International standards on the right to housing

Introduction

The legal status of the right to adequate housing is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several international human rights treaties. The general comments of UN treaty bodies provide an official interpretation of the rights and obligations enshrined in these international human rights treaties.

International humanitarian and international criminal law prohibits as well certain violations of the right to adequate housing. The right to adequate housing has also been specified in regional human rights law, UN Declarations adopted by the UN General Assembly and International Labour Standards. Based on these human rights norms, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing and other UN human rights experts have  developed specific guidelines on development-based evictions, on security of tenure and for the implementation of the right to adequate housing.

UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (1948)

  • Article 25.1 states that: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

International human rights treaties

CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION (1965)

  • Article 3 states: “States Parties particularly condemn racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction.”
  • Article 5 (e) (iii) obliges States “to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all of its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of … (e) … (iii) the right to housing”.

INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS (1966)

  • Article 11.1 states that: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.”
  • Article 2.1 states that: “Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take steps, individually and through international assistance and co-operation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.”
  • Article 2.2 states that: “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS (1966)

  • Article 12 states that:1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence. 2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.”
  • Article 17 states that: “1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation. 2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (1979)

  • Article 14.2 states that: “States Parties shall undertake all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular, shall ensure to such women the right … (h) to enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.”

INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF ALL MIGRANT WORKERS AND MEMBERS OF THEIR FAMILIES (1990)

  • Article 43.1 states that: “Migrant workers shall enjoy equality of treatment with nationals of the State of employment in relation to … (d) Access to housing, including social housing schemes, and protection against exploitation in respect of rents.”

CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD (1989)

  • Article 16.1 states that: “No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.”
  • Article 27 states that: “1. States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. 2. The parent(s) or others responsible for the child have the primary responsibility to secure, within their abilities and financial capacities, the conditions of living necessary for the child's development. 3. States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in the case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.”

CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (2008)

  • Article 2 of the gives the following definition: “"Reasonable accommodation" means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
  • Article 5.3 states that: “In order to promote equality and eliminate discrimination, States Parties shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided.”
  • Article 9.1 (a) states that: “To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, (…). These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia: (a) Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces.”
  • Article 9.2 states: “States Parties shall also take appropriate measures to: (a) Develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public; (b) Ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities. [….]”
  • Article 19 states that: “States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that: (a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement. (b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community; (c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.
  • Article 22.1 states that: “No person with disabilities, regardless of place of residence or living arrangements, shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence or other types of communication or to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation. Persons with disabilities have the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  • Article 28.1 states that: “States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right without discrimination on the basis of disability.”
  • Article 28.2 (d) states that: “States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to social protection and to the enjoyment of that right without discrimination on the basis of disability, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right, including measures:… (d) To ensure access by persons with disabilities to public housing programmes.”

General Comments by human rights treaty bodies

The general comments of the UN Committees established to monitor compliance of States with international human rights treaties provide an interpretation of the scope meaning of the particular rights enshrined in human rights treaties. Below are summaries and excerpts from key paragraphs.

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

General comments No.4 on the right to adequate housing and No.7 on forced evictions provide a more detailed understanding of the right to adequate housing under international human rights law. General Comment No. 3 clarifies what it means that economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to adequate housing, are subject to progressive realization. General Comment No. 9 underlines that States have to provide effectives remedies for violations of the right to adequate housing, including access to justice before courts. General Comment No. 20 sets out State obligations in relation to non-discrimination of the right to adequate housing and other economic, social and cultural rights and General Comment No. 21 specifies State obligations towards business enterprises to ensure their respect for economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to adequate housing.

General Comment No. 4The right to adequate housing (art.11 (1))

  • Para. 7 states: “the right to housing should not be interpreted in a narrow or restrictive sense which equates it with, for example, the shelter provided by merely having a roof over one’s head or views shelter exclusively as a commodity. Rather it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.”
  • Para. 8 sets out that the concept of “adequate housing” includes the following elements: a) security of tenure, b) availability of services, c) affordability, d) habitability, e) accessibility, f) location, and g) cultural adequacy.
  • Para. 9 specifies that the right to adequate housing cannot be viewed in isolation from other human rights, the concept of human dignity, the principle of non-discrimination, the freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to freedom of residence, and the right to participated in public decision making and that the prohibition of arbitrary or unlawful interference with one’s privacy, family, home or correspondence constitutes a very important dimension in defining the right to adequate housing.
  • Para. 11 states “States parties must give due priority to those social groups living in unfavourable conditions by giving them particular consideration”
  • Para. 13 states: “Effective monitoring of the situation with respect to housing is another obligation of immediate effect. For a State party to satisfy its obligations under article 11 (1) it must demonstrate, inter alia, that it has taken whatever steps are necessary, either alone or on the basis of international cooperation, to ascertain the full extent of homelessness and inadequate housing within its jurisdiction.”
  • Para. 17 states that many elements of the right to adequate housing are at least consistent with the provision of domestic legal remedies. “Depending on the legal system, such areas might include, but are not limited to: (a) legal appeals aimed at preventing planned evictions or demolitions through the issuance of court‑ordered injunctions; (b) legal procedures seeking compensation following an illegal eviction; (c) complaints against illegal actions carried out or supported by landlords (whether public or private) in relation to rent levels, dwelling maintenance, and racial or other forms of discrimination; (d) allegations of any form of discrimination in the allocation and availability of access to housing; and (e) complaints against landlords concerning unhealthy or inadequate housing conditions.”
  • Para. 18 states that “instances of forced eviction are prima facie incompatible with the requirements of the Covenant and can only be justified in the most exceptional circumstances, and in accordance with the relevant principles of international law.”

General Comment No. 7The right to adequate housing: forced evictions (art.11 (1))

  • Para 3 states that forced evictions are “defined as the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.”
  • Para 4 states: “forced evictions frequently violate other human rights. Thus, while manifestly breaching the rights enshrined in the Covenant, the practice of forced evictions may also result in violations of civil and political rights, such as the right to life, the right to security of the person, the right to non‑interference with privacy, family and home and the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions.”
  • Para 9 states that “it is clear that legislation against forced evictions is an essential basis upon which to build a system of effective protection. Such legislation should include measures which (a) provide the greatest possible security of tenure to occupiers of houses and land, (b) conform to the Covenant and (c) are designed to control strictly the circumstances under which evictions may be carried out. The legislation must also apply to all agents acting under the authority of the State or who are accountable to it. Moreover, in view of the increasing trend in some States towards the Government greatly reducing its responsibilities in the housing sector, States parties must ensure that legislative and other measures are adequate to prevent and, if appropriate, punish forced evictions carried out, without appropriate safeguards, by private persons or bodies.”
  • Para 11 states: “Whereas some evictions may be justifiable, such as in the case of persistent non‑payment of rent or of damage to rented property without any reasonable cause, it is incumbent upon the relevant authorities to ensure that they are carried out in a manner warranted by a law which is compatible with the Covenant and that all the legal recourses and remedies are available to those affected.”
  • Para 12 states: “Forced eviction and house demolition as a punitive measure are also inconsistent with the norms of the Covenant. Likewise, the Committee takes note of the obligations enshrined in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocols thereto of 1977 concerning prohibitions on the displacement of the civilian population and the destruction of private property as these relate to the practice of forced eviction.”
  • Para 13 states: “States parties shall ensure, prior to carrying out any evictions, and particularly those involving large groups, that all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with the affected persons, with a view to avoiding, or at least minimizing, the need to use force. Legal remedies or procedures should be provided to those who are affected by eviction orders. States parties shall also see to it that all the individuals concerned have a right to adequate compensation for any property, both personal and real, which is affected. In this respect, it is pertinent to recall article 2.3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires States parties to ensure “an effective remedy” for persons whose rights have been violated and the obligation upon the “competent authorities (to) enforce such remedies when granted”
  • Para 14 states:  “In cases where eviction is considered to be justified, it should be carried out in strict compliance with the relevant provisions of international human rights law and in accordance with general principles of reasonableness and proportionality.”
  • Para 15 states: “Appropriate procedural protection and due process are essential aspects of all human rights but are especially pertinent in relation to a matter such as forced evictions which directly invokes a large number of the rights recognized in both the International Covenants on Human Rights. The Committee considers that the procedural protections which should be applied in relation to forced evictions include: (a) an opportunity for genuine consultation with those affected; (b)  adequate and reasonable notice for all affected persons prior to the scheduled date of eviction; (c) information on the proposed evictions, and, where applicable, on the alternative purpose for which the land or housing is to be used, to be made available in reasonable time to all those affected; (d) especially where groups of people are involved, government officials or their representatives to be present during an eviction; (e) all persons carrying out the eviction to be properly identified; (f) evictions not to take place in particularly bad weather or at night unless the affected persons consent otherwise; (g) provision of legal remedies; and (h) provision, where possible, of legal aid to persons who are in need of it to seek redress from the courts.”
  • Para 16 states: “Evictions should not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State party must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available.”

General Comment No. 3: The nature of State parties obligations (art. 2 (1)).

  • Para 3 states that “… while the full realization of the relevant rights may be achieved progressively, steps towards that goal must be taken within a reasonably short time after the Covenant’s entry into force for the States concerned. Such steps should be deliberate, concrete and targeted as clearly as possible towards meeting the obligations recognized in the Covenant.”
  • Para 9 states: “The concept of progressive realization constitutes a recognition of the fact that full realization of all economic, social and cultural rights will generally not be able to be achieved in a short period of time. […] Nevertheless, the fact that realization over time, or in other words progressively, is foreseen under the Covenant should not be misinterpreted as depriving the obligation of all meaningful content. […]. It thus imposes an obligation to move as expeditiously and effectively as possible towards that goal. Moreover, any deliberately retrogressive measures in that regard would require the most careful consideration and would need to be fully justified by reference to the totality of the rights provided for in the Covenant and in the context of the full use of the maximum available resources.”
  • Para 10 states: “…a minimum core obligation to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least, minimum essential levels of each of the rights is incumbent upon every State party. Thus, for example, a State party in which any significant number of individuals is deprived of essential foodstuffs, of essential primary health care, of basic shelter and housing, or of the most basic forms of education is, prima facie, failing to discharge its obligations under the Covenant. […]In order for a State party to be able to attribute its failure to meet at least its minimum core obligations to a lack of available resources it must demonstrate that every effort has been made to use all resources that are at its disposition in an effort to satisfy, as a matter of priority, those minimum obligations.”

General Comment No. 9: The domestic application of the Covenant

  • Para 4 states: “ In general, legally binding international human rights standards should operate directly and immediately within the domestic legal system of each State party, thereby enabling individuals to seek enforcement of their rights before national courts and tribunals.
  • Para 9 states: “The right to an effective remedy need not be interpreted as always requiring a judicial remedy. Administrative remedies will, in many cases, be adequate and those living within the jurisdiction of a State party have a legitimate expectation, based on the principle of good faith, that all administrative authorities will take account of the requirements of the Covenant in their decision-making. Any such administrative remedies should be accessible, affordable, timely and effective. An ultimate right of judicial appeal from administrative procedures of this type would also often be appropriate. [… ]”
  • Para 14 states: “Within the limits of the appropriate exercise of their functions of judicial review, courts should take account of Covenant rights where this is necessary to ensure that the State's conduct is consistent with its obligations under the Covenant. Neglect by the courts of this responsibility is incompatible with the principle of the rule of law, which must always be taken to include respect for international human rights obligations.”

