Não sabe como resolver um conflito? Construa um muro!

Quando não se sabe como resolver um problema, como enfrentar um conflito, uma questão complexa, constrói-se um muro. Recentemente, vimos anunciada na imprensa a intenção do governo do Estado de São Paulo de construir um muro de 2m de altura ao longo do rio Paraitinga. O objetivo da medida, segundo o governo, é conter as enchentes que, anos atrás, já destruíram parte da cidade de São Luiz do Paraitinga e de seu patrimônio.

A questão complexa, neste caso, é: como proteger a cidade e seu patrimônio da força das águas, ao mesmo tempo respeitando as suas características construtivas, das quais também faz parte a relação histórica de São Luiz do Paraitinga com o rio? Construir um muro para isolar o rio da cidade, neste caso, significa uma falta de solução porque não enfrenta a complexidade da questão ao destruir a relação da cidade com o rio.

Há muitos outros exemplos que mostram como os muros são, na verdade, formas típicas de não resolução de conflitos. O muro que separa a fronteira dos EUA com o México, para evitar que os latino-americanos entrem ilegalmente nos EUA, ou o muro que Israel vem construindo na Cisjordânia desde 2002 para evitar que os palestinos circulem nesse território, são alguns exemplos. Os dois casos envolvem questões com implicações em termos étnicos, políticos e sociais. O fato é que, em vez de se trabalhar a questão e de se buscar soluções para ela, constrói-se um muro.

Um exemplo mais concreto, visível em nosso dia a dia, é o novo produto imobiliário surgido nos anos 1990 frente à escalada da violência urbana: o condomínio fechado e murado, forjado na ideia de que é possível construir um paraíso exclusivo para poucos e deixar os conflitos do lado de fora, o que, como nossas cidades já demonstraram, é impossível. Anos atrás, no Rio de Janeiro, surgiu a péssima ideia de murar a favela da Rocinha com a justificativa de proteger a floresta da Tijuca. Ainda bem que desistiram. Seria mais uma falsa solução.

Em 1989, pudemos ver pela TV a queda do muro de Berlim – ícone da Guerra Fria, que separava o mundo capitalista do mundo socialista. A derrubada do muro – que ficou conhecido como muro da vergonha – transformou-se numa espécie de ícone da liberdade e da democracia. O muro de Berlim foi derrubado em 1989, mas, infelizmente, a lógica de construção de muros como forma de (não) resolver conflitos continua de pé.

Texto originalmente publicado no Yahoo! Colunistas.

Apresentação no Conselho de Direitos Humanos da ONU

Nesta sexta-feira apresentei no Conselho de Direitos Humanos da ONU, em Genebra, quatro relatórios: missão aos EUA, missão às Maldivas, impacto dos Mega Eventos no direito à moradia e acompanhamento de missões anteriores ao Brasil, Camboja e Quênia.

Para ver o vídeo da apresentação, clique aqui ou na imagem abaixo. É necessário ter o programa Real Player instalado.

Onde os Estados Unidos são terceiro mundo

Reportagem publicada no blog da Patrícia Campos Mello, correspondente do Estadão em Washington

A relatora especial da ONU para o direito à moradia, a brasileira Raquel Rolnik, passou 18 dias em sete cidades dos Estados Unidos e encontrou uma situação digna de terceiro mundo. “Fiquei assustada com a situação da moradia nos Estados Unidos”, disse Raquel, que também é professora da Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo da Universidade de São Paulo.

Ela já vinha pesquisando o problema da moradia nos EUA há tempos e esperava se deparar com os estragos da crise das hipotecas subprime. Mas encontrou coisa pior: gente morando em carros, muitos moradores de ruas em “cidades de barracas”, famílias inteiras sem-teto, apartamentos superlotados, com três famílias. “É muito difícil achar moradia acessível, as pessoas estão gastando 80%, 90% da renda com aluguel ou parcela do financiamento”, disse Raquel. “Quando a crise chegou, grande parte da moradia pública tinha sido demolida e não foi substituída em números suficientes.”

Ela esteve em Washington, Nova York, Wilkes-Barre, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles e na reserva indígena Pine Ridge.

A ONU tenta desde 2005 enviar um relator para a moradia para os EUA, mas vinha sendo ignorada pelo governo Bush. Só agora, no governo Obama, mais aberto à atuação de instituições multilaterais como a ONU, é que a relatora recebeu sinal verde.

