Header image for news printout



29 September 2006

The following statement was issued today by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, on the occasion of World Habitat Day (2 October):

As Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, I uphold the importance of World Habitat Day in reminding the international community and national governments of their legal obligations to fulfil and promote the progressive realisation of the human right to adequate housing which finds firm recognition in numerous international human rights instruments, national constitutions and the HABITAT agenda that emerged from the Istanbul World Conference in 1996. The significance of this day is heightened given the current dismal living conditions of the majority of the world’s population, and the multiple violations of the right to adequate housing that are being witnessed across the world.

The theme declared by UN HABITAT for this year’s World Habitat Day is Cities, Magnets of Hope. In order to redress the acute, and unfortunately worsening housing crisis, the first step is to acknowledge the gravity of the situation and to develop a holistic approach based on the principle of indivisibility of human rights. This includes viewing housing as interlinked to the rights to land, health, water and livelihood and viewing rural and urban habitat issues in synthesis and addressing the interplay of causal factors between them.

Cities attract people from rural areas due to their perceived employment potential and means of livelihood. While it is true that migration to urban areas is on the rise, the deep structural causes for this movement need to be analysed and addressed. Such migration is generally not voluntary but a result of the loss of hope in rural areas, the loss of means of subsistence resulting from a lack of priority to agrarian reform, growing landlessness and indebtedness, failure to promote rural infrastructure, displacement induced by large projects, distressed housing conditions, or the state and corporate takeover of farmland for industry.

In this context, a large number of rural inhabitants come to the cities and are forced to live in slums, informal settlements and inadequate housing conditions. Moreover, they become the primary victims of forced evictions with the intensification of development-based projects, “city beautification” or “urban renewal” drives. These forced evictions push people into homelessness, inadequate housing conditions and poverty and have particularly negative impact on women and on children. These forced evictions further intensify inequality and social conflict, contributing to segregation and the creation of what I call “apartheid cities and villages”. Therefore, cities are thus not just “magnets of hope” but can become centres of rejection, discrimination and further impoverishment. The global crisis of forced eviction was the subject of my statement at the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in June 2006.

On this day, I therefore recommend governments and the international community to note with concern the grave crises that we are abetting in both urban and rural areas. I urge states to take concrete and urgent measures to address these issues affecting millions of people. These measures include, inter alia:
· Implementing the principles of gender equality, non-discrimination, participation, consultation and information in all aspects of urban and rural planning.
· Giving priority to agrarian and land reform;
· Developing comprehensive national legislation to check against forced evictions, and implementation of policies on housing and resettlement;
· Sustaining viability for rural livelihoods, with a focus on rural employment generation and infrastructure development;
· Incorporating relevant provisions from the recently developed Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement in national law and policy;
· Guaranteeing provision and universal access of essential services, including water, sanitation and electricity, by governments and measures to check against their privatisation;
· Guaranteeing the legal security of tenure over housing and land, including the recognition of collective rights and women’s equal rights to housing, property and land; and
· Acknowledging the work of civil society groups around the World who are proposing alternative community-based strategies to resolve the housing and land right crisis in both urban and rural areas.

The Special Rapporteur’s report, including the “Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement” (E/CN.4/2006/41) can be found at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/housing/annual.htm

The statement of Mr. Kothari at the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in June 2006 can be found at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/press/newsFrameset-2.htm under Mandate (Special Rapporteur on Adequate housing), Statements/Messages, “Statement by Mr Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, to the World Urban Forum III (19-23 June 2006) In Vancouver (20/06/2006)”

For more information on the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, please consult the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/housing/index.htm
* *** *

For use of the information media; not an official record