The right to adequate housing
is a universal right, recognized at the international level and
in more than one hundred national constitutions throughout the world.
It is a right recognized as valid for every individual person.
In spite of this right, the homeless, the inadequately housed, and
the evicted are more and more numerous in the cities and the countryside
across the planet. More than 4 million persons were evicted from
their homes between 2003 and 2006.1 In today's world, some 100 million
persons are homeless and more than a billion are inadequately housed.
According to the estimates of the United Nations, 3 billion persons
will be living in slums in 2050. Most of these persons live in countries
of the South, but no continent is, nor will be, spared.
Beyond the problems of housing, strictly speaking (having a roof
over one's head), what is most worrying is the condition that housing
may be in. More than a billion persons throughout the world have
no access to potable water, and 2.6 billion persons have no access
to basic sanitary installations. These persons live in unhealthy
and unworthy conditions; millions among them die each year, including
some 1.8 million children who die of diarrhea. As important as they
may be, sanitary conditions are not the only housing problem. The
denial, de jure or de facto, of the right to adequate housing brings
in its wake dramatic consequences and causes numerous violations
of human rights in such areas as employment, education, health,
social ties, participation in decision-making (denial of civil rights,
among others) etc.
Although two world conferences specifically devoted to questions
of housing and related summits (on development, environment etc.),
all organized by the United Nations during the three preceding decades,
have provided an opportunity to sensitize public opinion to the
seriousness of the situation, there has been no follow up to the
declarations and actions plans adopted.
The Millennium Declaration, adopted 13 September 2000 by the U.N.
General Assembly is no exception to this. Moreover, it does not
deal with structural causes of poverty in the world, and the two
Millennium Goals related to the question of housing are timid, indeed:
considerably improve the life of at least 100 million slum dwellers
by 2020, and reduce by half the proportion of persons who have no
access to potable water by 2015.
These goals are insufficient, and it is more and more generally
admitted that the Millennium Goals overall will not be reached within
the allotted time frame. Worse, the proposed approach for reaching
them - increasing financing for the construction of new housing
for the poorest - is largely inadequate. What is needed in order
to realize the right of all to adequate housing is to attack the
deep rooted causes of non-access to housing throughout the world.
These causes have been identified by the United Nations Special
Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari. They
include, in particular: land and property speculation; expropriations
and forced evictions; the rural exodus and the growth of slums;
discrimination against vulnerable groups, including women, children,
refugees, migrants, the elderly and the handicapped; the negative
effects of the privatization of public services.
In other words, demanding the right to adequate housing implies
fighting for the inclusion of the most vulnerable people in society
and forcing governments to respect their legal obligation to guarantee
a life of dignity. This implies also fighting forced evictions,
illegal in international law but of which hundreds of thousands
of persons are victims every year.
It is not possible to treat all the aspects and implications of
the right to adequate housing in the scope of the present brochure,
which aims primarily to:
- contribute to the improvement of available information on the
right to adequate housing;
- present examples of implementation of the right to adequate housing
on the national level;
- point out what monitoring mechanisms are available on the international,
regional and national level for use by victims of violations of
their right to adequate housing.
All movements and social groups as well as NGOs that defend the
homeless, the inadequately housed and the evicted are well acquainted
with the international instruments and their use at the national
level. This brochure aims to accompany them in their daily struggle
to demand respect for the right to adequate housing.
The first part of the brochure deals with the definition and the
content of the right to adequate housing. The second part discusses
the recognition of the right to housing at the international, regional
and nation levels. The third part deals with the obligations of
governments and the implementation of these rights at the national
level. The fourth part explores the redress mechanisms available
at the national, regional and international levels for the protection
of vulnerable persons or groups of persons whose right to adequate
housing has been violated.
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