Milestones in the History of International Standards on Forced Evictions


The first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver, Canada, adopts the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements which notes “major clearance operations should take place only when conservation and rehabilitation are not feasible and relocation measures are made” (Sec. III, 8)

The UN General Assembly adopts the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 (GSS) which recognizes “the fundamental obligation (of governments) to protect and improve houses and neighbourhoods, rather than damage or destroy them” (GA Resolution 43/181, Annex, Point 13)

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its General Comment No. 4 on the Right to Adequate Housing, asserts that “all persons should possess a degree of security of tenure which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment or other threats” (para 8).

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED / Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, adopts Agenda 21, which states that “people should be protected by law against unfair eviction from their homes or land” (Agenda 21, Chapter 7, para 9(b)).

The UN Commission on Human Rights states that “forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights” (Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993 / 77, para 1).

The second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul, Turkey, adopts the Habitat Agenda which commits Governments to “protecting all people from, and providing legal protection and redress for, forced evictions that are contrary to the law, taking human rights into consideration, (and) when evictions are unavoidable, ensuring, as appropriate, that alternative suitable solutions are provided” (Habitat Agenda, para 40 (n)).

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopts General Comment No. 7 on Forced Evictions, the most far-reaching international standard on forced evictions to emerge from the UN to date. general Comment No. 7 demands that States refrain from carrying out forced evictions, but goes further in stating that where evictions are considered to be justified, “the State parties shall ensure, prior to carrying out any evictions, and particularly those involving large groups, that all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with affected persons” and that “legal remedies or procedures should be provided to those who are affected by eviction orders” (para 14). It also notes that “evictions should not result in rendering individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights” and that “where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State party must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available” (para 17).

Compiled by Rasna Warah, Editor, Habitat Debate, 1999, Vol 5, No 3