General Comment No 20: Non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights (art.2 (2))

  • Para 7 states that: “discrimination constitutes any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference or other differential treatment that is directly or indirectly based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination and which has the intention or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of Covenant rights”
  • Para 8 states that States must eliminate discrimination both formally and substantively.  Eliminating formal discrimination requires ensuring that a State’s constitution, laws and policy documents do not discriminate on prohibited grounds. “Eliminating discrimination in practice requires paying sufficient attention to groups of individuals which suffer historical or persistent prejudice instead of merely comparing the formal treatment of individuals in similar situations. States parties must therefore immediately adopt the necessary measures to prevent, diminish and eliminate the conditions and attitudes which cause or perpetuate substantive or de facto discrimination. For example, ensuring that all individuals have equal access to adequate housing, water and sanitation will help to overcome discrimination against women and girl children and persons living in informal settlements and rural areas.”
  • Para. 9 states: “In order to eliminate substantive discrimination, States parties may be, and in some cases are, under an obligation to adopt special measures to attenuate or suppress conditions that perpetuate discrimination. Such measures are legitimate to the extent that they represent reasonable, objective and proportional means to redress de facto discrimination and are discontinued when substantive equality has been sustainably achieved.”
  • Para. 11 states: “Discrimination is frequently encountered in families, workplaces, and other sectors of society. For example, actors in the private housing sector (e.g. private landlords, credit providers and public housing providers) may directly or indirectly deny access to housing or mortgages on the basis of ethnicity, marital status, disability or sexual orientation while some families may refuse to send girl children to school. States parties must therefore adopt measures, which should include legislation, to ensure that individuals and entities in the private sphere do not discriminate on prohibited grounds.” 
  • Para. 25 states: “Property status, as a prohibited ground of discrimination, is a broad concept and includes real property (e.g. land ownership or tenure) and personal property (e.g. intellectual property, goods and chattels, and income), or the lack of it. The Committee has previously commented that Covenant rights, such as access to water services and protection from forced eviction, should not be made conditional on a person’s land tenure status, such as living in an informal settlement.”
  • Paras. 28-35 clarify that the prohibition of discrimination in relation to economic social and cultural rights, includes as well discrimination on the grounds of disability, age, nationality, marital and family status, sexual orientation and gender identity, health status, place of residence, and economic and social situation.
  • Para. 28 states: “The denial of reasonable accommodation should be included in national legislation as a prohibited form of discrimination on the basis of disability”
  • Para. 34 on discrimination based on place of residence states: “The exercise of Covenant rights should not be conditional on, or determined by, a person’s current or former place of residence; e.g. whether an individual lives or is registered in an urban or a rural area, in a formal or an informal settlement, is internally displaced or leads a nomadic lifestyle.”
  • Para. 35 on discrimination based on economic or social status states: “Individuals and groups of individuals must not be arbitrarily treated on account of belonging to a certain economic or social group or strata within society. A person’s social and economic situation when living in poverty or being homeless may result in pervasive discrimination, stigmatization and negative stereotyping which can lead to the refusal of, or unequal access to, the same quality of education and health care as others, as well as the denial of or unequal access to public places.”

General comment No. 24:on State obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the context of business activities

Human Rights Committee

The Human Rights Committee has elaborated on housing related obligations of States in relation to the right to life and the protection of privacy, family, home and correspondence.

General Comment No. 36: Article 6 right to life

  • Para. 23 states that “the duty to protect the right to life requires States parties to take special measures of protection towards persons in vulnerable situations whose lives have been placed at particular risk … They may also include children, especially children in street situations”.
  • Para. 26 states that “The duty to protect life also implies that States parties should take appropriate measures to address the general conditions in society that may give rise to direct threats to life or prevent individuals from enjoying their right to life with dignity. These general conditions may include […] homelessness. The measures called for addressing adequate conditions for protecting the right to life include, where necessary, measures designed to ensure access without delay by individuals to essential goods and services such as food, water, shelter, health-care, electricity and sanitation, and other measures designed to promote and facilitate adequate general conditions, such as […]social housing programmes.”

General Comment No. 16: Article 17 right to be protected against interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence

  • Para. 5 states that: “The term “home” […] as used in article 17 of the Covenant, is to be understood to indicate the place where a person resides or carries out his usual occupation.”
  • Para. 8 states that “Even with regard to interferences that conform to the Covenant, relevant legislation must specify in detail the precise circumstances in which such interferences may be permitted. A decision to make use of such authorized interference must be made only by the authority designated under the law, and on a case‑by‑case basis. [… ] Searches of a person’s home should be restricted to a search for necessary evidence and should not be allowed to amount to harassment.”
  • Para. 9 states that: “States parties are under a duty themselves not to engage in interferences inconsistent with article 17 of the Covenant and to provide the legislative framework prohibiting such acts by natural or legal persons.”

General Comment No. 19: Article 23 protection of family

  • Para. 5 states that: “The right to found a family implies, in principle, the possibility to procreate and live together. […] Similarly, the possibility to live together implies the adoption of appropriate measures, both at the internal level and as the case may be, in cooperation with other States, to ensure the unity or reunification of families, particularly when their members are separated for political, economic or similar reasons.
  • Para. 8 states that “During marriage, the spouses should have equal rights and responsibilities in the family. This equality extends to all matters arising from their relationship, such as choice of residence, running of the household, education of the children and administration of assets.”

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

General Recommendation No. 19 on Article 3 (racial segregation and apartheid)

1. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calls the attention of States parties to the wording of article 3, by which States parties undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of racial segregation and apartheid in territories under their jurisdiction. The reference to apartheid may have been directed exclusively to South Africa, but the article as adopted prohibits all forms of racial segregation in all countries.

2.  The Committee believes that the obligation to eradicate all practices of this nature includes the obligation to eradicate the consequences of such practices undertaken or tolerated by previous Governments in the State or imposed by forces outside the State.

3.  The Committee observes that while conditions of complete or partial racial segregation may in some countries have been created by governmental policies, a condition of partial segregation may also arise as an unintended by-product of the actions of private persons. In many cities residential patterns are influenced by group differences in income, which are sometimes combined with differences of race, colour, descent and national or ethnic origin, so that inhabitants can be stigmatized and individuals suffer a form of discrimination in which racial grounds are mixed with other grounds.

4.  The Committee therefore affirms that a condition of racial segregation can also arise without any initiative or direct involvement by the public authorities. It invites States parties to monitor all trends which can give rise to racial segregation, to work for the eradication of any negative consequences that ensue, and to describe any such action in their periodic reports.

General Recommendation No. 22 on article 5 (refugees and displaced persons)

The Committee […]
1.   Draws the attention of States parties to article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination […] and reiterates that the Convention obliges States parties to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms;
2.       Emphasizes in this respect that:
(a)      All such refugees and displaced persons have the right freely to return to their homes of origin under conditions of safety;
(b)      States parties are obliged to ensure that the return of such refugees and displaced persons is voluntary and to observe the principle of non‑refoulement and non‑expulsion of refugees;
(c)      All such refugees and displaced persons have, after their return to their homes of origin, the right to have restored to them property of which they were deprived in the course of the conflict and to be compensated appropriately for any such property that cannot be restored to them. Any commitments or statements relating to such property made under duress are null and void;
(d)      All such refugees and displaced persons have, after their return to their homes of origin, the right to participate fully and equally in public affairs at all levels and to have equal access to public services and to receive rehabilitation assistance.

General Recommendation No. 23 on the rights of indigenous peoples

  • Para. 4 states: “The Committee calls in particular upon States parties to: […] (d) Ensure that members of indigenous peoples have equal rights in respect of effective participation in public life and that no decisions directly relating to their rights and interests are taken without their informed consent”
  • Para. 5 sates: “The Committee especially calls upon States parties to recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources and, where they have been deprived of their lands and territories traditionally owned or otherwise inhabited or used without their free and informed consent, to take steps to return those lands and territories. Only when this is for factual reasons not possible, the right to restitution should be substituted by the right to just, fair and prompt compensation. Such compensation should as far as possible take the form of lands and territories.”

General Recommendation No. 27 on discrimination against Roma

  • Recommends that the States parties to the Convention, taking into account their specific situations, adopt for the benefit of members of the Roma communities, inter alia, all or part of the following measures, as appropriate: […]
  • Para. 30 states:  “To develop and implement policies and projects aimed at avoiding segregation of Roma communities in housing; to involve Roma communities and associations as partners together with other persons in housing project construction, rehabilitation and maintenance.”
  • Para. 31 states: “To act firmly against any discriminatory practices affecting Roma, mainly by local authorities and private owners, with regard to taking up residence and access to housing; to act firmly against local measures denying residence to and unlawful expulsion of Roma, and to refrain from placing Roma in camps outside populated areas that are isolated and without access to health care and other facilities.”
  • Para. 32 states: “To take the necessary measures, as appropriate, for offering Roma nomadic groups or Travellers camping places for their caravans, with all necessary facilities.”

Committee on the Rights of the Child

The Committee on the Rights of the Child elaborated a detailed general comment on children in street situation

Para. 49 states that “States shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing”.
Para. 51 states that “With regard to housing, security of tenure is essential for preventing children from coming into street situations. This includes access to adequate housing that is safe, with access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.”

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

General Recommendation on article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Economic consequences of marriage, family relations and their dissolution)

  • Para. 46 states: “States parties are obligated to provide, upon divorce and/or separation, for equality between the parties in the division of all property accumulated during the marriage. States parties should recognize the value of indirect, including non-financial, contributions with regard to the acquisition of property acquired during the marriage.”
  • Para. 47 states that: “States parties should provide for equal formal and de facto legal capacity to own and manage property. To achieve both formal and substantive equality with respect to property rights upon the dissolution of marriage, States parties are strongly encouraged to provide for:
    • Recognition of use rights in property related to livelihood or compensation in order to provide for replacement of property-related livelihood.
    • Adequate housing to replace the use of the family home.
    • Equality within the property regimes available to couples (community property, separate property, hybrid), the right to choose property regime, and an understanding of the consequences of each regime.” […]
  • Para. 49 on property rights after death, states: “Many States parties, by law or custom, deny widows equality with widowers in respect of inheritance, leaving them vulnerable economically upon the death of a spouse. […]
  • Para. 50 states: “Under customary forms of landholding, which may limit individual purchase or transfer and may only be subject to right of use, upon the death of the husband, the wife or wives may be told to leave the land or may be required to marry a brother of the deceased in order to remain on the land. The existence of offspring, or lack of offspring, may be a major factor in such marriage requirements. In some States parties, widows are subject to “property dispossession” or “property grabbing”, in which relatives of a deceased husband, claiming customary rights, dispossess the widow and her children from property accumulated during the marriage, including property that is not held according to custom. They remove the widow from the family home and claim all the chattels, then ignore their concomitant customary responsibility to support the widow and children. In some States parties, widows are marginalized or banished to a different community.”
  • Para. 53 states: “States parties are obligated to adopt laws of intestate succession that comply with the principles of the Convention. Such laws should ensure:
    • Equal treatment of surviving females and males.
    • That customary succession to use rights or title to land cannot be conditioned on forced marriage to a deceased spouse’s brother (levirate marriage) or any other person, or on the existence or absence of minor children of the marriage.
    • That disinheritance of the surviving spouse is prohibited.
    • That “property dispossession/grabbing” is criminalized, and that offenders are duly prosecuted.

General Recommendation No. 33 on women’s access to justice

  • Para. 16 states: “With regard to the availability of justice systems, the Committee recommends that States parties: … (b) In cases of violence against women, ensure access to financial aid, crisis centres, shelters, hotlines and medical, psychosocial and counselling services”

General Recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence

  • Para. 31 states: “The Committee recommends that States parties implement the following protective measures: (a) Adopt and implement effective measures to protect and assist women complainants of and witnesses to gender-based violence before, during and after legal proceedings, including by: […]

(ii) Providing appropriate and accessible protective mechanisms to prevent further or potential violence, without the precondition that victims/survivors initiate legal action, including through removal of communication barriers for victims with disabilities. Mechanisms should include immediate risk assessment and protection comprising a wide range of effective measures and, where appropriate, the issuance and monitoring of eviction, protection, restraining or emergency barring orders against alleged perpetrators, including adequate sanctions for noncompliance. […]
(iii) Ensuring access to financial assistance, gratis or low-cost, high-quality legal aid, medical, psychosocial and counselling services, education, affordable housing, land, childcare, training and employment opportunities for women who are victims/survivors and their family members. […] States should provide specialized women’s support services, such as gratis helplines operating around the clock and sufficient numbers of safe and adequately equipped crisis, support and referral centres and adequate shelters for women, their children and other family members, as required;
(iv) Providing women in institutions, including residential care homes, asylum centres and places of deprivation of liberty, with protective and support measures in relation to gender based violence.”

