Universal Rights to Housing a Must



First, the Draft Report omits any reference to human rights. This is a glaring error which much be addressed. Sustainable human settlements, adequate shelter and basic services such as water and sanitation can only be achieved through progressive policies that realize the universal Right to Housing, access to land, secure tenure, and provision of infrastructure. States must be challenged to ensure these rights in national laws and regulations, implementation plans, adequate funding for social housing, and aggressive enforcement of housing and water rights. The Final CSD Report should add a separate section on human rights in each of the thematic areas, and add appropriate references in the remaining sections.


Second, illegal and forced evictions of more than 100,000 people each year are an obstacle to slum and squatter improvement. The impact of militarism and war on human settlements is particularly destructive. Not only is the built infrastructure destroyed, but also vast resources are reallocated from basic human needs. Governments and the private sector must stop mass forced evictions and the illegal destruction of houses. The Final Report must acknowledge this crisis and propose concrete measures to address it. CSD-13 must propose the redirection of resources spent on wars to build sustainable habitats for peace.


Third, privatization and deregulation of public or social housing and infrastructure creates shortages and displacement in many countries. The final report must address this problem and its manifestation in different regions and recognize that unchecked private sector investment is often the problem, not the solution, for sustainable development. The fundamental role of government investment and direct development aid to meet basic human needs cannot and should not be replaced by private capital investment or “public/private partnerships.”


The number of homeless and those inadequately housed continues to increase, deeply impacting the physical, mental and spiritual health of more than a billion people. In the coming decade this trend will vastly outpace the Millennium Development Goal for slum improvement and eradication unless there is a radically increased commitment by governments, particularly from wealthier nations, which can best assemble the resources to address it. In response to the expansion of urban slums, NGO’s have long been providing programs for land registration and tenure, the social production of affordable housing and the empowerment of the world’s poor, often with the most meager of resources. It is past time for governments and private sector institutions to support and legitimize the production of housing and community facilities and to work with independent community groups to define, plan, implement and fully fund the actions required to implement the MDG’s. While we applaud the language in the Draft Report heralding these NGO initiatives, the Final Report needs to balance this with more detailed calls for wealthier governments and institutions to do their fair share, lest the praise of selfhelp by the poor provides an excuse for the wealthy and powerful to do less.


We therefore applaud the recent initiative of the Government of the United Kingdom to increase its development aid to MDG target levels and to write off the debts of the poorest countries, particularly those hit by the recent tsunami and the poorest countries in Africa, and call on governments to redirect development assistance to balanced, people-centered development of human settlements, water and sanitation systems. The Final Report should challenge the other wealthy countries to follow suit. We urge the Secretary to emphasize these themes in his Final Report on the IPM and to invite CSD participants to elaborate them in the April revisions to the CSD Reports.

Source: HIC in Taking Issue, Volume 5, Issue 4, 3 March, 2005