Habitat Agenda has to give life to the Millenium Development Goals


Mr Chairman,

Habitat International Coalition (HIC) since 30 years ago coordinates contributions of the civil society in housing and habitat themes. Today two topics draw our attention:

§ translating human rights into actions of social development for sustainable human settlements, and

§ implementing the international commitments referred to human settlements, particularly target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals.

No sustainable development neither sustainable human settlements are possible without respect, protection, fulfilment, promotion and monitoring of all human rights by their primary and subsidiary duty holders.

This implies a coordinated action among governments, communities, businesses, professionals, and civil society for the design and the implementation of policies and programs to realize the universal right to the adequate housing, access to the land, secure tenure, and access to education, health, employment and public space, including of course water and sanitation.

The documents of the Commission should take into account:

§ the civic, economic, cultural, political and social rights as a basis and a link of environmental, economic, and social sustainable development, by means of an explicit reference to the same;

§ the obligations subscribed by states and governments to apply the principles of self-determination, not discrimination, gender equity and international cooperation;

§ the monitoring and evaluation of the human settlements, in a holistic approach (in opposition to a sectorial focus) that consider:

    • the risks of not implementing the human rights, especially in situations of destruction of the habitat caused by military operations, political violence, war and forced evictions;
    • the challenges of post disasters reconstruction, keeping in mind the perspectives of social sustainability within affected populations, especially the most vulnerable;
    • the territorial and social impacts of market oriented policies and programs that do not consider the life of the settlers, both in southern and northern countries;
    • the national and local capacities to guarantee the services’ quality and the responsibility of the multinational corporations that intervene in the land, housing and utilities markets;
    • the collective rights, beyond the individual rights, that emerge of the new living conditions in the generalized process of urbanization in the world.

§ the application of human rights in their integrity indeed represents the best way to avoid gross violations of people’s housing rights, but also for people to promote their own solutions to problems, instead of being treated themselves as problems to be solved.

After the Habitat Agenda was adopted in 1996, the multilateral and intergovernmental conferences show a backward in the field of human settlements. The Millennium Development Goals restricted the actions to the improvement of the living conditions of 100 million slum dwellers. The challenges are greater and more complex. The precariousness of the living conditions in human settlements affect so much to the population that lives in squatters as to the homeless, the landless, the poor owners of bad public housing units, the displaced persons by the war and the natural disasters, the evicted by the privatisation of the social housing or by large regional and urban projects, among others.

Public policies in the globalising world increasingly reduce housing to a mere commodity, and measure human settlements in business terms, leaving millions of impoverished families without options. Most States and governments are unable to contain the resulting urban crisis and to uphold citizens’ human right to adequate housing. With no serious change in policy direction in rural and urban development, new slums will grow and the lives of slum dwellers deteriorate further.

HIC proposals to this Commission, based since the experience of its members in matter of human settlements, are:

§ to promote “people-centred human settlements” for the production, improvement and management of the dwelling, the neighbourhoods and the territory;

§ to develop instruments for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation adapted to the diversity of situations and local, national, and regional contexts;

§ to develop indicators with global perspective related with the access to water, sanitation, security of tenure, housing construction and living space;

§ to promote the coordinated management of territory and human settlements, facilitating the thematic integration above the sectoral options that cause situations of exclusion and segregation;

§ to reaffirm a political focus from the multilateral agreements already subscribed in matter of human settlements, especially that Habitat Agenda and the Agenda 21, which serve to give living to the target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals.

Recent examples on the mentioned themes are:

§ The monitoring and denounce of housing and land rights violations by generating instruments that orientate the action (ej. Guide to Practical Solidarity for Defending the Human Right to Adequate Housing, HLRN, 2004; Toolkit for Housing and Land Rights, HLRN, 2005)

§ The international process for the recognition to the “Right to the City”, promoted since 5 years ago by the civil society, especially in Latin America, and now present in the debate of UNESCO and UN-Habitat; this process contributes a look of human rights as collective rights that have concrete implementation for a better living in the cities.

§ The debate, coordinated work and monitoring of actions of post-tsunami relief (December 2004) prompted by the communities, professional and ONGs of India, Indonesian, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Thailand for the full respect of the human rights, the rehabilitation of the territory in a perspective of sustainable development and a people-centred reconstruction of the human settlements.

§ Pooling proposals and debate to analyse new forms of housing precariousness: the urban and social effects of a massive production of social dwellings (ej. Chile, Colombia, south Africa); the privatisation of the dwelling and the services (ej. It USES, Germany, France); the dilemmas of administration and maintenance of the stock housing (ej. Russia).

§ The preparation of an agenda toward the World Urban Forum Vancouver 2006 based on local practices of production, upgrading and management of the habitat by and for the people; benchmarking themes of the main multilateral and international organizations; and action oriented advocacy.

Ana Sugranyes

HIC General Secretary

NY, 2005-04-12