Urbanization without human rights, a recipe for failure

“Urbanization is a trend in all parts of the world,” says Marcia V.J. Kran, UN Human Rights Office’s Director of Research and Right to Development Division, in her statement at the recent World Urban Forum held in Naples, Italy. “Unfortunately in many places, this phenomenon comes with the creation of more slums, more people living in inadequate living conditions, less tenure security in housing and land, and more disparities, inequalities and discrimination.”

The number of people moving to urban areas continues to rise with 67 million people willingly or forcefully migrating to cities every year. 

According to UN Habitat, by 2030, an estimated 59 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. In developed countries, an estimated 81 percent of people will move to urban areas, while 55 percent will become urban dwellers in developing countries.

 “UN Habitat wants to underscore the need to plan our cities better because unplanned growth of cities leads to chaotic development and urban sprawl,” says Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN Habitat, on the occasion of UN World Habitat Day on 1 October.

According to Kran, human rights principles are often overlooked by urban planners and decision-makers resulting in unsustainable urbanization.

Moreover, the narrow vision of housing, water and land considered as commodities is causing millions of people to face unaffordable and inadequate housing and living conditions, as well as forced evictions, displacement and discrimination. 

Promoting accountability and battling corruption is an important step towards improving the living conditions of urban residents. According to Kran, in order to develop an approach to incorporating human rights principles into urban development work, it is important to understand the link between development and the norms and standards of international human rights law, as well as to address the root causes of discrimination.

“The model of development that we promote must ensure the free, active and meaningful participation of the beneficiaries of development, and in particular of the most marginalized,” says Kran. “Urban and spatial development should be done with and for city dwellers.

 1 October 2012

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