CSD-12: Habitat International Coalition Viewpoint

Habitat International Coalition (HIC) is an NGO devoted to the recognition and implementation of housing as a human right. It has members in 77 countries. Its Secretariat is located in Santiago de Chile.

HIC reminds the members of the CSD, as well as other member-governments of the United Nations of the fact that the right to housing is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that most UN member-governments have, by ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, committed themselves to implement that right. Yet, the number of people in the world without adequate shelter has grown instead of decreased during the last decades.

A gross violation of the right to housing continues to be constituted by the mass forced evictions which are taking place in many countries. Equally rejectable is the destruction of houses without due process of law as practised by the Israeli armed forces, both within Israel and in the occupied territories.

The CSD should make an appeal to governments to stop both the illegal evictions and housing destructions immediately.

Privatisation of public or social housing is causing housing shortages in both poor and industrialized countries. Governments have lost the possibility to influence the housing market and there are not sufficient low-cost houses available for sale or rent; a situation which is worsening in times of economic recession.

The number of homeless and inadequately housed in the world continues to increase rapidly, primarily as a result of mass migration from rural to urban areas, combined with a high population growth. It is expected that in the coming decades this trend will account for more than 120 million additional slum dwellers, thus outpacing the number whose life would be improved by 2020 as target of the Millennium Development Goals. To make the situation worse: at the present speed of operation even this unsufficient target is unlikely to be reached. It is clear therefore that in the coming years the World Community will have to make an extra effort in the field of human settlements.

Spatial and social segregation in cities are growing as a result of all these trends affecting people’s access to education, health and other urban facilities. The high social costs of urban segregation is also behind violence which cannot be solved only by security measures but through neighbourhood and public space improvement programmes and social integration activities.

It is now generally recognized that the developing countries and their populations themselves will have to carry the main share of this effort. They should own the process. At the same time their governments should recognize and support the contributions which the inhabitants can and do make to the improvement of their housing and living conditions. In particular, national and local governments should make land available at affordable conditions and facilitate the operation of informal credit units. Community groups should be involved in the planning, construction and financial control of housing units.

The fact that the World Community has committed itself to quantitative objectives in the form of the Millennium Development Goals has to be welcomed. Governments should continue to be pressed to implement them. Much more attention should in that context be given to the duplication, competition and lack of coherence which exist within the system through which the Goals are tried to be achieved.

The effectiveness of donor governments and institutions could be much improved by more intensive co-operation, simplification of the rules of operation, uniformization of their reporting and auditing procedures. We make a renewed appeal to donor countries to fulfil their commitment of making at least 0,7% of their GNP available for development cooperation.