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Publication Details

Reference
du Plessis, Jean (2006) A decade of forced evictions: In search of solutions to a growing global problem. Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, : 1-17.

Summary
One of the best definitions that I have heard of the concept of security of tenure is the ‘freedom from fear of forced eviction’. Unfortunately, far too many people do not experience this freedom, and live
instead in constant fear of eviction.

Every year millions of people around the world are forcibly evicted, leaving them homeless and subject to deeper poverty, discrimination and social exclusion. Often these are large-scale mass evictions, where entire communities of tens or even hundreds of thousands of people are removed. Such communities are invariably evicted against their will, in most cases without any compensation or alternative housing.

Forced evictions have various and often complex and interconnected causes, including:

• Tenure insecurity / absence of formal rights
• Development and infrastructure projects
• Large international events, such as the Olympic Games
• Urban redevelopment and ‘beautification’ initiatives
• Property market forces and ‘gentrification’
• Absence of State support for the poor
• Political conflict, ethnic cleansing and war

Regardless of the actual cause, those who implement forced evictions generally justify the eviction in the name of ‘development’ – and, by implication, as intended for the general public good.

Governments and other implementing agencies use compelling ‘developmental’ language, often backed up by complicated technical jargon, in an attempt to defend actions which are, in most cases, totally indefensible.

It must, therefore, be made unambiguously clear at the outset of any discussion of forced evictions, that the practice of eviction without consultation or adequate alternatives and compensation is illegal in terms of international law. It is also unjust, compromising fundamental uman rights principles, with devastating consequences for those affected. Moreover, in terms of international experience and best practice, it is fundamentally counterproductive to the goal of human development.

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