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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8 responses to “R.I.P. COHRE?

  1. Interestingly, COHRE’s diligent efforts were in evidence in a recently published (April 2012) manual from Open Society, which was jointly prepared by “Mayra Gomez of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions and Birte Scholz of the Huairou Commission.” See Tools for Change: Applying United Nations Standards to Secure Women’s Housing, Land, and Property Rights in the Context of HIV. URL: http://www.soros.org/initiatives/health/focus/law/articles_publications/publications/tools-for-change-20120416

  2. As someone who had worked for COHRE for over ten years, I first want to thank you for the kind words and the recognition of COHRE’s great work over the years.

    I also wanted to mention that COHRE’s successes resulted from an incredible collection of human rights advocates that made up COHRE’s staff, and that the COHRE diaspora continues to do remarkable work. Former colleagues continue to carry on the torch for ESC rights advocacy at the UN, Amnesty International, Oxfam, EWASH, within progressive governments, and within national NGOs and academic institutions. For the most part, we all still keep in close touch and continue to try to work together whenever possible.

    Some new NGOs were born, at least partly, out of COHRE, including the Initiative for Gender Equality and Development in Africa, WaterLex, WASH United, and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The latter was founded by myself and Mayra Gomez, another ten-plus year COHRE veteran, and we are continuing to carry on some of the work of COHRE, including in the area of strategic litigation and women’s rights. We also hope to put some of the old COHRE team back together! We are, however, expanding beyond housing and water to all social rights and also looking at the linkages with the development and environmental justice sectors. We also hope to some day assemble and make accessible COHRE’s tremendous library of human rights resources. For more information, wee http://www.globalinitiative-escr.org.

    Again, thanks for the kind words. While having so much talent under one roof was quite something, do know that the work continues with the COHRE diaspora alive and well!

    • It is always difficult to build something strong, but easy to destroy what others built… COHRE was built over the years to become a prominent organisation and was leveled by a person … perfectly known to all who worked for COHRE in its last years.
      My only hope is that the destruction path is not continuing in another organisation.
      Blessings to all who genuinely fought for COHRE values, wherever you are now…
      Thank you RC Williams for this post.

      • I think we all share the hope that the destructive path will not continue in yet another organization (COHRE wasn’t the first, unfortunately), and we should be committed to do what we have to to ensure that this is the end of such destruction.

  3. COHRE was great RIP Cohre

  4. Pingback: World Bank urged to stand firm on land-related rights violations in Cambodia | TerraNullius

  5. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.

    I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you
    aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  6. Pingback: COHRE archive back online | TerraNullius

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