World Habitat Day
Statement by the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing
The following statement was issued today by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, on the occasion of World Habitat Day:
The theme chosen by the UN to mark World Habitat Day 2004 is: Cities - Engines of Rural Development. The aim is to urge the international community to focus on the need for increased urban-rural integration and to put an end to viewing urban and rural development as separate initiatives.
Considering this theme, the Special Rapporteur urges that the following four key concerns be taken into account: (1) the manifold violations of human rights, including housing and land rights, that characterize the urban landscape across the world today; (2) that unchecked urbanization has, in fact, been one of the engines of destruction of the lives and livelihoods of rural populations; (3) the urban bias that has driven development policies across the world and which, if left unchallenged, will lead to further lop-sided investment in urban areas at the expense of rural poverty alleviation; and (4) the viability of rural livelihoods, including those of small farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous and tribal peoples, independent of processes of urbanization.
Urban areas across the world today are witness to violations of human rights, including the right to adequate housing. Some of the principle causes of such a state of affairs are the inability and unwillingness of governments at local, national and international levels to:
- Control land and house speculation; to reverse concentration of land and hoarding of property; to promote affordable rental housing; and to invest in social housing. This has led to an increase in the number or people who live in slums and are homeless. According to the UN, in the least developed countries, around 78.2% of the urban population lives in slums.
- Control the growth and power of land mafias and cartels that further fuel, and benefit from, land and house speculation, and contribute to making affordable housing inaccessible to low-income people.