Achieving the MDGs: Slum Upgrading and Affordable Housing
The dialogue was moderated by Mr. Jacques Bensimon, Government Film Commissioner of the National Film Board of Canada. The panellists were Mr. Noli de Castro; Mr. Jockin Arputham; Mr. Miloon Kothari, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing; Ms. Luz María Sanchez Hurtado, Director, NGO Estrategía, Lima and member of the Huairou Commission, Latin America; Ms. Clarissa Augustinus, Chief, Land and Tenure Section, UN-Habitat; Ms. Rose Molokoane, Chair, South African Homeless People’s Federation, Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI); Mr. Arif Hassan, Chair, Urban Resource Centre, Karachi and Asian Coalition for Housing Rights; Mr. Jerry Trenas, Mayor, Metro Iloilo, the Philippines; Mr. Elioterio Codato, World Bank, Urban Unit, Transport and Urban Development Department, Washington D.C.; Mr. Alfredo Stein, former Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) consultant and advisor to the Local Development Programme, Nicaragua; and Mr. David Satterthwaite, International Institute for Environment and Development, London.
The objective of the dialogue was to debate the commitments made by the international community and national governments and engaging in urgent policy changes as a foundation for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially Goal 7, target 11, on slums. The dialogue also addressed challenges and opportunities for expediting the implementation of the Goals. The major issues discussed were the need to promote the role of local authorities, the provision of security of tenure and access to affordable land, the provision of funds to developing countries for slum upgrading and urban development programmes, the need to empower the urban poor and the promotion of an inclusive approach.
Mr. Bensimon introduced the debate with a nine-minute excerpt from the film “On Borrowed Land”, a documentary produced in 1990 showing the struggle of the residents of “Reclamation”, a 50,000-strong squatter community in Manila, for their “right to the city”. The film showed the plight of the urban poor, who were permanently subjected to the threat of forced evictions, and highlighted the need for them to organize to resist adverse actions and the lack of funding to enable them to upgrade their neighbourhoods.
The first segment addressed the issue of security of tenure and land. Mr. Noli de Castro, Vice‑President of the Philippines, provided an update on the situation in the Philippines 16 years after the film had been made. He emphasized that some conditions of the poor had improved since the film had been shot; nevertheless, poverty statistics had not improved in absolute terms, as the number of poor people continued to rise. The twin UN-Habitat campaigns on security of tenure and urban governance had, however, had a positive impact in the Philippines: urban development programmes were now people-centred to ensure security of tenure. In that connection, he cited the North-South Railway project, which had involved the relocation of 80,000 families. The Government had also introduced innovative financing schemes through a Community Mortgage Programme and made land available for relocation through presidential proclamations. As a result, 250,000 families had had their tenure regularized.
Mr. Arputham spoke about the approach taken by his organization, Slum Dwellers International, in dealing with the issue, the success it had achieved and how governments could learn from its approach. He highlighted the role of women in savings schemes, their ability to identify available land and to request government to provide land for providing shelter for the poor. He emphasized that the community sets its goals for today and not for the future.
Mr. Kothari provided a “reality check” on the development of United Nations human rights during the last three decades. He emphasized that land grabbing, forced evictions and homelessness were on the rise. On the subject of forced evictions, he stressed that in developing, as well as in many developed, countries there was hardly any consultation with the communities concerned, no alternatives to eviction were provided and no human rights impact assessment was undertaken. Furthermore, women suffered disproportionately from forced evictions, and forced evictions were making a mockery of the Millennium Development Goals and the Habitat Agenda. He called on governments to pledge to stop forced evictions.
During the ensuing debate it was urged that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights should be adopted by all States, and there was a consensus that governments must recognize and implement their commitments with respect to the right to adequate housing. The Special Rapporteur noted that not enough was being done, and that there was a culture of silence regarding the situation of women. He urged the international community and national governments to acknowledge the scale of the problem.
Participants stressed the need to devolve resources to local authorities so that they could provide access to secure land tenure and housing. It was noted that relocations should be voluntary, and that security of tenure should be provided at relocation sites.
The second segment highlighted the necessary empowerment of the urban poor to create appropriate conditions for participatory processes. Ms. Molokoane elaborated on the success which her organization had had with officials of local and national authorities in South Africa in addressing the issue of slum upgrading. Mr. Stein highlighted the issue of creating partnerships with the urban poor: such partnerships strengthened democracy and local governance, and increased the capacities and skills of the urban poor.
It was noted that communities needed resources to implement slum upgrading activities that responded to their needs and priorities. It was also noted that the provision of jobs went hand in hand with the production of homes. It was further noted that not all communities were organized, and that governments must admit their responsibilities towards the urban poor.
The third segment focused on financing slum upgrading and affordable housing. That segment was introduced with a five-minute showing from the video “Homeless No More”, on a community-based savings scheme in the Philippines, produced by the Homeless People’s Federation and UN‑Habitat in 2005.
Mr. Trenas noted that more resources were required for local governments to implement slum upgrading activities. He also stressed the importance of consultations, dialogue and community participation in upgrading and relocation projects.
Mr. Hassan addressed the issue of the range of financing schemes that are appropriate for slum upgrading and prevention. Sustainable slum upgrading could not be undertaken with contractors and consultants, and there could be no development without consultation. To prevent slums, land-use allocation must be determined by social and environmental considerations.
Mr. Codato noted that the World Bank and UN-Habitat had estimated the cost of achieving Goal 7, target 11, of the Millennium Declaration to be approximately $367 billion. In addressing the issue of how to mobilize those funds, he expressed the view that it was a task that all levels of society must be involved in. Lending for slum upgrading was not the answer; allocation of fair, equitable, and targeted subsidies by national governments might be necessary.
In the ensuing debate, some participants expressed the belief that there should be a role for the private sector and that microfinance was part of the solution. Several speakers stressed that the World Bank should work with communities to ensure that its loans reached the urban poor. One speaker noted that policymaking often did not address issues on the ground and that politicians seemed to have their own agendas. Even so, he found it easier to talk with politicians than professionals, as the latter seemed to be poorly trained in terms of communicating with communities.
Mr. Satterthwaite observed that in 1976 partnerships between governments and slum dwellers had not existed and solutions for urban problems tended to come from the professionals. The dialogue showed, however, that a new model had taken root which required a new relationship between slum dwellers and local authorities in which the slum dwellers themselves were the main development actors.
There was consensus that governments should respect the right to adequate housing and that forced evictions ran counter to Millennium Development Goal 7, target 11, and the Habitat Agenda. Also, if the slum improvement target of the Millennium Declaration was to be achieved, communities must be involved in finding solutions and people must participate directly in all decisions affecting their shelter and livelihoods. Further, the provision of funding for the achievement of the slum target should be the responsibility of all.
There was general recognition that community savings schemes were an important part of the equation.
For financing slum upgrading, it was recommended that national governments should provide an enabling framework to ensure that local governments could respond to the challenges which they faced in addressing the shelter needs of the urban poor.