Daily Archives: April 27, 2012

R.I.P. COHRE?

by Rhodri C. Williams

A few weeks back, Elisa Mason of the Forced Migration Current Awareness Blog got in touch to ask me if all was well with the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions. Their website had gone blank and their last registered tweet was in July, so there were grounds for fearing the worst. In the meantime, my contacts have informed me that this venerable institution has indeed shuffled off this mortal coil, but I have been unable to find out much more than that.

In retrospect, I suppose, there was some writing on the wall. The Wikipedia entry on COHRE (linked above) already referred to 2008 as its high-water mark and there was undoubtedly a wobble when COHRE founder and HLP-rights guru Scott Leckie left the organization to found Displacement Solutions. However, COHRE seemed to be pressing forward, issuing new reports and doing some impressive work on ESC rights litigation. It is hard to believe that such a vital organization could collapse both so completely – the vanished website itself was in important repository of HLP-rights reports and information – and without a whimper, let alone a press release.

So I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the diligent efforts of COHRE colleagues too numerous to mention on all five continents in pushing forward some of the most important and most often overlooked categories of rights. And to put the question: what happened, and can any of it, in the spirit of the Pinheiro Principles, be undone?

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Online books on land law in Africa

Just a brief announcement regarding a pair of very interesting online books from last year that are available for free download from the website of the Pretoria University Law Press. Both are edited by Robert Home and address the theme of African Land Law.

The first is a series of case-studies. While most take up development themes, the first two, by Patrick McAuslan and Geoffrey Payne, focus on post-conflict issues. In the case of McAuslan in particular, the analysis appears to further unpack development-based critiques of the Pinheiro Principles of the sort initially raised by the Overseas Development Institute.

The second book features a series of essays, including a discussion of the influence of Islamic Land Law in Africa by Siraj Sait, and several pieces on the trend toward recognition of indigenous peoples’ land rights, in contradiction to the post-colonial impulse to treat untitled land as the property of the state.

The need to move from recognition of such rights to implementation was recently highlighted by a report on Kenya by the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Africa. According to reports earlier this month by the Nation and the Star, the report highlights not only Kenya’s failure to implement the findings of the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights in the Endorois case, but also ongoing land depredations that continue to threaten other minority groups in Kenya (as reported on earlier in TN here).