Habitat International Coalition

Housing and Land Rights Committee ____________________________


PRESS RELEASE                                                                                                           7 June 2001

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"Back to the Future "

The Habitat II+5 review is an occasion to scrutinize both the progress made as well as the grave shortcomings in the implementation of the Istanbul Declaration and habitat II Agenda.  Even as we sit here in the UN General Assembly, we are deliberating about a larger world in which we are now witnessing the globalization of homelessness.  Brutal force evictions continue unabated throughout the world, in both the developing and developed countries, despite international recognition of the practice as a gross violation of human rights.  There is no progress for millions of peoples living under occupation and alien domination, where governments carry out regular assaults on the habitat of the indigenous peoples they seek to repress and eventually eliminate from coveted lands.  Some 1.6 billion people live in poor housing conditions, 70% of whom are women.  Between 30 and 70 million children live on our streets and 1.7 billion persons live without access to clean water, while 3.3 billion live without proper sanitation.  We are witnessing a trend wherein governments increasingly abandon their authority and responsibility in the fulfillment of the human right to adequate housing to self-interested private actors and external forces.


Moreover, it is state behaviour that creates these living conditions that deprive the effected people of their human dignity, harm their health and threaten their very lives.


Clearly, this is a time not just for celebration, but for serious reflection; and this reflection is only possible when it is undertaken jointly by all parties involved in the agenda.  In this context, the role of civil society in developing and implementing that agenda cannot be undermined without jeopardizing the entire effort.  As recognized partners in the habitat II Agenda's formulation and implementation, in view of what we are witnessing today, we feel it is our responsibility strongly to protest both the process and outcome of the present special session:

The exclusion of civil society, in particular NGOs, from their full, organic role

The dilution of NGOs role and their exclusion from the drafting negotiations have far-reaching implications and sets a dangerous precedent that contradicts the goals and spirit of UN partnership and risks reversing all the gains made since 1994 with respect to the process and substance toward implementing the habitat Agenda.


The abandonment of the relevant human rights principles and commitments, already reaffirmed in the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat II Agenda

The relevant human rights guidance and norms that have emerged also in this review period are equally vital to solving problems of housing and human settlements.  The State delegations gathered here deliberately have categorically rejected any acknowledgement of the human right to housing and other related standards that guide states in the field of human settlements.  As articulated by Mme. Virginia Dandan, chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, at this session "this is a step backwards from the Habitat Agenda."


What became apparent in the PrepComs leading up to this meeting has proved true: that this process has failed both the tests of a fair assessment and an inclusive process.  Without these two complementary elements, the future implementation of the habitat II Agenda is impossible.  The New York Declaration, as it stands, is evidence of a failure to live up to the noble standards we jointly set for ourselves five years ago. The urgent imperative is not to issue a new and weaker UN document, but to summon the requisite political will simply to go back to implementing the already-existing standards, including the human right to adequate housing, for women, youth, elderly, men and children across the world.