About the mandate


History

A view of the crowded favela next to wealthier high rises and seaside suburbs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © EPA/Barbara WaltonWhile the right to adequate housing is enshrined in article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and in article 11 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and other international human rights treaties, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was the first international human rights mechanism which summarized in more detail the content of the right to adequate housing in its General Comment No. 4 on the right to adequate housing (1991) and in its General Comment no. 7 on forced evictions (1997).

Parallel to these efforts, the Sub-Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the then Commission on Human Rights appointed in 1992 a Special Rapporteur on Promoting the Realization of the Right to Adequate Housing to undertake thematic research on the right to adequate housing and present reports to it.

Mr. Rajindar Sachar covered this mandate for four years (1992-1995). He submitted two progress reports (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/15 and E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/20), proposed a draft international convention on housing rights and published his final report in 1995 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/12).

His final report stressed the justiciability of the right to adequate housing, proposed core indicators for the right to adequate housing and advocated for the further development of an international convention on housing rights. He also suggested to the then Commission of Human Rights to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing that would regularly report to it.

Establishment of the mandate

Several years later, on 17 April 2000, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 2000/9  in which it decided to establish, initially for a period of three years, a Special Rapporteur whose mandate would focus on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living. The Commission appointed Mr. Miloon Kothari as first Special Rapporteur who covered this function until April 2008.

According to the resolution, the main tasks of the Special Rapporteur are:

  • To report on the status, throughout the world, of the rights that are relevant to the mandate, taking into account information received from Governments, United Nations organizations and bodies, other relevant international organizations and non-governmental organizations;
  • To promote cooperation among and assistance to Governments in their efforts to secure these rights;
  • To apply a gender perspective in her/his work;
  • To develop a dialogue with Governments, United Nations organizations and bodies, other relevant international organizations, non-governmental organizations and international financial institutions, and to make recommendations on the realization of the rights relevant to the mandate; and
  • To submit to the Commission an annual report covering the activities relating to the mandate.

In 2002, the Commission requested the Special Rapporteur to submit a study on women and adequate housing.

For more information see Women and housing.

In 2003, the mandate was renewed for a period of three years. In June 2006, the Commission on Human Rights was replaced by the Human Rights Council pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/251.

On 18 June 2007, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 5/1 which extended the mandate. The Council also adopted resolution 5/2, containing a Code of Conduct for special procedures mandate holders.

In September 2010, the Council reviewed the mandate and adopted resolution 15/8, extending the mandate by three years. The mandate was renewed as set out in resolution 15/8 for an additional three years in 2014 (resolution 25/17), 2017 (resolution 34/9), and 2020 (resolution 43/14).

Scope of the Mandate

The scope of the mandate as established by resolution 15/8 consists of the following elements:

(a) To promote the full realization of adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living;
(b) To identify best practices as well as challenges and obstacles to the full realization of the right to adequate housing, and identify protection gaps in this regard;
(c) To give particular emphasis to practical solutions with regard to the implementation of the rights relevant to the mandate;
(d) To apply a gender perspective, including through the identification of gender-specific vulnerabilities in relation to the right to adequate housing and land;
(e) Pay special attention to the needs of persons in vulnerable situations as well as those belonging to marginalized groups;
(f) To facilitate the provision of technical assistance, including through engagement with relevant stakeholders;
(g) To work in close cooperation, while avoiding unnecessary duplication, with other special procedures and subsidiary organs of the Human Rights Council, relevant United Nations bodies, the treaty bodies and regional human rights mechanisms;
(h) To submit a report on the implementation of the present resolution to the General Assembly and to the Council in accordance with their annual programme of work.

Reports

Since the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing was established, the respective mandate holders undertook numerous country visits and submitted various thematic reports to the Commission for Human Rights and later as well to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Complaints - Communications

The Special Rapporteur can consider complaints on alleged violations of the right to adequate housing, including in situations where such violations are likely to occur in the future. Such complaints are considered under the communications procedure of Special Procedures.

Complaints can cover individual cases, but as well bills, laws, policies and practices that may not be in conformity with the right to adequate housing. The Special Rapporteur may act on such complaints irrespectively whether the concerned State has signed or ratified a particular international human rights treaty or not.

Complaints should preferably be submitted online. Alternatively all necessary information can be provided in writing to: srhousing@ohchr.org. In order to facilitate processing such complaints they should preferably be submitted in English, French or Spanish.

Communications sent by the Special Rapporteur to States and Non-State actors are published after 60 days together with replies received.

Key guidelines developed by the mandate

Based on existing human rights standards, the Special Rapporteur has developed several guidelines for States, local Governments and other actors.
Ending his mandate in 2008, Mr. Miloon Kothari submitted Guiding Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement (A/HRC/4/18, Annex I) to the Human Rights Council.

In 2008 the Human Rights Council appointed Ms. Raquel Rolnik as Special Rapporteur, who submitted at the end of her tenure in 2014 the Guiding Principles on Security of Tenure for the Urban Poor (A/HRC/25/54).

Ms. Leilani Farha who held the position from 2014 to 2020 submitted at the end of her mandate Guidelines for the Implementation of the Right to Adequate Housing (A/HRC/43/43) to the Council.

In April 2020 the Human Rights Council appointed Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal as Special Rapporteur. His first thematic report on Covid-19 and the right to adequate housing (A/75/148) was presented in October 2020 to the General Assembly of the United Nations.