The highlight of the month is the 58thsession of the Commission on Social Development and its first ever priority theme at the UN: “Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness.” Resolution adopted at CSocD58: https://undocs.org/E/CN.5/2020/L.5
Feb 9: CSocD58 Orientation for new NGO Participants
The orientation introduced the history, goals, priority groups, structure and modalities of NGO participation of the Commission on Social Development. Joanna Padgett Herz, the chair of the 2020 Civil Society Forum, spoke briefly on her research into answering the question: “How has homelessness been spoken about in the UN throughout history.” We also unpacked the meaning of social protection and discussed the Civil Society Declaration.
Link to Lea’s notes: http://bit.ly/CSocD58
Feb 14: Civil Society Forum
The Civil Society Forum provided a platform for lived experience to be heard, from Ireland, Uruguay and the US. They shared with us what helped, what didn’t and their recommendations. Along with other expert panelists, the discussion focused on “real-time data” because “if we can’t see them, we can’t help them,” as pointed out by a representative from Madagascar. Another common quote was, “Don’t talk about us, without us.” This meant those with lived experiences should be kept at the core of the dialogue. Other recommendations include expanding the discussion and definition of homelessness, as well as supporting the development of a landlord’s charter, rent cap and rent freeze.
Link to Program: http://bit.ly/CivilSocietyForum2020
CSocD58 Side Events
(Women’ Rights to Affordable Housing & Secure Tenure)At this panel, we looked at the drivers of homelessness and insecure housing among women. For example, at least 1 in 4 homeless women note domestic violence as the major contributor for them becoming homeless. Homelessness also disproportionately affects people of color with over 78% homeless individuals were people of color. Enemona Emmanuel Adaji of the Worldwide Network Nigeria aptly commented that there isn’t a lack of human rights policies, but there is a problem with implementation of those policies. Overall, we learned that “the system is static, but survivors are dynamic.”
(Mental Health and Homelessness Among Youth)Mental wellbeing not only influences physical health but social and financial development. As the majority of homeless individuals experience poor mental health, the importance of destigmatizing mental health and implementing social support systems This side event adopted an innovative roundtable discussion with interactive questions being posed to the panelists. A common consensus amongst the panelists was that gathering data is vital for epidemiological studies to assess causes of mental health conditions and through compiling such segregated data, we learn more about how mental health affects underrepresented populations like LGBTQ+ and indigenous youth.
(Social Protection Systems to Address Homelessness: Key to Leaving No One Behind) An eloquent and noteworthy panelist, Dame Louise Casey emphasized that once defined, homelessness must be better measured. She used the overflowing bathtub metaphor in explaining homelessness: when you notice an overflowing bathtub, you first shut off the tap before cleaning up the mess. This comparison represents the prevention of the causative, systemic agents that lead to homelessness, recognized by the shutting of the tap. The director of FEANTSA, Freek Spinnewijn, reiterated the “housing first” policy that member-states are adopting in addressing homelessness. One remarkable proposal was to overcome administrative burden to access benefits was to create postbox addresses for the homeless.
(Migration & Homelessness)This side event highlighted the distinction between “house” and “home,” with the former referring to the physical structure of the building, while the latter refers to both the physical and emotional concept of shelter. At “home,” there is a sense of belonging, safety and love. As a result, the issue of homelessness goes beyond a lack of physical buildings, as it encompasses the need for social protection as well. We also celebrated VIVAT International’s 20th anniversary.
(Youth Homelessness: Interrogating Policy Gaps and Legislative Vacuums)I (Lea) am so grateful for the opportunity to speak on my lived experiences of homelessness as a panelist for this side event. I was joined by another young woman and we both shared on our time in the foster care system. I also appreciated the insights and incredible work that other expert panelists are doing, all around the world, from Slovenia to India to Malta to New York. We discussed how helpful aftercare services would be for those who age out of foster care because turning 18 years old is such an arbitrary method of marking the transition into adulthood.
UN Civil Society Briefing: “Hate speech, Holocaust denial and distortion: why challenging it matters”
Holocaust denial and distortion is a form of hate speech and often an expression of hatred against Jews. This panel was an overview on the history of Holocaust denial and the initiatives made to identifying and countering this form of hate speech. Dr. Brown of the Centre for Holocaust, Human Rights, & Genocide Education stated that denial is a stage of genocide. She noted that intellectualizing the idea of genocide and indirect methods are often harder to prove as forms of hate speech but are more dangerous in the context of genocide denial. Another panelist emphasized that the tool of distortion is occurring alongside other growing trends of political dissidence, xenophobia, and weaponized nationalism. Holocaust denial undeniably undermines the principles for which international peacekeeping bodies like the UN were founded upon. A crucial takeaway from this briefing is that #NeverAgain means teaching history again and again.
March 9-20, 2020– Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64): Registration has closed. More info: http://bit.ly/UNCSW64| 12 Small Actions with BIG Impact for Generation Equality: http://bit.ly/12Actions-UN
April 13-24, 2020– UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII19): Registration deadline is March 25. More info: http://bit.ly/UNPFII-19
April 20-23, 2020– Financing for Development (FfD) Forum: Registrationdeadline is March 25. More info: http://bit.ly/FfD2020
Signs of Hope
After Decade of Historic Growth, Wind Power is Now Most-Used Renewable Energy Source in US | Link: http://bit.ly/WindPowerUS
Eco-Activist Hits Fashion Week Catwalk With Clothing Made Out of Abandoned Tents Collected From Music Festivals | Link: http://bit.ly/EcoFashion2
Thank you for reading! — Interns Lea Khy & Vaiju Raja