A direita americana esperneou. Um editorial do jornal conservador Washington Times disse que a visita de Raquel era parte da “usurpação gradual da soberania americana” e perguntava porque ela não ia pesquisar a moradia no Brasil.

“Ela deveria voltar para o lugar de onde saiu”, dizia o editorial. “A culpa burocrática de Miss Rolnik deveria ser dirigida ao Brasil, onde 28,9% da população urbana vive em favelas.”

“É claro que de forma absoluta, o problema da moradia é mais grave nos países em desenvolvimento”, disse Raquel. “Mas, de forma relativa, é igual – nos EUA, são milhões de pessoas sem acesso à moradia, no país mais rico do planeta.”

A relatora da ONU diz ser muito difícil comparar Brasil e EUA. Os EUA tiveram, por muitos anos, uma política de moradia abrangente, que foi sendo desmantelado desde o governo Reagan. O país está em uma trajetória descendente, só amenizada por algumas medidas recentes do governo Obama, ela diz.

Já o Brasil, explica Raquel, nunca deve uma política de moradia popular em grande escala. Eram sempre iniciativas da própria população – favelas, loteamentos irregulares – que então eram substituídas por COABs ou Cingapuras, mas em escala muito menor.

Raquel está preparando um relatório sobre tudo o que viu nos EUA. Ela visitou projetos de habitação do governo, bairros com muitas casas em execução de hipoteca, locais onde se concentram moradores de rua e as chamadas tent-cities, que reunem sem-teto em barracas. Também promoveu assembléias com moradores e reuniu-se com representantes de ONGs, além de integrantes do governo Obama. Em março, ela apresenta seu relatório diante do Conselho de Direitos Humanos da ONU, em Genebra.

U.N. visits America’s Third World

Artigo de Nick Coleman publicado no jornal StarTribune, de Minnesota, sobre a visita à reserva indígena de Pine Ridge.

Americans may be forgiven for thinking we have enough problems without United Nations inspectors traveling to a South Dakota Indian reservation to examine dismal housing conditions among the poorest of our poor. But we may not be forgiven for letting our housing problems fester even after they receive international notoriety.

Today, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing will do something only one sitting U.S. president ever has done: Visit the sprawling and impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik (a rapporteur is someone assigned to make an investigation and report back to an organization) is visiting as part of a tour of some of America’s worst housing, from New York and Los Angeles to post-Katrina New Orleans to the slums of Chicago to Pine Ridge.

Pine Ridge, an 11,000-square-mile reservation of almost 20,000 people, stands tantalizingly within sight of the rich Black Hills. Torturously may be a more apt word: The Black Hills, according to a 1980 Supreme Court ruling, were stolen from the Lakota Sioux tribes now confined to the arid plains beside their old homeland.

Plenty of sordid history needs to be remembered in any discussion of the U.S. government and its treatment of Indians in general and of the Sioux in particular. But recent changes in international law and U.N. priorities have combined to put the old painful story in a new, awkward focus that may finally force Washington to live up to some of the promises made when the government signed treaties with the tribes, and when it would say anything (or shoot anyone) to appropriate tribal lands.

First, in 2000, the U.N. declared that the right to adequate housing is a human right. Then, in 2007, after 20 years of debate and negotiation, it approved a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples protecting the rights of tribal peoples around the world and stating that treaties between any nation and its native peoples may be considered matters of “international concern” and responsibility.

(Only four countries voted against adoption of the U.N. declaration. One of them, quite disgracefully, was the United States.)

One of the promises made to the Lakota after the end of Red Cloud’s War was a promise to give each family a “comfortable house” (another was to give them the Black Hills “as long as the grass grows” or, it turned out, until someone found gold there). Today, on Pine Ridge, which is located in a county that consistently ranks as the first- or second-poorest in the United States, there aren’t many comfortable houses.

Instead, as in most hard-core pockets of poverty, there are shabby, overcrowded, pest-ridden, dilapidated homes, many of which lack adequate plumbing or other modern conveniences. The shortcomings range from partial kitchens to dirt floors to no telephones. The U.N.’s Rolnik will see it all today, starting her Pine Ridge tour in Wanbli (“eagle” in the Lakota tongue) and visiting several other impoverished settlements, such as Kyle and Porcupine. I am familiar with the Pine Ridge Reservation, having written extensively about it and having stayed as a guest in a small shack without plumbing or running water, and having helped a church group put fresh paint on the isolated trailer homes of tribal elders who kept tires on the roofs to help hold them on.

