Members of the Ballinacurra Weston Residents’ Alliance (BWRA) and affiliate organisations in Limerick Regeneration Watch were delighted with the news that their proposals for community participation has received the full backing of Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona , the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.
Matt Collins, Chairperson of the BWRA explained the background to the UN Special Rapporteur’s involvement:
“Last December we made a joint submission with the Weston Gardens Residents Association for the Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation plan. Part of our submission was a proposal that the Office of Regeneration should adopt a human rights based approach to community participation in the regeneration process and local Estate Management. We had used Magdalena’s reports to the Human Rights Council to make our case, so we contacted her early in January to thank her for the great work she does and we sent her a copy of our submission. We could hardly believe it when she replied to us with the offer of assistance.” said Matt
“At the end of the day we are a mandated group that is representative of the majority of residents, but we continue to be excluded from the decision making process, as residents we have no say on what happens. We are calling for community elections to be held in all regeneration areas to elect representatives on to localised power-sharing regeneration boards, similar to the one in Fatima Mansions, Dublin.” said Matt.
Martin Woodland, BWRA Secretary, said he was delighted with the news.
“I am delighted that we are been acknowledged for the work that we do, it is almost unbelievable that such a high profile figure as the UN’s Special Rapporteur has taken up our cause, especially when you consider the fact that our submission was ignored by local officials after we sent them hard copies for their convenience; they’d want to start paying attention now.” said Martin.
Chairperson of the Weston Gardens Residents’ Association (WGRA) and Limerick Regeneration Watch, Cathal McCarthy, said that their submission was part of a city-wide Human Rights Action Postcard Campaign by groups affiliated to Limerick Regeneration Watch that empowered residents to make individual submissions on the issue of community participation and reform of local Estate Management.
“Residents were only given 11 days’ notice from the Office of Regeneration to make submissions. We went door to door with the postcards, asking people if they would like to make a submission. Our campaign received the unanimous support from the residents we visited with; we didn't have time to get to every house as residents had a lot of questions and concerns. The Office of Regeneration hadn't even bothered to contact residents whose homes are being targeted for demolition in their new plan”, said Cathal.
Submission Postcard Front & Back
On 5th December 2013, representatives of the BWRA and WGRA together with representatives of the Kincora & Carew Parks Concerned Residents Action Group (KCPCRAG) handed in over 250 signed postcards from residents living in the Southside Regeneration Area to the Office of Regeneration. The postcards, each one counted as an individual submission, called for the immediate reform of the failed structures for community participation in the regeneration process and local estate management stating that, "Residents have a fundamental right to participate in the decisions that affect our lives."
Pat Begley, Chairperson of the KCPCRAG, said that local Estate Management was not working in the best interest of residents.
“This situation where paid local Estate Management workers are appointed as resident’s representatives cannot be allowed to continue. They have no mandate, they were not elected by residents and they do not represent our best interests. They operate as a closed shop; membership of their committee, like the other areas, is by invitation-only and here in Carew Park their office is never open. ”
ABOVE: Kenneth Robinson and Pat Begley (KCPCRAG) with
Matt Collins (BWRA) handing the postcards at the LEDP
Tommy Daly, Chairperson of the Moyross Residents’ Alliance had also handed in postcards to the Office of Regeneration in Watch House Cross last December, welcomed the comments of the Special Rapporteur.
“It’s great to have such international support. It’s about time that they [Office of Regeneration] got up of their arses, start listening to people and treat residents with a bit of dignity. They should be upholding our human and constitutional rights. They need to stop talking down to us and start working with us as equals.” said Tommy.
The BWRA and their affiliates in Limerick Regeneration Watch are calling on all public representatives to join with the UN’s Special Rapporteur and lend their public support for their position on community participation.
“We have a human right to participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect our lives; as Magdalena has said’ ‘this is a matter of fundamental justice from a human rights perspective’. I hope the powers that be have the good sense to heed her words because this is not just a local issue, it is one of national importance as Magdalena has previously called on the Irish State to introduce legislation that would ensure real community participation in the regeneration process for communities throughout the country ” said Cathal
The text of the letter of support reads as follows:
OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS
HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
SPECIAL PROCEDURES OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Geneva 13 February, 2014
TO WHOM IT MIGHT CONCERN
Participation is a human right in itself and a key means of realizing all other human rights. As United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, a core part of my mandate has been examining to what extent people living in poverty are able to enjoy their right to equal participation in public life. During my mission to Ireland in 20 11, I visited the Fatima Mansions regeneration project in Dublin. I praised this in my subsequent report to the Human Rights Council as a "good example of community participation in the decision making process that should be ensured in other projects".
I applaud the great work of the Ballinacurra Weston Residents' Alliance (BWRA) in working with disadvantaged communities to promote their agency, rights and voice, and I support their approach to community participation. I believe they have legitimate concerns about the limited extent to which residents have been able to participate in decision-making around regeneration and I therefore urge the relevant authorities in the Limerick regeneration areas to take their recommendations, based on human rights, into consideration. Tokenistic or formulaic participation is not empowering or rights-compliant. In order for people living in poverty to have their dignity upheld, they must be able to have a real say in decisions that affect their lives. As the BWRA has said, "Safe and sustainable communities can only be delivered through real and meaningful community participation and partnership", and moreover, I would add that this is a matter of fundamental justice from the human rights perspective.
Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights
For more information
Report Mission to Ireland is available here:
Report on participation of people living in poverty in decisions that affect their lives is available here:http://www .ohchr.org/EN/IssueslPovertylPagesl AnnualReports.aspx
WHO IS MAGDALENA SEPVÚLDA CARMONA?
Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (formerly Independent Expert).
Ms. Sepulveda is a Chilean lawyer who holds a Ph.D in International Human Rights Law from Utrecht University in the Netherlands; an LL.M in human rights law from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and a post graduate diploma in comparative law from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile.
Ms. Sepulveda has worked as a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, as a staff attorney at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and as the Co-Director of the Department of International Law and Human Rights of the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. She also served as a consultant to the Division of International Protection of UNHCR and to the Norwegian Refugee Council in Colombia. More recently she has been Research Director at the International Council on Human Rights Policy in Geneva and Associate Research Fellow at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights.
She was appointed Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty by the Human Rights Council in March 2008 and assumed her functions on 1 May of that year. In June 2011 the Human Rights Council extended the mandate on extreme poverty and human rights, and changed its title to Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (HRC resolution 17/13).
Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona on Social Exclusion