Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Right to Food and the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Kelly Landry
UN Human Rights Council – 19th Session
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The United States takes note of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, which addresses the link between health, malnutrition, and obesity. We appreciate that the Special Rapporteur has addressed such important issues as: under-nutrition; the quality of food consumption as well as the quantity of food production; the increasing prevalence of obesity; and the composition of people’s diets. These important and previously under-recognized areas of his mandate warrant international attention.
That said, we have a number of concerns with the report, including that the report presents an incomplete analysis of the economic and social factors driving food production and consumption choices. We believe the report does not adequately take into account the latest relevant UN outcome documents. These documents include, among others, the FAO’s State of Food and Agriculture and State of Food Insecurity reports, and the Comprehensive Framework for Action of the Secretary General’s High Level Task Force.
Furthermore, the report makes policy prescriptions that seem incorrect or inappropriate in areas such as tax policy, intellectual property rights, international trade, and restrictions on marketing and advertising.
The report also could have benefited from a focus on the importance of school feeding programs in improving nutrition. For example, in January 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled new standards for school meals that will improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million students that participate in school meal programs.
The Obama Administration is also committed to improving nutrition through the 1,000 Days Initiative, a public-private partnership that focuses on improving nutrition in the period from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday. The 1,000 Days partnership also supports the global “Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)” movement. Healthy children who get off to a good start through these types of initiatives will be more likely to succeed in school and become productive members of the workforce.
We believe it is crucial for young people to attain adequate nutrition levels so that they can not only be healthy, but also excel in school, and reach their full potential.
ADEQUATE HOUSING AS A COMPONENT OF THE RIGHT TO ADEQUATE STANDARD OF LIVING
The United States also takes note of the report of the special rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to adequate standard of living, and we appreciate her focus on discrimination against women. We share her view of the importance of overcoming barriers to adequate housing that women face, and we strongly endorse her conclusion in paragraph 27 that “[t]he idea that rights over housing, land, property, and inheritance fall solely within the male domain must be challenged.”
We welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s broad consultations with approximately 300 organizations from around the world. During these consultations, the Special Rapporteur identified several barriers faced by women to access to housing. These obstacles include: discrimination, natural and human-induced disasters, lack of affordable and low-cost housing, forced evictions, homelessness, domestic violence, lack of women‘s participation in law and policy-making, and lack of access to remedies. We look forward to continuing to work with the Special Rapporteur to address these barriers.
We would like to respond to the report’s specific criticism of the foreclosure situation in the United States. The evidence that she cites does not necessarily indicate gender discrimination. In particular, the statement that women in the United States, due to gender discrimination, are 32 percent more likely than men to receive sub-prime or predatory loans relies on a misinterpretation of data, and does not account for factors such as co-borrower status or creditworthiness. [Additional details can be found at the end of this statement]
Ending lending discrimination against women is one of the U.S. Government’s domestic priorities. Our Department of Housing and Urban Development proactively reviews lending policies and practices that might discriminate against women. We look forward to working with the Special Rapporteur to address the important issues that she has raised, and help combat discrimination against women in housing.
Thank you, Madame President.
Additional Details: 2005 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, on which the study is based, categorizes borrowers as male, female, or joint; however, the study appears to have re-categorized joint borrowers as either male or female, with more categorized as “male.” HMDA data shows that male and female borrowers without co-applicants are about equally likely to receive high-cost loans, while joint applicants are much less likely to receive high-cost loans. Thus, the male-female disparity noted by the study is due to co-borrower status, rather than sex. Further, because HMDA data does not track the creditworthiness of borrowers, any disparity shown through HMDA data might be attributable to factors unrelated to gender discrimination.
In 2011, HUD, after investigation, settled or charged some of the first cases that addressed denials of home mortgage loans to female borrowers who were pregnant, obtaining child custody, or on parental leave. HUD continues to pursue such discrimination as it seeks industry-wide reforms. HUD has reached out to lenders, insurers, and secondary market entities about their underwriting guidelines for maternity leave, and has partnered with Moms Rising, a million-member grassroots organization, to get the word out about lending discrimination against mothers.
HUD interprets U.S. antidiscrimination law to prohibit housing providers from evicting female victims of domestic violence for being linked to disturbances or crimes. Such evictions constitute sex discrimination because disproportionate shares of domestic violence victims are women. In 2011, HUD issued guidance to clarify these legal protections and has since vigorously investigated such discrimination.]