Bill Clinton is the only president to have visited Pine Ridge, which includes the hamlet of Wounded Knee, where the 7th Cavalry ended the Indian wars by massacring hundreds of Sioux in 1890. Clinton made many promises during his 1999 stop, many of them about improving jobs and housing. A decade later, nothing has changed, except for the worse: Unemployment is estimated at as high as 75 or 80 percent, and 60 percent of the housing stock is considered substandard.

According to a tribal housing report submitted to the U.N. rapporteur, reservation housing is “in a deplorable state,” with most of the government-built homes “severely overcrowded.” As many as 20 or 25 people may live in a three-bedroom home with missing windows, broken walls, mold and other health-menacing problems. On top of everything else, the reservation homelessness rate is estimated at an astounding 30 percent. If you believe the U.N. should concentrate on problems in Third World countries, calm down: Pine Ridge fits right in.

“We hope the rapporteur’s visit will expose the atrocious conditions on the reservation that the U.S. government allows to happen,” says Bill Means, a Pine Ridge native who serves on the board of the International Indian Treaty Council. “The reason for asking the U.N. to help is that we can’t get that type of attention in Washington, especially with the new administration.

“We are looking for policy change. Real change. Not just more promises.”

Nick Coleman is a senior fellow at the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University. He can be reached at nickcoleman@gmail.com

Pine Ridge: A housing issue

Artigo publicado no Indian Country Today sobre visita à reserva indígena de Pine Ridge. Fotos neste link.

By Victoria Bomberry

PINE RIDGE, S.D. – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik visited Pine Ridge Nov. 2 to investigate the housing conditions on the reservation.

Located in the poorest county in the United States, Pine Ridge provided Rolnik the opportunity to view housing conditions that reflect the problems present in Indian country throughout the United States. Pine Ridge is the only rural location on her tour of the United States. While Rolnik is responding to the nation-wide housing crisis, inadequate housing is a serious problem that plagues Indian communities in both rural and urban areas.

The UN Commission on Human Rights created the special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing in 2000 to examine and report on housing conditions in various countries.

Rolnik is making site visits at the invitation of the United States. “The United States has been implementing a variety of programs and policies towards providing adequate housing for everyone. I want to look at their functioning and impact from a human rights perspective.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that everyone has the right to housing.

“Pine Ridge is a case example of the extreme need that is out there,” said Mellor Willie, National American Indian Housing Council director. “They have a great leadership that is focused on working on housing issues. They are so remote and rural that they reflect the reality of rural Indian communities.”

During the daylong visit, Rolnik met with tribal officials and members to gather oral and written testimony.

The opening ceremonies took place at Oglala Lakota College where community members representing the diversity of the tribe welcomed her. She was received and honored by tribal President Theresa Two Bulls and Oglala Lakota College President Tom Short Bull. During the welcoming ceremonies, traditional members of the tribe presented Rolnik with star quilts – a reminder that the Lakota have a distinct living culture.

“We are very thankful that she is doing this,” Two Bulls said. “I’m happy that the United Nations is sending her here. I hope that she can get the United States to listen. We need people to see first hand what our needs are. I hope that interest spreads to hear our story. For too long it has been their story about what we need, not what we say we need.

My slogan when I ran for president was ‘Unity, Understanding and Peace.’ That can only happen if we all come together.”

Tribal members testified that severe overcrowding marks living conditions on the reservation. With an unemployment rate of 80 percent it is difficult for residents to maintain housing. Among the problems are inadequate repairs and mold that is hazardous to health.

A report prepared by the Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing Authority states that “housing built and indirectly maintained by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is in a deplorable state. The Lakota Nation, among other Indian nations, is a party to treaties with the United States, signed in the mid and late 1800s. Among the United States treaty obligations is the provision of subsistence and housing.”

“We are a sovereign nation built on treaties that the U.S. doesn’t honor,” said Myron Pourier, a tribal council member. “We don’t have the necessities people take for granted. They have nice homes that have running water, bathrooms and a kitchen.

