Homeless people’s rights in the New Habitat Agenda


Last 5th April,
as part of the Habitat III Thematic Meeting on Public Spaces in Barcelona, it
took place the side event on “Homeless people’s rights: what place in the New
Habitat Agenda?”, which highlighted the need for including this collective’s
rights in the agenda to be defined in Habitat III. To this end, the Declaration
on Homeless People’s Rights. Homelessness in the New Habitat Agenda
adopted. This roundtable was organized by the UCLG
Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights
along with the Habitat International Coalition (HIC), the Global Platform for the Right to the City,
the Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights
and the Global
Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments

The side event gathered testimonies
that have been homeless at some point of their lives
(Miquel Fester, from
Arrels Fundació, and Ibrahima Seydi, spokesperson of the Poblenou (Barcelona)
settlements); representatives of
organizations working with homeless people
(Jesús Ruiz, from the Barcelona
Homeless Care Network); local
governments’ representatives
(Laia Ortiz, Barcelona Deputy Mayor for Social
Rights; Patrick Braouezec, President of Plaine Commune, and Jorge Enrique
Rojas, former Bogota Secretary for Social Inclusion), and researchers and transnational organizations’ representatives:
Giovanni Allegretti (University of Coimbra Centre for Social Studies), Lorena Zárate
(President of the Habitat International Coalition –HIC), Bahram Ghazi (Office
of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and María José Aldanas (FEANTSA).

Moderated by the Committee’s Coordinator, Magali Fricaudet,
the debate was divided into three different parts: the first one focused on homeless people’s situation in cities at
global and local level
. Miquel Fuster opened this panel with his testimony
as former homeless person: “The
experience of living in the street marks you for life, but there are
organizations that accompany you throughout the recovery process
. It is
actually two processes: the reparation of the self and the abandon of
resentment towards society”. For his part, Ibrahuma Seydi contributed with his
experience with migrants’ precarious housing conditions in Barcelona and highlighted
the need for local governments committed
to Human Rights in order to prevent abuses of the most vulnerable collectives.

María José Aldanas focused on the breach of the right to
housing as a fundamental cause of homelessness, and stressed the importance of
the UN
rapporteur on adequate housing (Leilani Farha) last report
, which focuses
on homeless people’s situation and rights. Bahram Ghazi, for its part, outlined
the insufficient attention that is paid to the issue of homeless people’s right
in the international arena and proposed
to create a global network of organizations working for the guarantee of such
. Finally, Giovanni Allegretti explained the work carried out under
the Bogota Humana programme regarding homeless people –especially the introduction of a rights-guarantee
mainstreaming in District Government’s public action, as well as a change in
the way this phenomenon is approached.

The second part of this debate was devoted to exploring and assessing public policies
that effectively guarantee homeless people’s rights from an integral
perspective and emphasizing residential exclusion’s role in this phenomenon
In this regard, Laia Ortiz stressed the need for co-producing public policies along with homeless people and
organizations that accompany them
, and for focusing in homelessness
prevention, the guarantee of rights (not only right to housing, but all of
them) and meeting their basic needs outside economic and financial markets.
Also from a local administration perspective, Jorge Enrique Rojas highlighted
the need for recognizing the diversity
of homeless people and for translating these differences into adequate public
. Jesús Ruiz emphasized the importance
of civil society organizations’ role in homeless people empowerment
, and
mentioned two specific functions: the accompaniment of these people all
throughout their recovery process, and a political advocacy task to promote and
monitor public policies that respond to homeless people’s real needs.

Finally, Patrick Braouezec and Lorena Zárate concluded the
event presenting the challenges that the New Urban Agenda will have to face
regarding this issue and making recommendations in order to get homeless
people’s rights included in it. Lorena Zárate insisted in the fact that it is a
political problem –only in Europe, there are more than 4 million homeless
people, whereas there are 11 million empty houses. Zárate proposed to work for the security of tenancy to be independent of its
legal form –which would enable to guarantee human rights without making its
compliance depending of ownership rights
. Finally, Patrick Braouezec
highlighted the fact that, faced to
States’ inability to guarantee their inhabitants’ human rights, solidarity
among people and working in networks do work
. “In Habitat III we need to
get States and local governments committed to the guarantee of homeless
people’s rights and to reaffirm that their criminalization is unacceptable”.

The whole set of
recommendations are in the Declaration
–which will be soon available in English. The debate’s minutes will be soon
available; you can access to the event’s photo album by clicking on this

* Original