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Habitat III: “Cities for people, with people”, UN rights experts urge


GENEVA (13 October 2016) – The UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III, which takes place next week, is a unique opportunity to ensure human rights responses are used to address the challenges and problems of urbanization, a group* of UN human rights experts underline.

“It is a pivotal moment for cities and urban settlements where over 56 per cent of the world’s population now resides. At a minimum, Habitat III must put a human face on unbridled urbanization and urban growth,” the 12 experts say in an Open Statement* to the over 30,000 delegates due to attend the conference from 17 to 20 October in Quito, Ecuador.

The Conference, the first of the 21st Century, is due to adopt a New Urban Agenda for the next two decades.

“The New Urban Agenda aims to ensure sustainable development, social inclusion and the elimination of poverty. It acknowledges the transformative potential of human rights to confront the most pressing issues of our time. But does it go far enough?” the experts inquire in their statement.

“Will it offer a compass that shifts the focus to the poor and marginalised, especially to persons with disabilities, older persons, women, homeless people, internally displaced persons, minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, and refugees, those who are often marginalized, excluded and left behind?”

“Forced evictions, displacement, homelessness, and criminalization of the poor, are some of the many egregious violations of human rights occurring in urban centres everywhere,” noted Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, who will attend Habitat III. “The New Urban Agenda cannot afford to neglect these realities, and must aim to prevent and address them in its implementation in the next 20 years,” she stressed.

The experts highlight the need for the New Urban Agenda to ensure a commitment to genuine engagement and empowerment of people who are often discriminated against in the urban context. Laws, policies, programs and mechanisms – all consistent with human rights obligations – must be in place to ensure decent living conditions for the individuals and communities whose human rights are at stake.

(*) Check the Open Statement in English at:


Experts: Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on the right to housing; Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on disabilities; Koumbou Boly, Special rapporteur on the right to education; Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty; Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights; Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz; Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples; François Crépeau, Special Rapporteur on migrants; Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on older persons; Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women; and Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation. 


The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts 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. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva (before and after Habitat III): Juana Sotomayor (+41 22 917 9445 / jsotomayor@ohchr.org)
In Quito, during Habitat III: Juana Sotomayor (+41 79 109 6872, jsotomayor@ohchr.org) and Maria Jeannette Moya (+56 97 999 6907, mmoya@ohchr.org)

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