Sixty percent of the housing on the reservation has three to four families living in a single house, including children and extended family members. We are severely underfunded.”

Willie stressed that the housing problems facing Indian nations are much more complicated than those of other populations in the United States. “It is estimated that 200,000 housing units are needed in Indian country. Currently 90,000 Native American families are homeless or under-housed. The president’s budget for housing block grants is $646 million, but $854 million is needed just to meet the backlog.”

Bill Means, of the International Indian Treaty Council and one of the hosts of the visit said, “Ms. Rolnik went into homes that are public and private housing. She saw the trailers and cluster housing. The reservation is 90 miles by 60 miles so she was able to get a good idea of the problems that exist here.”

On Nov. 7, Rolnik will brief tribal leaders in Washington, D.C. on her findings. Many leaders who are meeting with President Barrack Obama will extend their stay in Washington for the briefing.

Rolnik said many people in the world see the United States as a rich country that does not have a problem with housing. “It is important for the world to know about the housing conditions that exist. It is a question of economic resources.”

Fotos da visita à reserva indígena de Pine Ridge, em Dakota do Sul

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnik, visit to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on November 1st during her official visit to the United States where she is focusing on the human right to housing. Pine Ridge was her only scheduled visit to an Indian reservation. Photos courtesy of Alyssa Macy.

Veja o slideshow aqui.

Visite também o blog não-oficial da missão aos EUA.

Deu no New York Times: Moradia acessível? ONU envia olhar crítico para a habitação em Nova York

Reportagem publicada nesta sexta, 23, disponível neste link.

Raquel Rolnik

Michael Premo
Raquel Rolnik, United Nations special rapporteur, meets New Yorkers at a town hall meeting on Thursday.

Affordable? U.N. Puts a Questioning Eye on New York’s Housing

By Mike Reicher

Everybody knows New York City is an expensive place to live. But the United Nations wants to know if affordable housing is so tough to come by that it actually violates human rights.

The United Nations has assigned an official, “a special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing,” to check the city’s affordable housing. The rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, is to tour the city for the next three days with housing advocates and city officials to “hear the voices of those who are suffering on the ground,” she said.

The United Nations Human Rights Council appoints a rapporteur, or independent experts, to investigate human rights conditions around the world. In the case of Ms. Rolnik, a professor of urban planning at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, her “mission” is to tour New York City and six other places in the United States and to report back to the United Nations General Assembly about housing rights violations and advances.

After that, “We send off letters to governments to ask, ‘Is this true? What’s going on?’ and to please intervene,” she said.

Housing advocates will be taking Ms. Rolnik to the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn to see the results of the government’s use of eminent domain to seize property; to the New York City Housing Authority’s Grant Houses in Harlem to see how public housing residents live; and to the Bronx to meet residents whose landlords are in foreclosure.

At a town hall meeting last night in Morningside Heights, residents wept and shouted at Ms. Rolnik. They complained about deteriorating public housing, the lack of housing subsidies for AIDS patients, landlord harassment and many other issues, large and small.

She told them: “I am representing the right of adequate housing as a human right.”

One advocate and resident of public housing, Agnes Rivera, wept after telling Ms. Rolnik that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg “doesn’t care about the poor.” Rob Robinson from Picture the Homeless, a local advocacy group, embraced Ms. Rivera and gazed toward the special rapporteur. Later, Ms. Rolnik hugged a resident herself.

“Affordable housing here is not that affordable,” said Ms. Rolnik, who studied urban history as a New York University doctoral student in the 1980s. Her eyes lit up when talking about inclusionary zoning and other city housing policies. New York is unusual, she pointed out, because it has a city-level obligation to ensure that homeless people have shelter. Now it should make affordable housing a priority, she said.

Ms. Rolnik was appointed as special rapporteur by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008. This is her first official mission.

After her tour of New York City, she will survey the housing situations in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Washington, a South Dakota Indian reservation, and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Her report to the General Assembly is planned for March.

Across the United States, residents may tell her the same stories as those of New Yorkers — of mortgage scams, too many luxury condos and the stigma associated with public housing.

“We have no one to help us,” said Delores Earley, 73, who said her landlord has been trying to push her out of her Harlem rent-stabilized apartment for 20 years. “Somebody has got to know.”