Translate Rights into Action


“Translating Rights into Action” means to proceed from a general view on social human rights to national and local implementation strategies which understand the inhabitants as main stakeholders to address the priorities and needs for the improvement of their livelihoods. This implies a shift from a state or expert driven identification of basic needs to a participative approach, which directly includes the subjects of the needs in the priority settings and decision-makings. It even implies a dominance of civil society and social control against market and private sector orientated strategies. Thus, rights driven strategies do not weaken country ownership or the responsibility of legitimated state institutions but strengthen democratic and social governance. Rights driven strategies at the same time are needed to build frameworks which enable private sectors and markets to serve the local human needs instead of reducing human commons to commercial goods.

  • At CSD 13 the commitments on rights, participation and pro-poor policies made inter alia in Rio 1992 and Istanbul 1996 must be reaffirmed and translated into concrete, targeted actions which focus on human settlements as a whole.

  • Phrases on “rights driven approach” in the Chairs’ summary of the CSD 13 IPM should be merged, improved and adopted as general principals for water, sanitation and human settlements:
    ”Treating basic services as both rights and civic responsibility is an approach that helps shape both individual behavior and community action for improving water management, sanitation, adequate shelter and integrated management of human settlements. In providing access to the poor, scaling up efforts requires shifting gears from a needs-based approach to a rights-based approach, which can generate political will and a resource allocation culture that puts the interest of the poor first. Combined with support for civil society, democratization of urban governance and a redistribution of resources to public local duty holders rights driven approaches lead to effective and lasting mass outcomes and empowers local societies to manage their settlements in a sustainable and equitable way.
    Priority areas of action include: indicator development; promoting policies and programs supportive of the principles of the right to adequate shelter, water and sanitation; documentation of best practices; strengthening existing international monitoring capacities; development of guidelines for implementation of rights and empowering popular participation; adoption of a charter on the right to basic services and participation; focusing development aid, donor coordination and debt relief on rights driven strategies.”

  • MDG 7 target 11 must be reviewed. Target 11 should orientate on at least halving the proportion of people who lack one of these basic needs: (a) access to water, sanitation and other basic services, (b) security of tenure, (c) durability of construction, (d) affordability of shelter, facilities and services (e) adequate living space or shelter at all (f) accessibility of shelter and facilities.

  • Specific programs should strengthen the international institutional capacities to address violations of the right to adequate shelter, especially evictions.

  • Self-organization of the poor parts of the population and especially the inhabitants of poor settlements – may they be considered as slums or not – is a great chance in order to achieve sustainable progress. The right of independent self-organization must be guaranteed internationally.

Source: Habitat Working Group – German NGO Forum Environment & Development at CSD 13

Contact: Knut Unger, Habitat Netz e.V