Ref: 95/2011

 

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights’
(PCHR) Economic and Social Rights Unit observes the right to adequate housing.  As part of this duty, the Unit organized a
workshop on Wednesday morning, 29 December 2011, on "Challenges Facing
Housing in the Gaza Strip: Reality and Solutions" in the Commodore Hotel
in Gaza.
Representatives of public institutions, workers in the housing sector and many
Palestinians whose houses were destroyed attended the workshop.

 

Dr. Fadel al-Muzeini, a researcher at
PCHR’s Economic and Social Rights Unit, welcomed the participants and noted
that the organization of this workshop is a part of the continued coordination
between PCHR, institutions working in the housing sector and the civil society
organizations in the Gaza Strip, especially in view of the obstacles facing the
efforts exerted to reconstruct civilian objects in the Gaza Strip. Al-Muzeini
explained the factors that contributed to the emergence of the housing crisis,
most importantly the destruction of thousands of houses and housing units by
the Israeli occupation forces, especially during the last Israeli offensive on
the Gaza Strip, and the natural growth of the population under the continued
closure of commercial crossings and the ban imposed of the delivery of
construction materials which are required for the reconstruction of the Gaza
Strip.  He pointed out that the denial of
Palestinians’ right to adequate houses by the Israeli occupation forces is a
flagrant violation of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights and Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

 

Engineer Hashem Skeik, Secretary of the
Palestinian Contractors Union made a presentation titled "The Situation of
Housing in the Gaza Strip" in which he talked about the ongoing housing
crisis affecting the Gaza Strip.  He
explained that this crisis is the result of the natural growth of the
population, the continued closure of the Gaza Strip which has been imposed
since the mid of 2007, the last Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip
which prevented the chances of provision of construction materials required to
reconstruct the Gaza Strip, as well as the inability of local institutions
working in the area of housing to meet the needs of the local population of
adequate housing. Skeik noted that the ongoing fragmentation between the two
Palestinian governments in Gaza
and Ramallah and the lack of coordination between the two governments have
contributed to the aggravation of the housing crisis affecting the Gaza Strip.
He called upon the establishment of construction factories and rehabilitation
of technical workers in order to improve the situation of housing in the Gaza
Strip.

 

 

Engineer Naji Sarhan, Assistant
Undersecretary of Planning Affairs at the Ministry of Public Affairs and
Housing in Gaza,
delivered a presentation on "The Role of the Government in Providing
Solutions to the Housing Crisis in the Gaza Strip". He reviewed the
distribution of the population in the Gaza Strip and the population’s needs of
housing units. Sarhan noted that the last Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip
and the continued closure imposed on Gaza have increased the burdens on the
Ministry of Public Works and Housing and on public institutions, especially in
view of the little capacities available. He explained that the grants and
facilities received by the Ministry of Public Affairs and Housing do not meet
the needs of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. He called upon donors
to undertake their previous obligations relating to the reconstruction of
institutions that have been destroyed during the Israeli offensive on the Gaza
Strip.

 

Mr. Mohammed al-Reyati, Acting
President of the Infrastructure and Development of Refugee Camps Program which
is run by UNRWA, noted in his presentation "UNRWA’s Role in Providing
Solutions to the housing Crisis Affecting the Refugee Population in the Gaza
Strip" that efforts exerted by UNRWA are aimed at alleviating the
injustice suffered by Gaza population and that UNRWA always reiterates
Palestinian refugees’ right to live in safe and adequate houses. He explained
that UNRWA has started the construction of 1,185 housing units and that there
are funds available to housing projects to be implemented by UNRWA. He also
explained that UNRWA is seeking funds to implement further 1,500 housing units.
Al-Reyati mentioned that UNRWA has a plan to establish 100 schools over three
years in order to put an end to the afternoon shift in UNRWA schools.

 

In his presentation titled "Role
of NGOs in the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip – Housing sector",
engineer Usama al-Saadawi, Director General of the Palestinian Housing Council
(PHC) noted that PHC was establish to enable Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to
have adequate houses. He noted that PHC will start a project to distribute
grants aimed at the reconstruction of destroyed houses, noting that since late
2010, PHC has complete the construction of 80 housing units, that 38 housing
unit are under constructions and that there are plans to establish further 220
housing units in the near future. Al-Saadawi called for the employment of
qualified persons in order to legally construct buildings.

 

Khalil Shahn, Director of PCHR’s
Economic and Social Rights Unit, talked about PCHR’s role in following up
violations of the right to adequate housing including the publication of relevant
studies and reports, , provision of legal aid to the victims and exerting
pressures on donors and governments in order to reconstruct the Gaza Strip,
especially the housing sector. Shahin called upon UNRWA to adopt new mechanisms
to deal with owners of destroyed houses in order to overcome the lack of
construction materials under UNRWA supervision. Shahin promised those whose
houses were destroyed that PCHR would address their demands and push towards
the reconstruction of destroyed houses.

 

 

Azzam Shaath, researcher at PCHR’s
Economic and Social Rights Unit, gave the participants the opportunity to make
presentations and ask question. At the end of the workshop, the participants
presented a number of recommendations including the Articles following:

 

– Participants called
upon the international community to exert pressures on the Israeli occupation
authorities in order to stop targeting civilian establishments in the Gaza
Strip and to pay compensations to those whose establishments were targeted
during the last offensive on the Gaza Strip.

– Participants called
upon the international community to exert pressures on the Israeli occupation
authorities in order to life the closure which has been imposed on the Gaza
Strip since mid 2007 and to allow the delivery of construction materials
required for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

– Participants called
upon the international community to fulfill their obligations relating to the
reconstruction of civilian objects which were destroyed in the Gaza Strip
during the last Israeli offensive that took place between late 2008 and early
2009.

– Participants called
upon UNRWA to immediately reconstruct houses which UNRWA destroyed alleging
they were not appropriate for living. UNRWA is also required to change
mechanisms adopted by it in order to accelerate the reconstruction of destroyed
houses.