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

General Comment No. 2 on article 9: accessibility

  • Para. 14 states: “[….] The right to access for persons with disabilities is ensured through strict implementation of accessibility standards. Barriers to access to existing objects, facilities, goods and services aimed at or open to the public shall be removed gradually in a systematic and, more importantly, continuously monitored manner, with the aim of achieving full accessibility.”
  • Para. 15 states: “The strict application of universal design to all new goods, products, facilities, technologies and services should ensure full, equal and unrestricted access for all potential consumers, including persons with disabilities, in a way that takes full account of their inherent dignity and diversity. It should contribute to the creation of an unrestricted chain of movement for an individual from one space to another, including movement inside particular spaces, with no barriers. Persons with disabilities and other users should be able to move in barrier-free streets, enter accessible low-floor vehicles, access information and communication, and enter and move inside universally designed buildings, using technical aids and live assistance where necessary. The application of universal design does not automatically eliminate the need for technical aids. Its application to a building from the initial design stage helps to make construction much less costly: making a building accessible from the outset might not increase the total cost of construction at all in many cases, or only minimally in some cases. On the other hand, the cost of subsequent adaptations in order to make a building accessible may be considerable in some cases, especially with regard to certain historical buildings. While the initial application of universal design is more economical, the potential cost of subsequent removal of barriers may not be used as an excuse to avoid the obligation to remove barriers to accessibility gradually. […]
  • Para. 16 states: “The application of universal design makes society accessible for all human beings, not only persons with disabilities. It is also significant that article 9 [of the CPRD] explicitly imposes on States parties the duty to ensure accessibility in both urban and rural areas. Evidence has shown that accessibility is usually better in bigger cities than in remote, less developed rural areas, although extensive urbanization can sometimes also create additional new barriers that prevent access for persons with disabilities, in particular to the built environment, transport and services, as well as more sophisticated information and communication services in heavily populated, bustling urban areas. In both urban and rural areas, access should be available for persons with disabilities to the natural and heritage parts of the physical environment that the public can enter and enjoy.”
  • Para. 17 states: “Article 9, paragraph 1 [of the CRPD], requires States parties to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility to, inter alia: (a) Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces; […]
    The other indoor and outdoor facilities, mentioned above, should include law enforcement agencies, tribunals, prisons, social institutions, areas for social interaction and recreation, cultural, religious, political and sports activities, and shopping establishments. Other services should include postal, banking, telecommunication and information services.
  • Para. 18 states: “Article 9, paragraph 2, stipulates the measures States parties must take in order to develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum national standards for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public. Those standards shall be in accordance with the standards of other States parties in order to ensure interoperability with regard to free movement within the framework of liberty of movement and nationality (art. 18) of persons with disabilities. States parties are also required to take measures to ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services that are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities (art. 9, para. 2 (b)).”
  • Para. 19 states: “Since a lack of accessibility is often the result of insufficient awareness and technical know-how, article 9 requires that States parties provide training to all stakeholders on accessibility for persons with disabilities (para. 2 (c)). Article 9 does not attempt to enumerate the relevant stakeholders; any exhaustive list should include the authorities that issue building permits, broadcasting boards and ICT licences, engineers, designers, architects, urban planners, transport authorities, service providers, members of the academic community and persons with disabilities and their organizations. Training should be provided not only to those designing goods, services and products, but also to those who actually produce them. In addition, strengthening the direct involvement of persons with disabilities in product development would improve the understanding of existing needs and the effectiveness of accessibility tests. Ultimately, it is the builders on the construction site who make a building accessible or not. It is important to put in place training and monitoring systems for all these groups in order to ensure the practical application of accessibility standards.”
  • Para. 23 states:_ “Since accessibility is a precondition for persons with disabilities to live independently, as provided for in article 19 of the Convention, and to participate fully and equally in society, denial of access to the physical environment, transportation, information and communication technologies, and facilities and services open to the public should be viewed in the context of discrimination. Taking “all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities” (art. 4, para. 1 (b)) constitutes the main general obligation for all States parties. “States parties shall prohibit all discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantee to persons with disabilities equal and effective legal protection against discrimination on all grounds” (art. 5, para. 2). “In order to promote equality and eliminate discrimination, States parties shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided” (art. 5, para. 3).”
  • Para. 24 states: ”A clear distinction should be drawn between the obligation to ensure access to all newly designed, built or produced objects, infrastructure, goods, products and services and the obligation to remove barriers and ensure access to the existing physical environment and existing transportation, information and communication, and services open to the general public. Another of the States parties’ general obligations is to “undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities, as defined in article 2 of the Convention, which should require the minimum possible adaptation and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person with disabilities, to promote their availability and use, and to promote universal design in the development of standards and guidelines” (art. 4, para. 1 (f)). All new objects, infrastructure, facilities, goods, products and services have to be designed in a way that makes them fully accessible for persons with disabilities, in accordance with the principles of universal design. States parties are obliged to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to the existing physical environment, transportation, information and communication and services open to the general public. However, as this obligation is to be implemented gradually, States parties should establish definite time frames and allocate adequate resources for the removal of existing barriers. Furthermore, States parties should clearly prescribe the duties of the different authorities (including regional and local authorities) and entities (including private entities) that should be carried out in order to ensure accessibility. States parties should also prescribe effective monitoring mechanisms to ensure accessibility and monitor sanctions against anyone who fails to implement accessibility standards.
  • Para. 25 states: “[…] States parties need to set accessibility standards, which must be adopted in consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities, and they need to be specified for service-providers, builders and other relevant stakeholders. Accessibility standards must be broad and standardized. […]The obligation to implement accessibility is unconditional, i.e. the entity obliged to provide accessibility may not excuse the omission to do so by referring to the burden of providing access for persons with disabilities. The duty of reasonable accommodation, contrarily, exists only if implementation constitutes no undue burden on the entity.”
  • Para. 26 states. “The duty to provide reasonable accommodation is an ex nunc duty, which means that it is enforceable from the moment an individual with an impairment needs it in a given situation, for example, workplace or school, in order to enjoy her or his rights on an equal basis in a particular context. Here, accessibility standards can be an indicator, but may not be taken as prescriptive. Reasonable accommodation can be used as a means of ensuring accessibility for an individual with a disability in a particular situation. Reasonable accommodation seeks to achieve individual justice in the sense that non-discrimination or equality is assured, taking the dignity, autonomy and choices of the individual into account. Thus, a person with a rare impairment might ask for accommodation that falls outside the scope of any accessibility standard.”
  • Para. 29 states: “It is helpful to mainstream accessibility standards that prescribe various areas that have to be accessible, such as the physical environment in laws on construction and planning, transportation in laws on public aerial, railway, road and water transport, information and communication, and services open to the public. However, accessibility should be encompassed in general and specific laws on equal opportunities, equality and participation in the context of the prohibition of disability-based discrimination. Denial of access should be clearly defined as a prohibited act of discrimination. Persons with disabilities who have been denied access to the physical environment, transportation, information and communication, or services open to the public should have effective legal remedies at their disposal. […]”
  • Para. 32 states; “As part of their review of accessibility legislation, States parties must also consider their laws on public procurement to ensure that their public procurement procedures incorporate accessibility requirements. It is unacceptable to use public funds to create or perpetuate the inequality that inevitably results from inaccessible services and facilities. […]”
  • Para. 33 states; “States parties should adopt action plans and strategies to identify existing barriers to accessibility, set time frames with specific deadlines and provide both the human and material resources necessary to remove the barriers. Once adopted, such action plans and strategies should be strictly implemented. States parties should also strengthen their monitoring mechanisms in order to ensure accessibility and they should continue providing sufficient funds to remove barriers to accessibility and train monitoring staff. As accessibility standards are often implemented locally, continuous capacity-building of the local authorities responsible for monitoring implementation of the standards is of paramount importance. States parties are under an obligation to develop an effective monitoring framework and set up efficient monitoring bodies with adequate capacity and appropriate mandates to make sure that plans, strategies and standardization are implemented and enforced.”
  • Para. 36 states: “Ensuring full access to the physical environment, transportation, information and communication, and services open to the public is indeed a vital precondition for the effective enjoyment of many rights covered by the Convention. In situations of risk, natural disasters and armed conflict, the emergency services must be accessible to persons with disabilities, or their lives cannot be saved or their well-being protected (art. 11). Accessibility must be incorporated as a priority in post-disaster reconstruction efforts. Therefore, disaster risk reduction must be accessible and disability-inclusive.”
  • Para. 37 states: “[…] There can be no effective access to justice if the buildings in which law-enforcement agencies and the judiciary are located are not physically accessible, or if the services, information and communication they provide are not accessible to persons with disabilities (art. 13). Safe houses, support services and procedures must all be accessible in order to provide effective and meaningful protection from violence, abuse and exploitation to persons with disabilities, especially women and children (art. 16). Accessible environment, transportation, information and communication, and services are a precondition for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in their respective local communities and for them to have an independent life (art. 19)”
  • Para. 42 states: “Article 28 of the Convention addresses an adequate standard of living and social protection for persons with disabilities. States parties should take the necessary measures to ensure that both mainstream and disability-specific social protection measures and services are provided in an accessible manner, in accessible buildings, and that all information and communication pertaining to them is accessible through sign language, Braille, accessible electronic formats, alternative script, and augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication. Social housing programmes should offer housing that is, inter alia, accessible for persons with disabilities and the elderly.”

General Comment No. 5 on the right to independent living

16. In the present general comment the following definitions apply:

(a) Independent living. Independent living/living independently means that individuals with disabilities are provided with all necessary means to enable them to exercise choice and control over their lives and make all decisions concerning their lives. Personal autonomy and self-determination are fundamental to independent living, including access to transport, information, communication and personal assistance, place of residence, daily routine, habits, decent employment, personal relationships, clothing, nutrition, hygiene and health care, religious activities, cultural activities and sexual and reproductive rights. These activities are linked to the development of a person’s identity and personality: where we live and with whom, what we eat, whether we like to sleep in or go to bed late at night, be inside or outdoors, have a tablecloth and candles on the table, have pets or listen to music. Such actions and decisions constitute who we are. Independent living is an essential part of the individual’s autonomy and freedom and does not necessarily mean living alone. It should also not be interpreted solely as the ability to carry out daily activities by oneself. Rather, it should be regarded as the freedom to choose and control, in line with the respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy as enshrined in article 3 (a) of the Convention. Independence as a form of personal autonomy means that the person with disability is not deprived of the opportunity of choice and control regarding personal lifestyle and daily activities;

(b) Being included in the community. The right to be included in the community relates to the principle of full and effective inclusion and participation in society as enshrined in, among others, article 3 (c) of the Convention. It includes living a full social life and having access to all services offered to the public and to support services offered to persons with disabilities to enable them to be fully included and participate in all spheres of social life. These services can relate, among others, to housing, transport, shopping, education, employment, recreational activities and all other facilities and services offered to the public, including social media. The right also includes having access to all measures and events of political and cultural life in the community, among others, public meetings, sports events, cultural and religious festivals and any other activity in which the person with disability wishes to participate;

(c) Independent living arrangements. Both independent living and being included in the community refer to life settings outside residential institutions of all kinds. It is not “just” about living in a particular building or setting; it is, first and foremost, about not losing personal choice and autonomy as a result of the imposition of certain life and living arrangements. Neither large-scale institutions with more than a hundred residents nor smaller group homes with five to eight individuals, nor even individual homes can be called independent living arrangements if they have other defining elements of institutions or institutionalization. Although institutionalized settings can differ in size, name and set-up, there are certain defining elements, such as obligatory sharing of assistants with others and no or limited influence over whom one has to accept assistance from; isolation and segregation from independent life within the community; lack of control over day-to-day decisions; lack of choice over whom to live with; rigidity of routine irrespective of personal will and preferences; identical activities in the same place for a group of persons under a certain authority; a paternalistic approach in service provision; supervision of living arrangements; and usually also a disproportion in the number of persons with disabilities living in the same environment. Institutional settings may offer persons with disabilities a certain degree of choice and control; however, these choices are limited to specific areas of life and do not change the segregating character of institutions. Policies of deinstitutionalization therefore require implementation of structural reforms which go beyond the closure of institutional settings. Large or small group homes are especially dangerous for children, for whom there is no substitute for the need to grow up with a family. “Family-like” institutions are still institutions and are no substitute for care by a family;

(d) Personal assistance. Personal assistance refers to person-directed/“user”-led human support available to a person with disability and is a tool for independent living […]

20. Article 19 explicitly refers to all persons with disabilities. Neither the full or partial deprivation of any “degree” of legal capacity nor the level of support required may be invoked to deny or limit the right to independence and independent living in the community to persons with disabilities.

