[Hpn] UN human rights official laments worldwide retreat on right to housing

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Wed, 06 Jun 2001 11:44:21 -0700


UN human rights official laments worldwide retreat on right to housing

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - On the eve of a special session devoted to living
conditions in the world's cities, a UN official is complaining that
negotiators have softened their stance on adequate housing as a human right.

A draft declaration to be adopted at the UN General Assembly meeting which
was to start Wednesday pays lip service to the issue, but does not require
governments to do anything about it, said Miloon Kothari of the UN
Commission on Human Rights.

"The declaration is very soft," Kothari said at a press conference Tuesday.

Five years ago at the UN city summit in Istanbul, 171 countries agreed to
work toward sustainable development of cities and to provide adequate
housing for all. 

"We reaffirm our commitment to the full and progressive realization of the
right to adequate housing," said the agenda adopted at the 1996 summit known
as Habitat II. That document mentioned either human rights, housing rights
or both in 33 of its 241 paragraphs.

In New York this week, the 171 countries are meeting again to assess
progress and renew their commitments. But far from repeating the 1996
commitments to housing rights, Kothari charged, the document under review
this week backs away from them.

The draft declaration mentions housing rights only once. It welcomes the
appointment of a housing czar for the UN Commission on Human Rights "whose
mandate will focus on adequate housing as a component of the right to an
adequate standard of living."

Kothari, who is that housing czar, complains that welcoming him is not

"There seems to be an attempt to move away," Kothari said.

Anna Tibaijuka, executive director of the Nairobi-based UN Centre for Human
Settlements, rejected the idea that the current draft retreats from its

"I don't think so, because it reaffirms them," she said. She also noted that
negotiations over the document will continue through the week. It is
expected to be adopted when the special session ends on Friday.

According to UN figures more than one billion urban dwellers lack adequate
housing worldwide and about 100 million are homeless altogether.

 The Canadian Press, 2001

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