The design of the built environment can and should support rights through improved education and more effective work in communities. Equally important, the design of the built environment just gets better when we consider human rights from the start.
Too many people are overlooked in the development of our built environment. When they are rendered invisible the rights of the poor and vulnerable members of our society are restricted. Beginning in the 1970s with accessibility becoming a building code issue, the design professions began to recognize the rights of people whose mobility, sight or hearing were reduced. This was further reinforced by legislation such as the U.S. Fair Housing Act (1989) which tied accessibility standards to civil rights legislation.
The relationship between the design of the built environment and the cause of human rights extends much further, though. For example, estimates in 2007 suggested there were 163 million people who had been forcibly displaced. Of these there were:
25 million people displaced by conflict and extreme human rights abuses that remain within their own countries.25 million people displaced by disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, who remain within their own countries.105 million people displaced by development projects such as dams, mines, roads, factories, plantations and wildlife reserves. The vast majority remain within their own countries.8.5 million people who are refugees. This means that they have fled persecution in their own countries and gone to other countries that have accepted their claims for asylum
Development-induced displacement accounts for more forced evictions than all other causes combined. This fact suggests a different approach to development a rights-based approach.
The purpose of CAHR is to promote that change in approach on the part of those most responsible for the development of the built environment architects, engineers, and planners.
There are two main methods we are using to promote that change:Donor-supported projects these are focused directly on addressing the needs of vulnerable communities through design, advocacy, and buildingProgrammes these are focused mainly on building awareness of human rights in development projects through educating design professionals.