21. When persons with disabilities are assessed as requiring a high level of personal service, States parties often consider institutions as the only solution, especially when personal services are considered to be “too costly” or the person with disabilities is considered to be “unable” to live outside an institutional setting. Persons with intellectual disabilities, especially those with complex communication requirements, among others, are often assessed as being unable to live outside institutional settings. Such reasoning is contrary to article 19, which extends the right to live independently and be included in the community to all persons with disabilities, regardless of their level of intellectual capacity, self-functioning or support requirements. […]

24. To choose and decide how, where and with whom to live is the central idea of the right to live independently and be included in the community. Individual choice, therefore, is not limited to the place of residence but includes all aspects of a person’s living arrangements: the daily schedule and routine as well as the way of life and lifestyle of a person, covering the private and public spheres, every day and in the long term.

25. Often, persons with disabilities cannot exercise choice because there is a lack of options to choose from. This is the case, for instance, where informal support by the family is the only option, where support is unavailable outside of institutions, where housing is inaccessible or support is not provided in the community, and where support is provided only within specified forms of residence such as group homes or institutions. […]

28. Individualized support services must be considered a right rather than a form of medical, social or charity care. For many persons with disabilities, access to a range of individualized support services is a precondition for independent living within the community. Persons with disabilities have the right to choose services and service providers according to their individual requirements and personal preferences, and individualized support should be flexible enough to adapt to the requirements of the “users” and not the other way around. This places an obligation on States parties to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of qualified specialists able to identify practical solutions to the barriers to living independently within the community in accordance with the requirements and preferences of the individual. […]

32. Services and facilities mentioned in this section of the article [19 (c)] are non-disability specific support services and facilities for the general population in the community. They cover a wide range of services, such as housing, public libraries, hospitals, schools, transport, shops, markets, museums, the Internet, social media and similar facilities and services. These must be available, universally accessible, acceptable and adaptable for all persons with disabilities within the community. […]

34. In terms of material scope, article 19 covers access to safe and adequate housing, individual services and community facilities and services. Access to housing means having the option to live in the community on an equal basis with others. Article 19 is not properly implemented if housing is only provided in specifically designed areas and arranged in a way that persons with disabilities have to live in the same building, complex or neighbourhood. Accessible housing providing accommodation to persons with disabilities, whether they live alone or as a part of a family, must be available in sufficient number, within all areas of the community, to provide the right of persons with disabilities to choose and the possibility to do so. To this end, barrier-free new residential construction and the barrier-free retrofitting of existing residential structures are required. In addition, housing must be affordable to persons with disabilities. […]

37. The right to equal support services corresponds with the duty to ensure the participation and involvement of persons with disabilities in processes related to facilities and services in the community, ensuring that they are responsive to specific requirements, are gender and age sensitive, and that they are available to allow for the spontaneous participation of persons with disabilities within the community. For children, the core of the right to live independently and be included in the community entails a right to grow up in a family.

38. The Committee finds it important to identify core elements of article 19 in order to ensure that the realization of a standardized minimum support level sufficient to allow the exercise of the right to live independently and be included in the community is carried out by every State party. States parties should ensure that the core elements of article 19 are always respected, particularly in times of financial or economic crisis. These core elements are: […]
(b) To ensure non-discrimination in accessing housing, including the elements of both income and accessibility, and adopting mandatory building regulations that permit new and renovated housing to become accessible;
(c) To develop a concrete action plan for independent living for persons with disabilities within the community, including taking steps towards facilitating formal supports for independent living within the community so that informal support by, for example, families is not the only option;  […]

46. States parties are under an immediate obligation to eliminate discrimination against individuals or groups of persons with disabilities and to guarantee their equal right to living independently and participation in the community. This requires States parties to repeal or reform policies, laws and practices that prevent persons with disabilities from, for example, choosing their place of residence, securing affordable and accessible housing, renting accommodation or accessing such general mainstream facilities and services as their independence would require. The duty to provide reasonable accommodation (art. 5 (3)) is also not subject to progressive realization.

47. The obligation to respect requires States parties to refrain from directly or indirectly interfering with or in any way limiting the individual exercise of the right to live independently and be included in the community. States parties should not limit or deny anyone’s access to living independently in the community, including through laws which directly or indirectly restrict the options of persons with disabilities to choose their place of residence or where, how and with whom to live, or their autonomy. States parties should reform laws that impede the exercise of the rights enshrined in article 19. […]

49. To respect the rights of persons with disabilities under article 19 means that States parties need to phase out institutionalization. No new institutions may be built by States parties, nor may old institutions be renovated beyond the most urgent measures necessary to safeguard residents’ physical safety. Institutions should not be extended, new residents should not enter when others leave and “satellite” living arrangements that branch out from institutions, i.e., those that have the appearance of individual living (apartments or single homes) but revolve around institutions, should not be established.

54. The obligation to fulfil requires States to promote, facilitate and provide appropriate legislative, administrative, budgetary, judicial, programmatic, promotional and other measures to ensure the full realization of the right to live independently and be included in the community as enshrined in the Convention. The obligation to fulfil also requires States parties to take measures to eradicate practical barriers to the full realization of the right to live independently and be included in the community, such as inaccessible housing, limited access to disability support services, inaccessible facilities, goods and services in the community and prejudices against persons with disabilities.
55. States parties should empower family members to support the family members with disabilities to realize their right to live independently and be included in the community.

57. States parties must adopt a strategy and a concrete plan of action for deinstitutionalization. It should include the duty to implement structural reforms, to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities within the community and to raise awareness among all persons in society about inclusion of persons with disabilities within the community.

58. Deinstitutionalization also requires a systemic transformation, which includes the closure of institutions and the elimination of institutionalizing regulations as part of a comprehensive strategy, along with the establishment of a range of individualized support services, including individualized plans for transition with budgets and time frames as well as inclusive support services. Therefore, a coordinated, cross-government approach which ensures reforms, budgets and appropriate changes of attitude at all levels and sectors of government, including local authorities, is required.

59. Programmes and entitlements to support living independently in the community must cover disability-related costs. Furthermore, ensuring the availability of a sufficient number of accessible and affordable housing units is crucial for deinstitutionalization, including housing for families. It is also important that access to housing not be made conditional upon requirements that reduce the autonomy and independence of persons with disabilities. Buildings and spaces open to the public and all forms of transport must be designed in a way that accommodates the requirements of all persons with disabilities. States parties must take deliberate and immediate steps to reallocate funding towards realizing the right of persons with disabilities to living independently in the community.

60. Disability support services must be available, accessible, affordable, acceptable and adaptable to all persons with disabilities and be sensitive to different living conditions, such as individual or family income, and individual circumstances, such as sex, age, national or ethnic origin and linguistic, religious, sexual and/or gender identity. The human rights model of disability does not allow the exclusion of persons with disabilities for any reason, including the kind and amount of support services required. […]

66. States parties must ensure access to justice and provide legal aid and appropriate legal advice, remedies and support, including through reasonable and procedural accommodation, for persons with disabilities who seek to enforce their right to living independently in the community. […]

78. The rights provided for in article 19 are tied to the obligations of the States parties relating to accessibility (art. 9) because the general accessibility of the whole built environment, transport, information, and communication and related facilities and services open to the public in a community is a precondition for living independently in the community. Article 9 requires the identification and elimination of barriers in buildings open to the public, such as the revision of building and urban planning codes, the inclusion of standards of universal design in a variety of sectors and the establishment of accessibility standards for housing. […]

92. To ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy an adequate standard of living (art. 28), States parties should provide, inter alia, access to support services that enable them to live independently. Therefore, there is an obligation on the part of States parties to ensure access to appropriate and affordable services, devices and other assistance for impairment related requirements, especially for those persons with disabilities who live in poverty. Furthermore, access to public and subsidized housing programmes in the community is required. It is considered contrary to the Convention for persons with disabilities to pay for disability-related expenses by themselves. […]

95. Data and information must be disaggregated systematically (art. 31) by disability across all sectors, including with respect to housing, living arrangements and social protection schemes as well as access to independent living and support and services. The information should allow for regular analyses of how deinstitutionalization and transition to support services in the community have progressed. It is important that indicators reflect the particular circumstances in every State party.

97. The Committee notes that States parties may face challenges at the national level when implementing the right to living independently and being included in the community. However, in line with the normative content and obligations outlined above, States parties should take the following steps to ensure the full implementation of article 19 of the Convention:

(a) Repeal all laws that prevent any person with disabilities, regardless of the type of impairment, to choose where and with whom and how to live, including the right not to be confined on the basis of any kind of disability; […]
(d) Insert the principle of universal design for both physical and virtual space in policies, law, standards and other measures, including monitoring the realization/implementation of obligations; review building codes to ensure that they comply with the principles of universal design and legislative guidelines on construction, as outlined in the Committee’s general comment No. 2;
(i) Ensure the participation of persons with disabilities, personally and through their representative organizations, in transforming support services and communities and in the design and implementation of deinstitutionalization strategies;
(j) Design comprehensive policies and legislative guidelines and allocate financial resources for the construction of affordable and accessible housing units, the built environment, public spaces and transport, along with an adequate time frame for their implementation and sanctions which are effective, deterrent and proportionate for violations by public or private authorities; […]

International Humanitarian Law

CONVENTION RELATING TO THE STATUS OF REFUGEES (1951)

  • Article 21 states that: “As regards housing, the Contracting States, insofar as the matter is regulated by laws or regulations or is subject to the control of public authorities, shall accord refugees lawfully staying in their territory treatment as favourable a s possible and, in any event, not less favourable than that accorded to aliens generally in the same circumstances.”

