Informal settlements and the right to housing

The Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing has decided to devote her forthcoming report to the General Assembly in 2018 to the issue of informal settlements and human rights.

According to UN Habitat about one quarter of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements. Informal settlements can be defined as residential areas where inhabitants have no formal ownership or lease agreement vis-à-vis the land and/or dwellings they inhabit.  They exist in all regions of the world, including in highly developed countries. Modalities include homeless encampments, squatting in abandoned buildings, living in informal rental housing or in long established communities without formal title. Shelter is frequently constructed by hand out of any available materials, but may take many other forms, such as cars, boats, containers or other shelter. Some informal settlements have been built over many years in brink and mortar, but the actual neighbourhood is not fully legalised. Informal communities usually lack basic services such as water and sanitation, and infrastructure and the housing may not comply with current planning and building regulations. 

Informal settlements often expose individuals to the most extreme and degrading living conditions and are often located in the most hazardous areas.  At the same time, they often represent significant accomplishments in community empowerment and self-governance, fostering vibrant centres of culture, community and economies.

This duality creates a space where survival and resilience dominate the daily experience. 

Residents of informal settlements often belong to marginalized groups, having faced exclusion and discrimination compounded by their housing status.  The failure of States to address living conditions in informal settlements creates multiple threats to life, dignity and security.  Residents of informal settlements often live under a persistent threat of forced eviction. 

States have committed under Goal 11 of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development to upgrade all informal settlements and ensure adequate housing for all by 2030. A human rights framework will be essential to meeting this commitment so as to both address the structural factors that force people into informality while recognizing and building on the accomplishments and capacities of informal settlement communities.

In her report the Special Rapporteur will provide guidance to States and other actors on the challenges that lead to informality, including migration, colonization, urbanization, financialization and social exclusion.  The report will explain how a human rights-based approach is fundamental to meeting the commitments made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda. The report will identify good practices in diverse settings and highlight creative uses of legal mechanisms, new approaches to ownership, tenure and planning as well as innovative legislative and programmatic initiatives. 

Questionnaire for Governments, civil society and all relevant stakeholders: 

Questionnaire English (word | pdf)
Questionnaire French  (word | pdf)
Questionnaire Spanish (word | pdf

The Special Rapporteur invites Governments, UN agencies, development agencies, international financial institutions, National Human Rights Institutions, independent monitoring mechanisms, civil society organizations to share contributions and inputs for her report. She also welcomes information on innovative approaches and successful programmatic and legislative initiatives.

Due to limited capacity for translation, we kindly request that you submit your answers, if possible, in English, Spanish or French and, no later than 15 May 2018.

Please send your responses preferably in electronic version via email to:, or to:

UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing 
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Special Procedures Branch, Palais Wilson 
CH – 1211, Geneva 

Responses from States

International Organizations and International Development Banks


National Development Agencies and Local Governments

National Human Rights Institutions

Civil Society Organizations