The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing, Ms. Raquel Rolnik, said in a joint World Habitat Day statement with United Nations Special Rapporteur for Internationally Displaced Persons, Ms. Chaloka Beyani, that there was "not much to celebrate" on World Habitat Day given that approximately one-third of the global population still lives in slums.
"There is not much to celebrate on World Habitat Day, when close to a third of the global population continues to live in slums and unplanned settlements, often located in areas exposed to serious environmental risks and hazards," the UN Special Rapporteurs said in their statement released in Geneva.
"In observing World Habitat Day this year, we call on States and international agencies to recognize informal settlements and the human rights of their inhabitants, and to address their unique needs and vulnerabilities as an integral and indispensable part of disaster risk reduction and recovery efforts," they statement said.
They cited what they called a dangerous combination of rapid urbanization, much of it to precarious, unplanned areas, and an increased frequency and intensity of climate change-induced disasters. This will likely affect many societies in a profound way, they warned: "States and the international community can no longer afford to ignore the specific vulnerabilities of informal settlers to climate change-induced disasters, and the increasing risks they face."
They said many poor urban populations live on sites unsuitable for housing, like mountain slopes, areas prone to flooding, sea surges or other environmental and weather-related risks. Such locations are left to the poorest, who did not have access to safer, places.
"Disasters magnify and deepen inequalities. People living in informal settlements are particularly affected by climate change induced disasters. After a disaster, they are more exposed to eviction and land grabbing as they lack legal protection and their rights to tenure are not recognized,"
Disasters also highlight the inadequate housing conditions and the precariousness of informal settlements. "From a human rights perspective, it is crucial to upgrade settlements and their grossly inadequate living conditions as part of disaster prevention and response", the statement said.
They said another worrying trend is the erosion of livelihoods, in part provoked by climate change, which is a key 'push' factor for the increasing rural to urban migration.