GENEVA CONVENTION RELATIVE TO THE PROTECTION OF CIVILIAN PERSONS IN TIME OF WAR (1949)

  • Article 49 states that: “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive. Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. (…) The Occupying Power undertaking such transfers or evacuations shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to receive the protected persons (…).”
  • Article 53 states that: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”
  • Article 85 states that: “The Detaining Power is bound to take all necessary and possible measures to ensure that protected persons shall, from the outset of their internment, be accommodated in buildings or quarters which afford every possible safeguard as regards hygiene and health, and provide efficient protection against the rigours of the climate and the effects of the war. In no case shall permanent places of internment be situated in unhealthy areas or in districts the climate of which is injurious to the internees. In all cases where the district, in which a protected person is temporarily interned, is in an unhealthy area or has a climate which is harmful to his health, he shall be removed to a more suitable place of internment as rapidly as circumstances permit. The premises shall be fully protected from dampness, adequately heated and lighted, in particular between dusk and lights out. The sleeping quarters shall be sufficiently spacious and well ventilated, and the internees shall have suitable bedding and sufficient blankets, account being taken of the climate, and the age, sex, and state of health of the internees. Internees shall have for their use, day and night, sanitary conveniences which conform to the rules of hygiene and are constantly maintained in a state of cleanliness. They shall be provided with sufficient water and soap for their daily personal toilet and for washing their personal laundry; installations and facilities necessary for this purpose shall be granted to them. Showers or baths shall also be available. The necessary time shall be set aside for washing and for cleaning. Whenever it is necessary, as an exceptional and temporary measure, to accommodate women internees who are not members of a family unit in the same place of internment as men, the provision of separate sleeping quarters and sanitary conveniences for the use of such women internees shall be obligatory.”
  • Article 134 states that: “The High Contracting Parties shall endeavour, upon the close of hostilities or occupation, to ensure the return of all internees to their last place of residence, or to facilitate their repatriation.”

International Criminal Law

Human rights law, including the obligation of States to protect and fulfil the right to adequate housing remain applicable in contexts of armed conflict. In certain circumstances violations of the right to adequate housing, such as arbitrary housing demolitions, forced evictions and forced displacement, attacking civilian objects, pillaging or bombarding of towns, villages, dwellings and buildings may amount to a crime against humanity or to a war crime under international criminal law.

It should be noted that crime of deportation or forcible transfer of population as a crime of humanity can as well be committed when the threshold of an armed conflict has not been reached.

ROME STATE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Article 7 Crimes against humanity

  • Article 7 (1)  states: “For the purpose of this Statute, "crime against humanity" means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: […] (d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population”
  • Article 7 (2) defines: “Deportation or forcible transfer of population" means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law.

Article 8 War crimes

  • Article 8 (2) states: “For the purpose of this Statute, "war crimes" means:
    • Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, namely, any of the following acts against persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention: […]

(iv) Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; […]
(vii) Unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement;

    • Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts: […]

(ii)  Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives; […]
(v) Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives; […]
(viii)  The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory;
(xiii) Destroying or seizing the enemy's property unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war;
(xvi) Pillaging a town or place, even when taken by assault; […]

(e)    Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts: […]
(iv) Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives;
(v) Pillaging a town or place, even when taken by assault; […]
(viii) Ordering the displacement of the civilian population for reasons related to the conflict, unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand; […]
(xii) Destroying or seizing the property of an adversary unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of the conflict.

INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON THE SUPPRESSION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE CRIME OF APARTHEID (1974)

Article I
1. The States Parties to the present Convention declare that apartheid is a crime against humanity and that inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination, as defined in article II of the Convention, are crimes violating the principles of international law, in particular the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and constituting a serious threat to international peace and security. […]

Article II
For the purpose of the present Convention, the term "the crime of apartheid", which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa, shall apply to the following inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them: […]
(d) Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof; […]

Regional Human Rights Law

AFRICAN CHARTA ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS (1986)

The African Charta, also known as Banjul Charta, does not include an explicit reference to the right to adequate housing, however this right is protected in the African human rights system on the basis of Articles 14 (right to property), 16 (right to health) and 18 (right to family) as set out by the Guidelines and Principles on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Excerpts from both documents are reproduced below:

Article 12
1. Every individual shall have the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of a State provided he abides by the law.
[…]
5. The mass expulsion of non-nationals shall be prohibited. Mass expulsion shall be that which is aimed at national, racial, ethnic or religious groups.

Article 14
The right to property shall be guaranteed. It may only be encroached upon in the interest of public need or in the general interest of the community and in accordance with the provisions of appropriate laws.

Article 16
1. Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health.
2. States parties to the present Charter shall take the necessary measures to protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick.

Article 18
1. The family shall be the natural unit and basis of society. It shall be protected by the State which shall take care of its physical health and moral.

AFRICAN CHARTER ON THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF THE CHILD (1990)

  • Article 20.2 states: “States Parties to the present Charter shall in accordance with their means and national conditions take all appropriate measures;
    (a) to assist parents and other persons responsible for the child and in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes particularly with regard to nutrition, health, education, clothing and housing;

PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS IN THE AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS (2011)

adopted on 24 October 2011 by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Interpretation
1. In the interpretation of these Guidelines the following terms shall be interpreted as follows:
a. Forced evictions are acts and/or omissions involving the coerced or involuntary displacement of individuals, groups and communities from homes and/or lands and common property resources that were occupied or depended upon, thus eliminating or limiting the ability of an individual, group or community to reside or work in a particular dwelling, residence or location, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.  […]
o. Basic shelter refers to the basic minimum housing required by the individual for protection from the elements. […]

Immediate Obligations Regarding the Implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
16. Despite the obligation to progressively realise economic, social and cultural rights, some of the obligations imposed on States parties to the African Charter are immediate upon ratification of the Charter. These obligations include but are not limited to the obligation to take steps, the prohibition of retrogressive steps, minimum core obligations and the obligation to prevent discrimination in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.

Minimum Core Obligations
17. States parties have an obligation to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least, the minimum essential levels of each of the economic, social and cultural rights contained in the African Charter. The minimum core obligation is the obligation of the State to ensure that no significant number of individuals is deprived of the essential elements of a particular right.  This obligation exists regardless of the availability of resources and is non-derogable. When a State claims that it has failed to realise minimum essential levels of economic, social and cultural rights it must be able to show that it has allocated all available resources towards the realisation of these rights, and particularly towards the realisation of the minimum core content. Where the State does suffer from demonstrable resource constraints, caused by whatever reason, including economic adjustment, the State should still implement measures to ensure the minimum essential levels of each right to members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, particularly by prioritising them in all interventions. While the obligation to realise the minimum core content of the rights means that the state should prioritise the realisation of the rights for the poorest and most vulnerable in society it does not remove the obligation to progressively realise the rights for all individuals.

Obligation to Take Steps
18. All States parties have immediate obligations to take steps, in accordance with a measurable national plan of action, towards the realisation of the protected economic, social and cultural rights. The measures adopted should be deliberate, concrete and targeted as clearly as possible towards ensuring enjoyment of the rights protected in the African Charter. States parties are obliged to take legislative measures for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. However, these measures will generally not be sufficient. States Parties are also obliged to allocate sufficient resources within national budgets towards the realisation of each right.

Non-discrimination
19. Article 2 of the African Charter prohibits any discrimination in the enjoyment of the protected rights on the following non-exhaustive grounds including race, ethnic group, colour, sex/gender, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, economic status and birth. Thus any discrimination against individuals in their access to or enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights on any of the prohibited grounds is a violation of the African Charter. Discrimination includes any conduct or omission which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the equal access to and enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. The obligation to protect the individual from discrimination is immediate.  […]

Effective Domestic Remedies
21. All rights recognised in the African Charter must be made effective under national legal systems. Violation of economic, social and cultural rights protected under the African Charter must entitle affected individuals and peoples to effective remedies and redress under domestic law. A rigid classification of economic, social and cultural rights which puts them, by definition, beyond the reach of the courts would be incompatible with the principle that human rights are indivisible and interdependent. International remedies are ultimately only supplementary to effective national remedies.
22. Effective remedies can be either administrative or judicial but must be accessible, affordable and timely. Administrative tribunals and the courts should recognise the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights, and grant appropriate remedies in the event of violations of these rights by State or non-state actors. The training of the judiciary and administrative officials should expressly include the enforceability of economic, social and cultural rights.

23. In addition, the State must ensure that persons within its jurisdiction, particularly members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, enjoy effective access to quality legal services. Measures to be taken in this regard include the establishment of comprehensive and effective legal aid schemes.
24. Without prejudice to the foregoing, where economic, social and cultural rights are not expressly included in the constitution of a State party, the courts and administrative tribunals should strive to protect the interests and values underlying these rights through an expansive interpretation of other rights, for example, the rights to life, human dignity, security of the person, equality and just administrative action.
25. Domestic law must be interpreted as far as possible in a way which conforms to States parties’ obligations under the African Charter.  […]

Equality
31. Guarantees of equality and non-discrimination should be interpreted, to the greatest extent possible, in ways which facilitate the full protection of economic, social and cultural rights.
32. In ensuring effective equality in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, Member States must pay particular attention to members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Such individuals are often disproportionately affected by a failure of the State to ensure economic, social and cultural rights and/or are direct victims of discriminatory laws, policies and customary practices.
33. To ensure realisation of equal access to economic, social and cultural rights States should ensure the provision of basic social services (such as water, electricity, education and health care) and equitable access to resources (such as land and credit) to members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
34. The right to equality includes the adoption of special measures for the purpose of securing the adequate advancement of members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups to enable their equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. This means that in some cases States will have to take temporary special measures in favour of these groups in order to reduce or suppress conditions that perpetuate discrimination and to realise substantive equality.
35. Such temporary special measures should accelerate the improvement of the position of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups to achieve their de facto or substantive equality, and to effect the structural, social and cultural changes necessary to correct past and current forms and effects of discrimination, as well as to provide them with compensation. Consequently, such measures should not result in the maintenance of separate rights for different groups and should be discontinued after their intended objectives have been achieved.
36. Patterns of inequality based on race, ethnicity and religion are endemic to the region and require comprehensive attention in national policies.
37. Due to entrenched patterns of sex/gender discrimination, women often do not enjoy equality in relation to economic, social and cultural rights. States must abolish those customary and traditional rules and practices which are major obstacles to the equal enjoyment of rights by women and girls.
38. States should recognise and take steps to combat intersectional discrimination based on a combination of (but not limited to) the following grounds: sex/gender, race, ethnicity, language, religion, political and other opinion, sexuality, national or social origin, property, birth, age, disability, marital, refugee, migrant and/or other status.

Right to Property
53. The right to property is a broad right that includes the protection of the real rights of individuals and peoples in any material thing which can be possessed as well as any right which may be part of a person’s patrimony. The concept also includes the protection of a legitimate expectation of the acquisition of property. It encompasses the rights of the individual, group or people to peaceful enjoyment of the property. The right may be limited by the State in a non-arbitrary manner, according to the law and the principle of proportionality.
54. Protected under this article are rights guaranteed by traditional custom and law to access to, and use of, land and other natural resources held under communal ownership. This places an obligation on State Parties to ensure security of tenure to rural communities, and their members.
55. The right to property in the African Charter includes the following obligations on State parties to:
a. Ensure peaceful enjoyment of property and protection from forced eviction. This obligation implies that the State shall protect the enjoyment in all its forms, from interference by third parties as well as its own agents. […]

Vulnerable Groups, Equality and Non-Discrimination
f. To ensure that members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, including indigenous populations/communities who are victims of historical land injustices, have independent access to and use of land and the right to reclaim their ancestral rights, and are adequately compensated for both historical and current destruction or alienation of wealth and resources. This may include land redistribution programmes implemented according to the due process of the law. States should protect traditional land ownership, while ensuring gender equality. […]
h. To ensure equitable and non-discriminatory access, acquisition, ownership, inheritance and control of land and housing, especially by women. This includes the obligation to take measures to modify or prohibit harmful social, cultural or other practices that prevent women and other members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups from enjoying their right to property, particularly in relation to housing and land.

Right to Health (Article 16)
61. The right to health is an inclusive right that encompasses both health care and the underlying determinants of health. The right to health does not mean the right to be healthy. […]
63. The determinants of health include access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation, an adequate supply of safe food, nutrition and housing, healthy occupational and environmental conditions.

67. The minimum core obligations of the right to health include at least the following: […]

Vulnerable Groups, Equality and Non-Discrimination
ii. Take measures to prevent violence against women and mitigate its impact on the physical and mental health of survivors. Measures should include: […] 
7. provision of alternative and safe housing programmes for women fleeing situations of domestic violence.

