NEW YORK / GENEVA (22 October 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, today has challenged governments to go further and commit to bold action to end homelessness and improve housing conditions on a global scale.
“I am convinced we can end the scourge of homelessness and improve living conditions for over a billion people worldwide,” Ms. Farha told the UN General Assembly during the presentation of her latest report, launching a yearlong campaign to ensure that a human rights framework is included in all aspects of the New Urban Agenda.
The expert’s call comes just weeks after states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will frame agendas and policies for the next 15 years. The SDGs, which will replace and expand the Millennium Development Goals, aim to end poverty by 2030 and universally promote shared economic prosperity, social development and environmental protection.
“Human rights have been largely absent from discussions of urban development”, Ms. Farha warned. “It was a noticeable trend in the creation of the SDGs that is being repeated in the lead up to Habitat III - the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, scheduled for October 2016.”
The report describes how urban centres are facing a future where vast inequalities are growing, segregating those who have resources from those who do not. “On its current path, urbanization is simply unsustainable,” Ms Farha stated.
“Major housing issues confronting cities such as the wild growth of informal settlements, social exclusion and increasing homelessness will only be solved if the right to adequate housing is properly understood and incorporated into all aspects of urban development,” she said.
With the right to adequate housing as a pillar, the report notes, a human rights framework can provide the coherence and consistency sorely needed in a New Urban Agenda (Habitat III) to achieve sustainable, inclusive cities for all – a goal of the SDGs.
“On the eve of the adoption of the SDGs and in the lead up to Habitat III, we have an exceptional opportunity to change the way we think about cities, not only as engines of development but also as places where human rights are realized and celebrated,” the expert added.
“I am firmly committed to working closely with local and national Governments, UN Agencies, civil society and private actors to ensure a strong human rights outcome in Habitat III,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report to the UN General Assembly (A/70/270): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx
Ms. Leilani Farha (Canada) is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. She took her function in June 2014. Ms. Farha is the Executive Director of the NGO Canada without Poverty, based in Ottawa, Canada. A lawyer by training, for the past 20 years Ms. Farha has worked both internationally and domestically on the implementation of the right to adequate housing for the most marginalized groups and on the situation of people living in poverty. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/HousingIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs 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.
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