Human Rights in the New Urban Agenda

The need to include a human rights
mainstreaming in the New Urban Agenda

The meeting, hold upon the initiative
of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Habitat III Secretariat,
aimed at analysing the world’s urbanisation process under the light of human
rights recognised by international treaties, as well as to provide recommendations
for the New Urban Agenda –which will be defined in theHabitat IIISummit in Quito, 17-21
October 2016.

During the two days meeting, around
thirty experts from the UN, civil society and local governments from all over
the world exchanged perspectives on the New Urban Agenda’s main axes: social
cohesion and equity, urban economy, spatial development, right to housing…

The discussions that took place
revealed the need for adopting a human rights mainstreaming in the New Urban
a, based on the analysis of the consequences that the absence of such
approach has had on the urban development processes: inequality and lack of
access to essential services, social and spatial segregations, systematic
violations of the right to housing –that infringes the right to life of
millions of homeless people, and results in massive evictions of informal
dwellers and in many forms of discriminations.

According to the experts, if the rights
recognised on the Habitat II Agenda (Istanbul, 1996) were never implemented,
this is due to the fact that the global urbanisation process has been
mostly oriented to economic growth and the attraction of private investments,
without ensuring social guarantees
. Fiscal austerity and structural
adjustments policies have prevented public sector to implement all necessary
means to guarantee their inhabitants rights –and, eventually, have prevented cities
from becoming places for the majority of the people to improve their lives.

All local stakeholders must fulfil
internationally recognised human rights

The discussion also insisted on the
need to concrete new social contracts at local level, with all
inhabitants’ participation
–whatever their administrative status.
These social contracts must be based on rights to really guarantee social
cohesion. To this end, it becomes crucial to frame all market
stakeholders –like real estate developers- within a regulation aiming at
guaranteeing human rights’ compliance
. Also, the creation of a progressive
and fair tax system 
was identified as a critical need for cities to
become spaces for dignified lives.

Finally, there was a major consensus on
the need to monitor the implementation of the New Urban Agenda through
human rights’ indicators 
that will enable a stronger accountability of
national and local governments, as well as other stakeholders that participate
in the configuration of the urban fabric –particularly the business sector.

As this meeting’s outcome, a
position paper on the need to put Human Rights at the heart of the in the New
Urban Agenda will be issued in the coming days

Finally, after the experts’ meeting,
the Committee was invited on May 6th to present the results of
this two-day work in the UN Headquarters and to contribute to recommendations
for UN State members’ delegations.

This meeting was held under the
auspices of Ecuador’s National Government Representation –which co-chairs the
Habitat III Conference- and was also attended by Lorena Zárate, President of
the Habitat International Coalition (HIC) and
Anselmo Lee, from the Korea Human Rights Foundation.
As part of her introductory remarks, Ecuador delegate, Ms Helena Yanez Loza,
recalled her government’s commitment for the Right to the City in
the New Urban Agenda. This Right is recognised by the Ecuador’s Constitution
and was defined by the delegate as the “territorialisation of the
rights recognised by international treaties”

* Original