Right to Housing (Articles 14, 16 and 18(1))
77. In SERAC & CESR v Nigeria, the Commission held that, although the right to housing or shelter is not explicitly provided for under the African Charter, housing rights are protected through the combination of provisions protecting the right to property (art 14), the right to enjoy the best attainable standard of mental and physical health (art 16), and the protection accorded to the family (art 18(1)).
78. The human right to adequate housing is the right of every person to gain and sustain a safe and secure home and community in which to live in peace and dignity. It includes access to natural and common resources, safe drinking water, energy for cooking, heating, cooling and lighting, sanitation and washing facilities, means of food storage, refuse disposal, site drainage and emergency services.
79. The right to housing imposes, amongst others, the following obligations on States parties to:

Minimum Core Obligations
a. Refrain from and protect against forced evictions from home(s) and land, including through legislation. All evictions must be carried out lawfully and in full accordance with relevant provisions of national and international human rights and humanitarian law. States should apply appropriate civil or criminal penalties against any public or private person or entity within its jurisdiction that carries out evictions in a manner inconsistent with applicable national and international law, including due process.
b. Guarantee to all persons a degree of security of tenure which confers legal protection upon those persons, households and communities currently lacking such protection, including all those who do not have formal titles to home and land, against forced evictions, harassment and other threats.
c. Ensure at the very least basic shelter for everybody

National Plans, Policies and Systems
d. Carry out comprehensive reviews of relevant national legislations and policies with a view to ensuring their conformity with international human rights provisions. Such reviews should also ensure that existing legislation, regulation and policy address the privatization of public services, inheritance and cultural practices, so as not to lead to, or facilitate forced evictions.
e. Implement housing programmes, including subsidies and tax incentives, to expand housing construction to meet the needs of all categories of the population, particularly low-income families;
f. Prioritise in national plans and policies the provision of shelter for all persons in desperate need of emergency housing;

g. Protect the tenure of tenants including by the use of rent control and legal guarantees;
h. Implement programmes designed to address the special problems of housing, water supply and sanitary conditions in rural areas;
i. Ensure that housing is affordable and that the attainment and satisfaction of other basic needs are not threatened or compromised by the costs of housing;
j. Ensure the habitability of housing, including providing the inhabitants with adequate space and protecting them from cold, damp, heat, rain, wind or other threats to health, including violence, structural hazards and disease vectors;
k. Ensure that housing developments allow access to employment, health care services, schools, child-care centres and other social facilities. Housing should not be built on either polluted sites or in proximity to pollution sources;
l. Ensure that the construction of housing, including the materials used, are culturally acceptable and appropriately enable the expression of cultural identity and diversity;
m. Entrust an independent national body, such as a national human rights institution, to monitor State compliance with these guidelines and international human rights law, including investigation of forced evictions and other violations and ensuring prosecution of perpetrators;

Vulnerable Groups, Equality and Non-discrimination
n. Ensure that priority in housing and land allocation should be given to members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups;
o. Ensure that the provision of housing, particularly regarding construction and the building materials used is culturally appropriate for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, including indigenous communities/populations;
p. Take measures to ensure that women (whatever their marital status), internally displaced persons, refugees, indigenous communities/populations and other members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are guaranteed equal access to land, adequate housing or shelter and to acceptable living conditions in a healthy environment. Special attention should be given to ensuring fair and equitable inheritance of land and rights in housing regardless of sex;
q. Ensure the equal rights of women and men to protection from forced evictions and the equal enjoyment of the human right to adequate housing and security of tenure. Implement measures to ensure that titles to housing and land are conferred on women, and that they are able to access housing and land independently;

r. Ensure that women enjoy equal rights to compensation for violation of their housing rights as men. Single women and widows should be entitled to their own adequate level of compensation;

Evictions
s. Ensure that evictions only occur in exceptional circumstances. Any eviction must be (a) authorised by law; (b) carried out in accordance with international human rights law; (c) undertaken solely in the public interest; (d) reasonable and proportionate; (e) regulated so as to ensure full and fair compensation and rehabilitation;
t. Ensure that evictions are not carried out in a manner that violates the dignity and human rights to life and security of those affected;
u. Ensure that evictions do not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Alternative housing should be situated as close as possible to the original place of residence;
v. Ensure that where planning and development processes include evictions all those likely to be affected should be actively consulted;
w. The eviction process should include the following elements: (a) appropriate individual notice to all potentially affected persons; (b) effective dissemination by the authorities of relevant information in advance; (c) a reasonable time period for public review of, comment on, and/or objection to the proposed plan; (d) opportunities and efforts to facilitate the provision of legal, technical and other advice to affected persons about their rights and options; and (e) holding of public hearing(s) that provide(s) affected persons and their advocates with opportunities to challenge the eviction decision and/or to present alternative proposals and to articulate their demands and development priorities. Prior to any decision to initiate an eviction, authorities must demonstrate that the eviction is unavoidable and consistent with international human rights commitments protective of the general welfare;
x. Ensure that eviction notices allow and enable those subject to eviction to conduct an inventory in order to assess the value of their properties, investments and other material goods that may be damaged. Those subject to eviction should also be given the opportunity to assess and document non-monetary losses to be compensated;
y. Ensure the mandatory presence of governmental officials or their representatives on site during evictions, especially where they involve a large number of people. Neutral observers, including regional and international observers, should be allowed access, upon request, to ensure transparency and compliance with international human rights principles during the carrying out of any eviction;
z. Take steps to ensure that no one is subject to violence, especially women and children, or arbitrarily deprived of property or possessions as a result of forced evictions;
aa. Ensure that all evicted persons who are wounded and sick, as well as those with disabilities, receive the medical care and attention they require to the fullest extent practicable and with the least possible delay. When necessary, evicted persons should have access to psychological and social services. Special attention should be paid to:
1. the health needs of women and children;
2. ensuring that ongoing medical treatment is not disrupted as a result of eviction or relocation; and
3. the prevention of contagious and infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, at relocation sites;
bb. Ensure that any legal use of force must respect the principles of necessity and proportionality, as well as the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;
cc. Ensure that members of the same extended family or community are not separated as a result of evictions;
dd. Ensure that evictions do not take place in inclement weather, at night, during festivals or religious holidays, prior to elections, or during or just prior to school examinations;
ee. Ensure that those being evicted are not forced to demolish their own dwellings or other structures. However, the option to do so must be provided to affected persons as this would facilitate salvaging of possessions and building material;
ff. Ensure sufficient alternative accommodation, or restitution when feasible, immediately upon the eviction. At a minimum, regardless of the circumstances and without discrimination, competent authorities shall ensure that evicted persons or groups, especially those who are unable to provide for themselves, have safe and secure access to:
1. essential food, potable water and sanitation;
2. basic shelter and housing;
3. appropriate clothing;
4. essential medical services;
5. livelihood sources;
6. fodder for livestock and access to common property resources previously depended upon; and
7. education for children and childcare facilities;

gg. Ensure the right to resettlement, which includes the right to alternative land of better or equal quality and housing that must satisfy the following criteria for adequacy: accessibility, affordability, habitability, security of tenure, cultural adequacy, suitability of location, and access to essential services such as health and education. This includes the obligation to ensure that resettled persons, groups and communities are not placed in conflict with their host communities;
hh. Ensure that all resettlement measures, such as construction of homes, provision of water, electricity, sanitation, schools, access roads and allocation of land and sites, are consistent with internationally recognised human rights principles, and completed before those who are to be evicted are moved from their original areas of dwelling;
ii. Ensure that adequate and effective legal or other appropriate remedies are available to any persons who are threatened with, undergo, remain vulnerable to, or defend against forced evictions. These include a fair hearing, access to legal counsel, legal aid, return, restitution, resettlement, rehabilitation and compensation, and protection from eviction during the period that their case is being examined before a national, regional or international legal body;
jj. Ensure that all those evicted, irrespective of whether they hold title to the property, should be entitled to adequate compensation including pecuniary and non pecuniary damages, within a reasonable time. This may cover the loss, salvage and transport of their properties affected, together with the loss of any rents already paid.

Right to Social Security (Articles 4, 5, 6, 15; 16; 18(1), (2) and (4)
81. […] Although the right to social security is not explicitly protected in the African Charter, it can be derived from a joint reading of a number of rights guaranteed under the Charter including (but not limited to) the rights to life, dignity, liberty, work, health, food, protection of the family and the right to the protection of the aged and the disabled. […]

82. The right to social security imposes, amongst others, the following obligations on States parties to:

Minimum Core Obligations
a. Ensure access to a social security scheme that provides a minimum essential level of benefits to all individuals and families that will enable them to acquire at least essential health care, basic shelter and housing, water and sanitation, foodstuffs, and the most basic forms of education consistent with human life, security and dignity. […]

Vulnerable Groups, Equality and Non-discrimination
e. Survivors and orphans: States should guarantee to widows and orphans adequate benefits and assistance under social security schemes, including ensuring that they are entitled to inherit property from their husbands, parents or other relatives.

Right to Water and Sanitation (Articles 4, 5, 15, 16, 22 and 24)
87. While the African Charter does not directly protect the right to water and sanitation, it is implied in the protections of a number of rights, including but not, limited to the rights to life, dignity, work, food, health, economic, social and cultural development and to a satisfactory environment.

88. The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal, domestic, and agricultural uses. Water should be treated as a social and cultural good, and not primarily as an economic good.
89. Sufficient water means an adequate and continuous water supply for each person’s personal and domestic use. This normally includes drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation and personal and household hygiene. A sufficient amount of water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration. […]

92. The right to water and sanitation imposes the following obligations, among others, on States parties to:

Minimum Core Obligations
a. Ensure access to the minimum essential amount of water that is sufficient and safe for personal and domestic use, including preventing disease, together with access to adequate sanitation.
b. Ensure safe physical access to water facilities or services that provide sufficient, safe and regular water; that have an adequate number of water outlets to avoid prohibitive waiting times; and that are at a reasonable distance from the household; educational institution, workplace or health institution. […]

Vulnerable Groups, Equality and Non Discrimination […]
r. No one should be denied access to water and sanitation because of their housing or land status. Informal human settlements should be upgraded through the provision of water and sanitation services and through assistance with the construction of their own water and sanitation facilities.

AMERICAN DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF MAN (1948)

  • Article XI. states:“Article XI. Every person has the right to the preservation of his health through sanitary and social measures relating to food, clothing, housing and medical care, to the extent permitted by public and community resources.” 

AMERICAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS (1969)

The American Convention does not refer explicitly to a right to adequate housing, it incorporates however the rights to life, privacy, protection of the family and property and a provision on the progressive development of economic, social and cultural rights. In its jurisprudence the Inter-American Court on Human Rights has reaffirmed the right to housing by arguing that the right to life (Article 4.1) encompasses the right to enjoy a life with dignity.

  • Article 4.1 states: “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
  • Article 11 on the right to privacy states:  “2. No one may be the object of arbitrary or abusive interference with his private life, his family, his home, or his correspondence, or of unlawful attacks on his honor or reputation. 3. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
  • Article 17 on the rights of the family states: “1. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.”
  • Article 21 on the right to property states: “1. Everyone has the right to the use and enjoyment of his property. The law may subordinate such use and enjoyment to the interest of society. 2. No one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law. 3. Usury and any other form of exploitation of man by man shall be prohibited by law.”
  • Article 22 on freedom of movement and residence states: “1. Every person lawfully in the territory of a State Party has the right to move about in it, and to reside in it subject to the provisions of the law.  […] 9. The collective expulsion of aliens is prohibited.”
  • Article 26 on the progressive development of economic, social and cultural rights states: “The States Parties undertake to adopt measures, both internally and through international cooperation, especially those of an economic and technical nature, with a view to achieving progressively, by legislation or other appropriate means, the full realization of the rights implicit in the economic, social, educational, scientific, and cultural standards set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States as amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires.

