committee’s statements should serve as a reminder to US communities that addressing homelessness through evictions and other quasi-criminalization measures runs afoul of human rights standards.    


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