Assets and Struggles: 30 Years After Vancouver Habitat Forum – Realizing the Right to Adequate Housing, Sustainable Habitat and Inclusive Cities
Organized in cooperation with Habitat International Coalition
The round-table discussions were chaired by Mr. Michael Shapcott, Senior Fellow in Residence: Public Policy, The Wellesley Institute, Canada and Ms. Evaniza Lopes Rodrigues, União Nacional de Moradia, Brazil.
It was evident that since the first Habitat Conference, in 1976, international summits on human settlements had discussed the need to confront the magnitude of the problems and devise solutions, and that humankind had witnessed continued suffering from problems of inequality, sustainability, violation of internationally agreed rights and the rise of private interests over people’s well-being. The round table addressed the following issues.
Ending forced evictions that violate human rights
Forced evictions were cited as a negation of the essential human notions of respect, dignity, well‑being, safety, equal treatment before the law and privacy. Governments had violated the rights and liberties of low-income communities, under the guise of restoring order, to make way for development.
Supporting community-based values and initiatives
Many civil society organizations were committed to reversing the trend towards ever-increasing human settlement problems such as inequality, violation of basic rights and other forms of social, political, cultural and economic deprivation. They worked on many fronts, with the homeless, people who had been evicted, low-income tenants, women, disabled people, minority groups, migrants, youth, children, old people and others. The question was how to move forward as a movement to link community values and initiatives in an articulate way as a pressure group.
Confronting the negative effects of habitat privatization
Participants said that current economic values had led to the “commodification” of habitat issues. The State had lost the capacity in some countries to provide and regulate housing and land markets. Globalization and privatization focusing on capital expansion eroded people’s ability to participate and to be included in decision-making. The main challenge for civil society organizations was to defend public ownership and control of all elements of housing, infrastructure and services. There was a small group of very large international corporations which were privatizing social housing on a massive scale at the global level.
Protection, rights and durable solutions for displaced people
Human settlements were endangered by military operations, political violence, wars, forced evictions or migration, and related acts. Corporate investments, megaprojects and lack of attention to rural settlements had also led to economically forced migrations. Huge numbers of people were being displaced either nationally or internationally. That type of landlessness was also linked to the “criminalization” of the poor and homeless people. Civil society organizations, as independent actors, had a special role in monitoring and developing measures for advocacy and relief.
Involving local people in all aspects of post-disaster reconstruction
Participants said that people facing disaster had the right to return, rebuild their homes and livelihoods according to their own needs and values, and that they should initiate and lead the process. The role of development agencies should not predetermine the needs of the people, but put their interests first.
Civil society, in its diversity, must enhance coordination and articulate joint actions. New challenges and emerging issues that needed to be addressed by joint efforts included the “Right to the City” and HIV/AIDS.
Land rights were increasingly being violated or ignored. Governments had lost control of the housing sector, which was now in the hands of private developers. Current housing concerns were no longer marginalization, but criminalization of the poor. A rights-based approach, holding governments accountable to international standards, was considered essential. Further action must be focused on a global struggle against forced evictions, on allocating resources and political backing to support community-based initiatives, and on the implementation of international standards, including monitoring governments failing to comply with human rights.