INTER-ARMERICAN CONVENTION ON THE PREVENTION, PUNISHMENT AND ERADICATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN (1994)

  • Article 8 d. states:The States Parties agree to undertake progressively specific measures, including programs:  […] d. to provide appropriate specialized services for women who have been subjected to violence, through public and private sector agencies, including shelters, counseling services for all family members where appropriate, and care and custody of the affected children.”

INTER-AMERICAN CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES(1999)

ARTICLE II

The objectives of this Convention are to prevent and eliminate all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities and to promote their full integration into society.

ARTICLE III

To achieve the objectives of this Convention, the states parties undertake:

1. To adopt the legislative, social, educational, labor-related, or any other measures needed to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities and to promote their full integration into society, including, but not limited to:
a) Measures to eliminate discrimination gradually and to promote integration by government authorities and/or private entities in providing or making available goods, services, facilities, programs, and activities such as employment, transportation, communications, housing, recreation, education, sports, law enforcement and administration of justice, and political and administrative activities;

b) Measures to ensure that new buildings, vehicles, and facilities constructed or manufactured within their respective territories facilitate transportation, communications, and access by persons with disabilities; 

c) Measures to eliminate, to the extent possible, architectural, transportation, and communication obstacles to facilitate access and use by persons with disabilities; […]

INTER-AMERICAN CONVENTION AGAINST RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND RELATED FORMS OF INTOLERANCE (2013)

Article 1

For purposes of this Convention:

1. Racial discrimination shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference, in any area of public or private life, the purpose or effect of which is to nullify or curtail the equal recognition, enjoyment, or exercise of one or more human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the international instruments applicable to the States Parties.

Racial discrimination may be based on race, color, lineage, or national or ethnic origin.

Article 4

The states undertake to prevent, eliminate, prohibit, and punish, in accordance with their constitutional norms and the provisions of this Convention, all acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, and related forms of intolerance, including: […]

vi. Restricting, in an undue or unreasonable manner, the exercise of the individual rights of ownership, administration, and disposal of property of any kind based on any of the criteria set forth in Article 1.1; […]

viii. Any discriminatory restriction on the enjoyment of the human rights enshrined in applicable international and regional instruments and in the jurisprudence of international and regional human rights courts, particularly those applicable to minorities or groups that are in vulnerable situations and subject to discrimination; […]

xii. Denying access to any social, economic, and cultural rights, based on any of the criteria set forth in Article 1.1 of this Convention; […]

xv. The restriction of access to public and private places with access to the public, for the reasons set forth in Article 1.1 of this Convention.

Article 7

The States Parties undertake to adopt legislation that clearly defines and prohibits racism, racial discrimination, and related forms of intolerance, applicable to all public authorities as well as to all individuals or natural and legal persons, both in the public and in the private sectors, particularly in the areas of employment; participation in professional organizations; education; training; housing; health; social protection; exercise of economic activity; access to public services and other areas; and to repeal or amend any legislation that constitutes or produces racism, racial discrimination, and related forms of intolerance.

INTER-AMERICAN CONVENTION AGAINST ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AND INTOLERANCE (2013)

Article 1

For purposes of this Convention:

1. Discrimination shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference, in any area of public or private life, the purpose or effect of which is to nullify or curtail the equal recognition, enjoyment, or exercise of one or more human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the international instruments applicable to the States Parties.

Discrimination may be based on nationality; age; sex; sexual orientation; gender identity and expression; language; religion; cultural identity; political opinions or opinions of any kind; social origin; socioeconomic status; educational level; migrant, refugee, repatriate, stateless or internally displaced status; disability; genetic trait; mental or physical health condition, including infectious-contagious condition and debilitating psychological condition; or any other condition.

Article 4

The states undertake to prevent, eliminate, prohibit, and punish, in accordance with their constitutional norms and the provisions of this Convention, all acts and manifestations of discrimination and intolerance, including: […]
vi. Restricting, in an undue or unreasonable manner, the exercise of the individual rights of ownership, administration, and disposal of property of any kind based on any of the criteria set forth in Article 1.1; […]
viii. Any discriminatory restriction on the enjoyment of the human rights enshrined in applicable international and regional instruments and in the jurisprudence of international and regional human rights courts, particularly those applicable to minorities or groups that are in vulnerable situations and subject to discrimination; […]
xii. Denying access to any social, economic, and cultural rights, based on any of the criteria set forth in Article 1.1 of this Convention; […]
xv. The restriction of access to public and private places with access to the public, for the reasons set forth in Article 1.1 of this Convention.

Article 7

The States Parties undertake to adopt legislation that clearly defines and prohibits discrimination and intolerance, applicable to all public authorities as well as to all individuals or natural and legal persons, both in the public and in the private sectors, particularly in the areas of employment; participation in professional organizations; education; training; housing; health; social protection; exercise of economic activity; access to public services and other areas; and to repeal or amend any legislation that constitutes or produces discrimination and intolerance

INTER-AMERICAN CONVENTION ON PROTECTING THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF OLDER PERSONS (2015)

Article 7
Right to independence and autonomy

State Parties to this Convention recognize the right of older persons to make decisions, to determine their life plans, to lead an autonomous and independent life in keeping with their traditions and beliefs on an equal basis, and to be afforded access to mechanisms enabling them to exercise their rights.

States Parties shall adopt programs, policies, or actions to facilitate and promote full enjoyment of those rights by older persons, facilitating their self-fulfillment, the strengthening of all families, their family and social ties, and their affective relationships. In particular, they shall ensure: […]

b) That older persons have the opportunity, on an equal basis with others, to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live, and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement.

c) That older persons progressively have access to a range of in-home, residential, and other community-support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community and to prevent their isolation or segregation from the community. […]

Article 12
Rights of older persons receiving long-term care

Older persons have the right to a comprehensive system of care that protects and promotes their health, provides social services coverage, food and nutrition security, water, clothing, and housing, and promotes the ability of older persons to stay in their own home and maintain their independence and autonomy, should they so decide. […]

In order to ensure that older persons can effectively enjoy their human rights when receiving long-term care, States Parties undertake to: […]

c) Establish an appropriate regulatory framework on the operations of long-term care services that allows the situation of older persons to be assessed and supervised, as well as the adoption of measures to: […]

ii. Prevent arbitrary or illegal intrusions in their private life, family, home, household unit, or any other sphere in which they are involved, or in their correspondence or any other form of communication. […]

Article 15
Right to nationality and freedom of movement

Older persons have the right to freedom of movement, to choose their residence, and to hold a nationality on an equal basis with other segments of the population, without discrimination on grounds of age. […]

Article 16
Right to privacy and intimacy

Older persons are entitled to privacy and intimacy, and neither their private life, family, home, household unit, nor any other environment in which they function, nor their correspondence, nor any other communications shall be the subject of arbitrary or illegal intrusion.

Older persons have the right not to have their dignity, honor, and reputation attacked. They are also entitled to privacy in their personal hygiene and other activities, regardless of their environment.
States Parties shall adopt the measures necessary to guarantee these rights, particularly for older persons receiving long-term care services. […]

Article 24
Right to housing

Older persons have the right to decent and adequate housing and to live in safe, healthy, and accessible environments that can be adapted to their preferences and needs.

States Parties shall adopt appropriate measures to promote the full enjoyment of this right and facilitate access for older persons to integrated social and health care services and to home care services that enable them to reside in their own home, should they wish.

States Parties shall ensure the right of older persons to decent and adequate housing and shall adopt policies to promote the right to housing and access to land, recognizing the needs of older persons and the priority of allocating to those in situations of vulnerability. Likewise, States Parties shall progressively foster access to home loans and other forms of financing without discrimination, promoting, inter alia, collaboration with the private sector, civil society and other social actors. Such policies should pay particular attention to:

a) The need to build or progressively adapt housing solutions, so that they are architecturally suitable and accessible for older persons with disabilities and restricted mobility;

b) The specific needs of older persons, particularly those who live alone, by means of rent subsidies, support for housing renovations, and other pertinent measures, within the capacities of States Parties.

States Parties shall promote the adoption of expedited procedures for complaints and redress in the event of evictions of older persons and shall adopt the necessary measures to protect them against illegal forced evictions.

States Parties shall promote programs to prevent accidents inside and in the vicinity of older persons’ homes.

Article 26
Right to accessibility and personal mobility

Older persons have the right to accessibility to the physical, social, economic, and cultural environment, as well as to personal mobility.

In order to ensure accessibility and personal mobility for older persons, so that they may live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall progressively adopt appropriate measures to ensure for older persons access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

a. Buildings, roads, transportation, and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including centers of education, housing, medical facilities, and workplaces; […]

States Parties shall also take appropriate measures to:

a. Develop, promulgate, and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public;

b. Ensure that public and private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for older persons;

c. Provide training for all stakeholders on accessibility issues facing older persons; […]

EUROPEAN CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS (1950)

The right to housing is not explicitly included in European Convention on Human Rights, however numerous legal norms contained in the European Convention have been relied on by the European Court on Human Rights in cases relating to housing rights, such as the right to life (Article 2), the prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3), the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8), the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14) and the protection of property contained in Protocol 1 to the European Convention.

  • Article 2 states: “Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law.”
  • Article 3 states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
  • Article 8 states: “1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. 2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
  • Article 14 states: “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.”  

Protocol 1 to the European Convention (1952)

Article 1 – Protection of property
Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.

REVISED EUROPEAN SOCIAL CHARTER (1996)

Article 15 –The right of persons with disabilities to independence, social integration and participation in the life of the community

With a view to ensuring to persons with disabilities, irrespective of age and the nature and origin of their disabilities, the effective exercise of the right to independence, social integration and participation in the life of the community, the Parties undertake, in particular: […]
to promote their full social integration and participation in the life of the community in particular through measures, including technical aids, aiming to overcome barriers to communication and mobility and enabling access to transport, housing, cultural activities and leisure.

Article 16 – The right of the family to social, legal and economic protection

With a view to ensuring the necessary conditions for the full development of the family, which is a fundamental unit of society, the Parties undertake to promote the economic, legal and social protection of family life by such means as social and family benefits, fiscal arrangements, provision of family housing, benefits for the newly married and other appropriate means.

Article 23 – The right of elderly persons to social protection

With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right of elderly persons to social protection, the Parties undertake to adopt or encourage, either directly or in co-operation with public or private organisations, appropriate measures designed in particular: […]

to enable elderly persons to choose their life-style freely and to lead independent lives in their familiar surroundings for as long as they wish and are able, by means of:

a  provision of housing suited to their needs and their state of health or of adequate support for adapting their housing;
b  the health care and the services necessitated by their state;
to guarantee elderly persons living in institutions appropriate support, while respecting their privacy, and participation in decisions concerning living conditions in the institution.

Article 30 – The right to protection against poverty and social exclusion

With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion, the Parties undertake:
a  to take measures within the framework of an overall and co-ordinated approach to promote the effective access of persons who live or risk living in a situation of social exclusion or poverty, as well as their families, to, in particular, employment, housing, training, education, culture and social and medical assistance;
b  to review these measures with a view to their adaptation if necessary.

Article 31 - The right to housing

With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to housing, the Parties undertake to take measures designed:

1. to promote access to housing of an adequate standard;
2. prevent and reduce homelessness with a view to its gradual elimination;
3. make the price of housing accessible to those without adequate resources.

EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON THE LEGAL STATUS OF MIGRANT WORKERS (1977)

Article 6 – Information
1  The Contracting Parties shall exchange and provide for prospective migrants appropriate information on their residence, conditions of and opportunities for family reunion, the nature of the job, the possibility of a new work contract being concluded after the first has lapsed, the qualifications required, working and living conditions (including the cost of living), remuneration, social security, housing, food, the transfer of savings, travel, and on deductions made from wages in respect of contributions for social protection and social security, taxes and other charges. Information may also be provided on the cultural and religious conditions in the receiving State.

