Methodology for Monitoring the Human Right to Adequate Housing: The “Tool Kit”

The HLRN “Toolkit” seeks to put the legal specificity of the human right to adequate housing into your hands so that, together, we can make it real. The way to begin that process from an informed and authoritative position is by applying the meaning and contents of the human right through monitoring its implementation. To that end, this “Toolkit” takes the user through the logical steps of the monitor of economic, social and cultural rights. It guides you, the user, to know the normative content (“Entitlements”) of the human right to adequate housing. It also provides for you the authoritative international legal basis (“Legal sources”) as well as the popular claims (“Popular sources”) to housing rights. By organizing your monitoring process along the legally recognized elements (entitlements) of the human right, you can identify how your issue relates to the right as it is recognized in the various levels of the legal system, and how that right is affected by actual national policies and practices. By comparing reality to the theoretical standards, you can then determine the gaps and obstacles to implementation, knowing precisely who is affected and who is responsible for providing remedy.

Experience at upholding economic/social/cultural rights tells us that human rights monitoring to enumerate violations is a cardinal task, but only a part of what is required to implement human rights and well-being. The indispensable rest lies in posing and implementing the needed solutions. That forms another essential purpose of the HLRN “Toolkit.”

What is “right” about it?

The concept of housing has constantly undergone development in recognition of the basic elements that constitute it. Various legal and popular definitions have evolved over the years.

While the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights represents the seminal international law instrument recognizing, guaranteeing and binding States to “realize progressively” the human right to adequate housing, its monitoring body, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has provided us with the legal meaning of “adequate housing” as the normative content of the human right.

As the above definitions make clear, the right to housing is a multifaceted right. Clearly, understanding the human right to adequate housing necessarily entails several core entitlements. Some of these are recognized in international law as distinct human rights. We have termed these as “congruent rights.” Some examples of congruent rights are the human right to information, the human right to privacy and the human right to a safe environment.

Other entitlements also have been identified in this “Toolkit.” Although have not been codified as distinct human rights in international law, nevertheless must be recognized practically as such and are crucial to the realization of human right to adequate housing. These are termed here as “Entitlements,” in parallel to those entitlements detailed in the CESCR’s General Comment No. 4. These include the entitlements of access to potable water and to land. CESCR already has recognized the essential human right to water in its General Comment No. 15 of November 2002 (see details in this “Toolkit”). The essential housing rights element of land remains uncodified to date. This is despite the fact that land is a basic need for survival. This need—and its human rights dimension—become clear in context, particularly as witnessed in the persistent deprivation of indigenous peoples, Palestinians and indigenous South Africans. The land, as contentious as it is, is a core element of identity, culture and livelihood. It is as fundamental a resource for realizing the human right to adequate housing as it is to the human right to adequate food (also Article 11 of ICESCR and the subject of CESCR General Comment No. 12).

Why this toolkit?

Efforts to address the grave situation of housing, land rights and living conditions are constrained by the lack of a system for assessing the human rights dimensions. There is a dearth of indicators and benchmarks that could help to determine the extent of housing and land rights violations, or the extent to which these rights have been fulfilled. This toolkit is designed to fill the existing gaps in the field. The “Toolkit” also seeks to provide a formula and a guide for remedial and constructive action.

While the human right to housing must be actualized at the local level, it is essential to make linkages between local, national and international action. Without such a live and symbiotic linkage through networking, solidarity and advocacy, it is difficult to imagine the dismal conditions improving. Universally applicable human rights instruments provide the framework and perspective for channeling common efforts toward a more-civilized society and a better world. This “Toolkit” applies this framework to the practical field of housing and human settlements.

Scope and function

The HLRN “Toolkit” is designed to serve primary functions and additional applications. The primary functions are essentially capacity building for the user and her/his community. It will provide you, the user, with relevant and practical information and tactical guidance for:

  • Learning
  • Reference
  • Assessment
  • Strategic planning

The “Toolkit” will provide a practical basis for additional applications, including—but not limited to—the complementary tasks of:

  • Litigation
  • Advocacy
  • Monitoring
  • Media work
  • Standard setting
  • Social mobilization
  • Cooperation with the UN system

Who can use this “Toolkit”?

The primary user of this methodology is the young activist with a CBO or NGO, as well as their communities confronting problems in the housing rights sphere. With the help of the “Toolkit,” such individuals would be able to work with communities at conducting either rapid, or more-in-depth assessments of their housing rights conditions. With such an individual in mind, the HLRN technical team producing the “Toolkit” has sought to keep the language practical, although much of the text is derived from the international legal instruments.

Of course, the “Toolkit” also can be useful to professionals in the technical fields, research institutes, policy makers, judges and all others concerned with problems solving and dispute resolution in the field of housing and human settlements. It has been designed also to meet their needs for legal authority and specificity.

Available at:

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