UN-Habitat Executive Director meets with the US Ambassador to Iraq to discuss on-going partnership to support the land rights of minority groups
UN-Habitat's Executive Director (ED), Mrs. Maimunah Sharif, met with Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller, the United States' Ambassador to Iraq, and thanked the US Government for its longstanding partnership and continued trust in UN-Habitat's initiatives.
The United States is one of the main donors to UN-Habitat focusing on Housing, Land, and Property (HLP) rights in Iraq, with a particular focus on protecting the property rights of minorities.
"The United States greatly values its partnership with UN-Habitat," said Ambassador Tueller during his meeting with the ED. "UN-Habitat has made truly commendable progress in many areas, and especially in addressing housing, land, and property rights of the displaced and other vulnerable populations," he added.
UN-Habitat Iraq Program is currently implementing a three-year program titled "Support to Housing, Land and Property Rights for IDPs in Nineveh." The program's overall goal is to stabilize Iraq by promoting safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable returns and reintegration in the liberated areas in Nineveh, northern Iraq. The program is particularly focused on vulnerable IDPs from minority groups, particularly Yazidis, whose registration for housing, land and property (HLP) rights has been banned due to discriminatory practices in Iraq.
To counter the discrimination against the Yazidi minority, UN-Habitat is registering and mapping the land claims of Yazidi returnees, holding community consultation meetings to help verify their claims among themselves, and issuing Occupancy Certificates endorsed by federal, local authorities, and community representatives. As a result of UN-Habitat's continuous effort, more than 9,000 Occupancy Certificates have been distributed to Yazidi returnees to date.
"The support from the US government has always been crucial to UN-Habitat's Housing, Land and Property (HLP) rights initiative in Iraq. We are confident that the process of endorsement of land decree and the recognition of the Certificates of Occupancy is critical to ensure sustainable return of Yazidis," said the ED.
UN-Habitat hopes to continue its partnership with the U.S. Department of State to support the protection of HLP rights for the Yazidi minority in Iraq and to complete the last stage towards formal registration of Occupancy Certificates. It is expected that the Iraqi government will formally recognize their HLP rights by legal decree.
The most significant outcome from ED's meetings with the senior Iraqi officials is that they are keen to lay the groundwork for the formal recognition of the Occupancy Certificates by the central Government. The endorsement of the legal decree granting Yazidi land rights will be a great accomplishment for UN-Habitat, as it will mark the first time in modern history that occupancy rights for the Yazidi minority in Sinjar will be formally recognized.
In addition, the approval of the law will impact informal settlements, and will enormously affect urban populations in Iraq, including IDPs. The law will open the door to address the legal situation of almost 15% of the population in Iraq who live in informal settlements. In the past, these informal settlements have affected social, economic and service aspects of many Iraqi cities, and have often impeded the drafting of urban plans and the delivery of basic services to its citizens. Once this law is passed, it is expected that thousands of job opportunities will be created, as many construction projects will be launched to upgrade and regularize eligible informal settlements.