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Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing
While 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.
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:
In 2002, the Commission requested the Special Rapporteur to submit a study on women and adequate housing.
For more information see Women and housing.
Since 2003 the mandate has been regularly renewed by the Human Rights Council, every three years. The last time the mandate as set out in resolution 15/18 was renewed in 2023 by Human Rights Council resolution 52/10. Resolution 52/10 requested in addition the Special Rapporteur to engage with States with the view to achieve progressively the right to adequate housing, the New Urban Agenda and housing-related Sustainable Development Goals, to consult with civil society organizations and other stakeholders and to work in close cooperation with other special procedures and subsidiary organs of the Human Rights Council, relevant United Nations bodies, the treaty bodies and regional human rights organizations. It also requested the Special Rapporteur to pay special attention to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of, inter alia, women, children, young persons, older persons, persons with disabilities and persons in vulnerable situations, and to mainstream a gender perspective into the performance 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.
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.
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: [email protected]. 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.
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).
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.
Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing (2021)