Housing, land and sustainable development


One of the pillars of sustainable development is the right to
adequate housing and land. However some 1.6 billion people are
currently living in sub-standard housing, 100 million are homeless, and
around a quarter of the world’s population is estimated to be landless.
In ‘developing’ countries the number of people living in slums is 828
million; all of them lack access to ‘improved’ water sources and
adequate sanitation and live in distressed housing conditions without
sufficient space or secure tenure. More than 60 million new slum
dwellers have been added to the global urban population since 2000.

Civil society organizations and social movements worldwide are
articulating the “right to the city,” promoting land as a human right
and stressing the need to recapture the social function of property.
These movements and campaigns provide the beginnings of the radical
rethinking necessary to challenge the neo-liberal economic policies
that have been institutionalized around the world.

The adoption and implementation of the human rights approach is
essential if sustainable development is to become a reality for all,
especially the world’s marginalized. Failure to embrace this approach
will lead to more hunger, dispossession, homelessness, landlessness and
environmental degradation across the globe. The impact of rights
violations will be particularly severe for women, children, indigenous
peoples, coastal communities, forest dwellers, small farmers, landless
workers, and the urban poor.

Sustainable development and the indivisibility of human rights

The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992
marked a significant moment in the history of international law and
policy. It affirmed the progress made at the Stockholm Conference on
the Human Environment in 1972 and further established, through legal
and moral commitments, the inextricable link between human beings and
their environment and between nations and peoples. Using the framework
of key principles such as sustainability, inter-generational equity,
common but differentiated responsibility, polluter pays, and the
precautionary principle, UNCED helped launch an international campaign
to meet our responsibilities towards protecting not just the rights of
the less fortunate and marginalized but also of future generations and
the planet.

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