Declaration on the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2015


At Paris, 67 years ago today, UN Member states affirmed that “All human
beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” That 1st article of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (UDHR) enshrined this fundamental human rights principle with seeming
prescience of its contemporary relevance. In light of the various currents and
trends today impeding implementation of that principle, as civil actors around
the globe, we reaffirm that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and
inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of
freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

However, thwarting efforts toward
sustainable human well-being are growing inequality, land and resource
accumulation by dispossession and the systematic violation of human rights that
persist with impunity and, often, complicity of the very states that all have
committed to implementing these customary norms.

The realization that we are all one
is becoming clearer and more urgent in the light of a human-made environmental
disaster that looms, even as UN Member states convene again at Paris in COP21
to confront the other epic challenge of climate change. Those decision makers
must muster the courage to address and resolve root causes.

This was also the year for states to
approve the Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to realize the human
rights of all and to achieve gender equality. These essential goals are
indivisible and integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development: the
economic, social and environmental. It remains to be seen if states will muster
the necessary political will to address global discrimination and poverty
substantively and, thus, to discharge their treaty-bound individual and
collective obligations to do so. In the meantime, combating discrimination and
poverty remains mainly a local task that we pledge to uphold, despite the
complacency of officials and political leaderships and the global discussions
and subsequent agendas overemphasize the economic dimension of their
responsibilities and commitments. Much time is dedicated to wording and few
resources are available to eradicate poverty, discrimination and address cause
roots of human made disasters and climate change.

As we advance toward Habitat III
(HIII), the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban
Development to take place in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016, we observe with serious
concern how HIII’s content and process have abandoned the human rights approach
and the much needed rural-urban balanced development for all human beings, and
have shifted to an urbanization and growth patterns that have already
demonstrated their inability to address the fundamental issues affecting
habitat rights. Needless to say, the cause of this growing inequality is
precisely this growth and urbanization trend, the subsequent accumulation of
wealth and inadequate mechanisms of redistribution and the absence of
mechanisms to ensure poverty alleviation. Problems cannot be solved exacerbating their root causes while
combining this time discrimination with advancing climate change, as it causes
greater displacement, endless urbanization and creation of apartheid cities,
and generates more land and weather disasters in every region.

Individuals and communities across
the world remain vulnerable to persistent discrimination that denies and
violates their human right to adequate housing (HRAH) and related
rights—including, inter alia, the rights to land, food, water, health,
participation and decent work—essential for sustenance and survival.
Discrimination and its ideologies often euphemize market-driven economics,
destructive projects, patriarchy, opportunistic investment and inequitable
urbanization, which variously combine to devastate communities and their
environments. Discrimination and its rationale manifest in forced eviction of
impoverished city dwellers; denial of pastoral communities’ access to vital
natural resources; usurpation of farmers’ and peasants’ lands; failure to
implement agrarian reform and invest sufficiently in rural development; denial
of women’s rights to housing, land, inheritance and property; displacement and
replacement of indigenous peoples; further marginalization of minorities;
systematic exclusion of communities on grounds of their descent and work;
wanton destruction in the context of conflict, occupation and war; and the
dispossession of people and entire nations under occupation and comparable
forms of alien domination and violence.

Contemporary forms of discrimination
have joined an array of historical factors that lead to violations of housing
and land rights: exclusionary development paradigms; denial of secure tenure;
lack of legal recognition of collective rights to land and other natural
resources; declining public housing assistance; restricted access to credit;
growth of land mafias and cartels; privatization of basic services; predatory
and “sub-prime” mortgage lending; differentiated “nationality” vs.
“citizenship” rights; barriers to effective participation; and a lack of
effective legal protection against discrimination by private and public actors.
A dominant “ethos of privatism” in economic life increasingly subjects access
to adequate housing and land to income competition that generates new forms of
discrimination. This is unacceptable, particularly in light of the state’s
obligation to respect, protect and fulfill HRAH.

On the other hand, we observe how the
global agendas are limiting the participation of CS actors. The participation
in the drafting of the Habitat II Agenda was more ample than permitted in
current Habitat III. The diversity of views—including mention of standing
commitments—are not allowed, particularly those that highlight and/or challenge
the narrowing of the Habitat Agenda and inclusive concept (three
times affirmed (1976, 1996 and 2001). You will hear no mention of these
antecedents from UN-Habitat/Habitat III Secretariat officers or their
followers. One must accede to UN Habitat’s amnesiac guidance by pledging
allegiance to the replacement new “urban” agenda.

This period should enable sufficient freedom of expression to consider
even reforming UN-Habitat to operate coherently with the UN Chartered three
purposeful dimensions (pillars): peace and security, forward development and
human rights, girded by means of international cooperation. In 1948, UDHR also
acknowledged that “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous
acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.” It also proclaimed “the
advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and
belief and freedom from fear and want…as the highest aspiration of the common

On this Human Rights Day, Habitat International Coalition (HIC) echoes
the call for “equal rights of men and women and…to promote social progress
and better standards of life in larger freedom.” Likewise, we also must sound
an alarm at the unrelenting pattern of housing and land rights violations that
indicates rampant discrimination in every region, and the need to uphold the
pre-emptive and remedial human rights approach in the Habitat III process and

more information on the work of HIC, visit: ,,, and

more information on the Human Rights Day 2015, visit:

GS HLRN 10 December 2015

* Click here to download the declaration in English.

* Click here to download the declaration in Arabic.