UN Housing Expert Urges India to Apply Rights


NEW DELHI/GENEVA—The contrast between the vast numbers of
pavement-dwellers and the rapid development of luxury real estate was brought
into stark focus by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing,
who today ends a two-week official visit to the country. Leilani Farha called
for a national housing law to effectively, and urgently, address the
implementation of the right to adequate housing.

“I am extremely concerned for the millions of people who experience exclusion,
discrimination, evictions, insecure tenure, homelessness and who lack hope of
accessing affordable and adequate housing in their lifetimes,” Farha said.

“I was told and have read that evictions happen often, but rarely with due
process and strict adherence to international human rights law. Some Government
officials consider forced evictions to be justified where occupants do not own
the land. Under international human rights law, this is not the case.” Farha

The UN expert said she observed a lack of urgency in dealing with the extreme
living conditions of those who are homeless, as well as a lack of visibility
for these issues.

“I am also seriously concerned that pervasive issues such as domestic violence
are at times not linked with the right to live in a home in peace and
security,” she said.

“There also seem to be some gaps between
Government policy-making and the court rulings that highlight the Government’s
obligations to protect the dignity and right to life of vulnerable

Farha called
on the central Government of India to develop a national housing law, anchored
in the spirit of its Constitution and in international human rights law, that
includes a moratorium on evictions, immediate obligations to adequately address
homelessness, and that is in line with some of its most progressive state plans
for in situ rehabilitation for slum dwellers.

The Special
Rapporteur noted that the Government of India has been attempting to address
these disparities and has ambitiously committed to addressing the living
conditions in slums throughout the country by developing 20 million housing
units in urban areas benefitting more than a 100 million people by 2022.

“I had the
opportunity to visit rehabilitation and redevelopment sites under construction
in Mumbai and Bengaluru. For people who are eligible to move into these, there
is no doubt they will see a significant improvement in their living conditions,
especially after having lived in slums for decades. Access to water, sanitation
and electricity is ensured, and maintenance of the buildings is guaranteed for
ten years. Most importantly, people are given security of tenure, a cornerstone
for the enjoyment of the right to housing,” Farha said.

She warned,
however, that there is mounting inequality in urban areas, and that large-scale
migration from rural to urban areas will make India a primarily urban society
in the next 30 years.

“A two-track
policy response is urgently needed, one that addresses the backlog of housing
shortage, and the other that prepares India for upcoming housing needs,” she

During her two-week mission to the country, the Special Rapporteur went to New
Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru and met with senior Government officials at all
levels, as well as with residents, civil society and academics. She will
present a detailed report of her findings to the UN Human Rights Council in
March 2017.


Photo: A woman outside her small home
in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Source: World Bank/Graham Crouch.

Ms. Leilani Farha (Canada) is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right
to non-discrimination in this context. She took her function in June 2014. Ms.
Farha is the Executive Director of the NGO Canada without Poverty, based in
Ottawa, Canada. A lawyer by training, for the past 20 years Ms. Farha has
worked both internationally and domestically on the implementation of the right
to adequate housing for the most marginalized groups and on the situation of
people living in poverty. Learn more, log on to:

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the
Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent
experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s
independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific
country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special
Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not
receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or
organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Human Rights, country page – India: 

more information and 
, please contact:

During the visit:
Chandran, UNIC- New Delhi (+91 11 46532242 /
Sotomayor (+41 79 444 4078 /
Koffi (+41-79-444-3993/

In Geneva, after the visit:
Sotomayor (+41 22 917 9445 /
Koffi (+41 22 917 9642) or write to

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