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close this bookHabitat Debate - Vol. 5 - No. 3 - 1999 - Security of Tenure (HABITAT, 1999, 63 p.)
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Currently an estimated one billion people around the world are inadequately housed; of these more than 100 million are absolutely homeless.

In most cities of the developing world, up to one half of the urban population lives in informal slum or squatter settlements which are neither legally recognized nor serviced by city authorities. The informal parts of the city do not enjoy many of the benefits of urban life, including access to basic services and secure tenure. Residents live in constant fear of forced evictions; as a result of their “illegal” status, most do not have access to formal finance and credit schemes which could enable them to improve their shelter and living environment.

Security of tenure is a fundamental requirement for the progressive integration of the urban poor in the city and is one of the basic components of housing rights. As stipulated in a variety of international instruments, including the Habitat Agenda, all persons should possess a degree of security of tenure and should be protected from forced evictions. Security of tenure is not only beneficial to those who are threatened by the lack of it, but is also beneficial to cash-strapped central and local governments: countless examples reveal that when people are given security of tenure, they will invest their own time and money towards improving and maintaining their homes and neighbourhoods. The granting of secure tenure is, therefore, one of the most important catalysts in stabilizing communities, improving shelter conditions, reducing social exclusion, improving access to urban services, leveraging corporate and individual investment and improving the urban environment.

It is for these reasons that the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) is launching a Global Campaign for Secure Tenure. In support of the Campaign, Habitat is developing a range of mechanisms that will facilitate the physical and social consolidation of secure tenure. At the international level, Habitat will work towards an International Convention on Housing Rights, building on the work already done by various human rights organizations, including the United Nations. The Campaign will also devote more attention to the negative practice of forced evictions by vigorously opposing them and by encouraging governments to incorporate the right to secure tenure within their own national laws and constitutions. Moreover, the Centre will also provide policy and technical support to governments and other partners to promote sustainable shelter policies which enable people to secure tenure.

This issue of Habitat Debate touches on various aspects of the Global Campaign and gives examples of cases where people and communities have found their own solutions to the ever-growing problem of insecure tenure and forced evictions.

Klaus Toepfer
Ag. Executive Director
UNCHS (Habitat)