Article 13 – Housing
1  Each Contracting Party shall accord to migrant workers, with regard to access to housing and rents, treatment not less favourable than that accorded to its own nationals, insofar as this matter is covered by domestic laws and regulations.
2  Each Contracting Party shall ensure that the competent national authorities carry out inspections in appropriate cases in collaboration with the respective consular authorities, acting within their competence, to ensure that standards of fitness of accommodation are kept up for migrant workers as for its own nationals.
3  Each Contracting Party undertakes to protect migrant workers against exploitation in respect of rents, in accordance with its laws and regulations on the matter.
4  Each Contracting Party shall ensure, by the means available to the competent national authorities, that the housing of the migrant worker shall be suitable.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONVENTION ON PREVENTING AND COMBATING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (ISTANBUL CONVENTION) (2011)

Article 20 – General support services

1  Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that victims have access to services facilitating their recovery from violence. These measures should include, when necessary, services such as legal and psychological counselling, financial assistance, housing, education, training and assistance in finding employment.

2  Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that victims have access to health care and social services and that services are adequately resourced and professionals are trained to assist victims and refer them to the appropriate services. […]

Article 23 – Shelters

Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to provide for the setting-up of appropriate, easily accessible shelters in sufficient numbers to provide safe accommodation for and to reach out pro-actively to victims, especially women and their children. […]

Article 52 – Emergency barring orders

Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the competent authorities are granted the power to order, in situations of immediate danger, a perpetrator of domestic violence to vacate the residence of the victim or person at risk for a sufficient period of time and to prohibit the perpetrator from entering the residence of or contacting the victim or person at risk. Measures taken pursuant to this article shall give priority to the safety of victims or persons at risk.

Article 53 – Restraining or protection orders

1  Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that appropriate restraining or protection orders are available to victims of all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention.
2  Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the restraining or protection orders referred to in paragraph 1 are:

  • available for immediate protection and without undue financial or administrative burdens placed on the victim;
  • issued for a specified period or until modified or discharged;
  • where necessary, issued on an ex parte basis which has immediate effect;
  • available irrespective of, or in addition to, other legal proceedings;
  • allowed to be introduced in subsequent legal proceedings.

3  Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that breaches of restraining or protection orders issued pursuant to paragraph 1 shall be subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal or other legal sanctions.

Council of Europe Recommendation Rec(2005)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on improving the housing conditions of Roma and Travellers in Europe

I. Definitions

The term “Roma” used in the present text refers to Roma/Gypsies and Traveller communities and must be interpreted as covering the wide diversity of groups concerned.

“Housing” in this Recommendation includes different modes of accommodation, such as houses, caravans, mobile homes or halting sites.

The definition provided for by the United Nations Habitat Agenda for “adequate housing”, paragraph 60, should be borne in mind in the context of the present text:  “Adequate shelter means more than a roof over one's head. It also means adequate privacy; adequate space; physical accessibility; adequate security; security of tenure; structural stability and durability; adequate lighting, heating and ventilation; adequate basic infrastructure, such as water-supply, sanitation and waste-management facilities; suitable environmental quality and health-related factors; and adequate and accessible location with regard to work and basic facilities: all of which should be available at an affordable cost”.

General Comment No. 4 on the right to adequate housing of United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights should also be recalled here.
“Transit/halting sites” indicate sites to which Travellers are admitted, pending re-housing or further movement.

II. General principles

Integrated housing policies

1. Member states should ensure that, within the general framework of housing policies, integrated and appropriate housing policies targeting Roma are developed. Member states should also allocate appropriate means for the implementation of the mentioned policies in order to support national poverty reduction policies.

Principle of non-discrimination

2. Since Roma continue to be among the most disadvantaged population groups in Europe, national housing policies should seek to address their specific problems as a matter of emergency, and in a non-discriminatory way.

Freedom of choice of lifestyle

3. Member states should affirm the right of people to pursue sedentary or nomadic lifestyles, according to their own free choice. All conditions necessary to pursue these lifestyles should be made available to them by the national, regional and local authorities in accordance with the resources available and to the rights of others and within the legal framework relating to building, planning and access to private land.

Adequacy and affordability of housing

4. Member states should promote and protect the right to adequate housing for all, as well as ensure equal access to adequate housing for Roma through appropriate, proactive policies, particularly in the area of affordable housing and service delivery.

Prevention of exclusion and the creation of ghettos

5. In order to combat the creation of ghettos and segregation of Roma from the majority society, member states should prevent, prohibit and, when needed, revert any nationwide, regional, or local policies or initiatives aimed at ensuring that Roma settle or resettle in inappropriate sites and hazardous areas, or aimed at relegating them to such areas on account of their ethnicity.

Participation

6. Member states should, as appropriate, provide Roma communities and organisations with the means to participate in the process of conceiving, designing, implementing and monitoring policies and programmes aimed at improving their housing situation.

Partnership

7. Moreover, member states should encourage and promote empowerment and capacity-building on a wider basis among Roma communities by fostering partnerships at local, regional and national levels, as appropriate, in their policies aimed at addressing the housing problems facing Roma.
The member states should also ensure that members of the Roma communities are also actively involved in this process.

Coordination

8. Member states should ensure that proper coordination is provided in the field of housing between, on the one hand, the relevant national, regional and local authorities and, on the other, the Roma populations and organisations who represent the majority active in this field.

Role of regional and local authorities

9. Member states should encourage local authorities to meet their obligations with regard to Roma – in the same way as for any persons with the same legal status – in the area of housing. They should encourage regional and local authorities to ensure that area-based and local development strategies contain concrete and clearly specific sets of objectives targeting Roma communities and their housing needs.

III. Legal framework

Legal framework for housing rights

10. Member states should develop a comprehensive policy and legal framework related to housing, which is necessary for sedentary and itinerant people (in accordance with the geographical specificity) to exercise their right to adequate housing.

Legal framework for related rights

11. Within this framework, member states should develop mechanisms with a view to ensuring the access of Roma to related rights, such as water supply, electricity and other forms of relevant infrastructure, such as education, medical care, social support, etc., as enshrined and articulated in international human rights laws and related standards.

Implementation of the legal framework

12. In order to provide equal access to housing, member states should ensure the implementation of the aforementioned legal framework and provide clear guidelines to the relevant authorities with regard to the exercise of housing rights. They should also provide clear guidelines for access to and distribution of housing and services.

The need for legal aid

13.Member states should make available to poor people free legal aid, advice and representation related to the denial of housing rights in order to ensure that their ability to protect their rights or seek effective remedy, including judicial redress against denial of housing rights, is not undermined by the lack of legal aid mechanisms.

Transparency, good governance and access to information

14. The legal system should ensure transparency and good governance, including the right of Roma to access information related to housing policies and decisions of national and local authorities likely to concern them.

Support to NGOs

15. Non-governmental Organisations involved in Roma issues, in particular in the fields of counselling and legal assistance, should be given fair conditions in which to perform their activities and effective support. Member states should also provide for the legal conditions to regulate NGOs’ activities in the field of housing.

Monitoring of housing policy implementation

16. Member states should establish appropriate monitoring mechanisms to ensure the implementation of housing policies and practices for Roma. Roma representatives should be involved on an equal footing in any monitoring and evaluation process.

Control mechanisms

17. In accordance with the autonomy of regional and local authorities, member states should make use of the legality control mechanism referred to in paragraph 22 to make sure that regional and local authorities’ decisions do not have discriminatory effects on Roma’s access to housing, or in any way impede the enjoyment of their right to adequate housing.

IV. Preventing and combating discrimination

Adopting anti-discrimination legislation

18. Comprehensive legislation should expressly prohibit direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of racial and ethnic origin in employment and access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public including, inter alia, housing, land, property, education, employment, health, social services.

Monitoring and review of existing housing legislation

19. Member states, through their relevant authorities, should undertake a systematic review of their housing legislation, policies and practices and remove all provisions or administrative practices that result in direct or indirect discrimination against Roma, regardless of whether this results from action or inaction on the part of state or non-state actors. They should establish adequate mechanisms (for example, parliament, human rights commissions, ombudsmen, and so on) to ensure, and promote, compliance with anti-discrimination laws with regard to housing matters. Such mechanisms should allow for participation of Roma representatives and NGOs at all stages of monitoring.

Protection of the rights of Roma women

20. Member states should ensure that anti-discrimination laws prohibit gender-based discrimination, directly or indirectly, in the supply of goods and services, including housing. Member states should also foster housing policies addressing the needs of Roma women, and in particular single mothers, victims of domestic violence and other categories of disadvantaged Roma women; the relevant authorities should ensure that access to social housing is provided to them, taking into consideration their urgent needs. Member states should create mechanisms that protect women’s housing rights from any form of violation.

Preventing segregation in environmentally hazardous areas

21. Member states should take measures to combat any forms of segregation on racial grounds in environmentally hazardous areas. This includes investing in the development of safe locations and taking steps to ensure that Roma communities have practical and affordable housing alternatives, so as to discourage settlements in, near or on hazardous areas.

Providing effective sanctions

22.Member states should provide for effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions on the institutions, agencies, public officials and private persons who violate anti-discrimination laws with regard to housing. Existing remedies should be accessible and well-publicised and appropriate remedies should be available for victims.

V. Protection and improvement of existing housing

Security of land, housing and property tenure

23. Member states, bearing in mind that the right to housing is a basic human right, should ensure that Roma are protected against unlawful eviction, harassment and other threats regardless of where they are residing.

Legalisation of Roma settlements and encampments

24. The public authorities should make every effort to resolve the undefined legal status of Roma settlements as a precondition for further improvements. Where Roma camp illegally, public authorities should use a proportionate response. This may be through negotiation or the use of legal action. However, they should seek, where possible, solutions, which are acceptable for all parties in order to avoid Roma from being excluded from access to services and amenities to which they are entitled as citizens of the state where they live.

Access to property

25. Member states, through their relevant authorities, should ensure equal opportunity for Roma to acquire the ownership of the land on which they currently live, and an access to the information on the possibilities of doing so. Adequate alternatives should be provided in situations where this is not possible.

Legal protection from unlawful evictions and the procedure for legal evictions

26. Member states should establish a legal framework that conforms with international human rights standards, to ensure effective protection against unlawful forced and collective evictions and to control strictly the circumstances in which legal evictions may be carried out. In the case of lawful evictions, Roma must be provided with appropriate alternative accommodation, if needed, except in cases of force majeure. Legislation should also strictly define the procedures for legal eviction, and such legislation should comply with international human rights standards and principles, including those articulated in General Comment No. 7 on forced evictions of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights. Such measures shall include consultation with the community or individual concerned, reasonable notice, provision of information, a guarantee that the eviction will be carried out in a reasonable manner, effective legal remedies and free or low cost legal assistance for the persons concerned. The alternative housing should not result in further segregation.

Provision of adequate services

27. Member states, through their relevant authorities, should provide the same adequate level of services to Roma settlements and camp sites as to other groups of the population, while keeping in mind the need for sustainable solutions. Moreover, authorities should be aware that, beyond the delivery of adequate services, they should act so as to improve the overall quality of life in Roma settlements and camp sites by promoting better management of daily life, that is: area-based administrative, commercial, social and sanitary services, public transportation, refuse disposal, the upkeep of public apartments, buildings or camp sites and their surroundings, adequate management of neighbourhood conflicts and of problems linked to non-payment of rents and services, and so on.

VI. Framework for housing policies

Policies to promote access to housing

28. The member states should make the improvement of Roma housing conditions one of their priority areas for action. They should promote equal opportunities for Roma as regards access to the private or public property markets, particularly through non-discriminatory policies and criteria for the allocation of housing, and through a legal and political framework that is consistent nationwide and is binding on local authorities, since they have prime responsibility for housing issues.

Comprehensive and integrated housing policies

29. Member states, taking into account the potentially synergetic links between housing policies and other socially-oriented policies concerning access to welfare, employment, health and education, should encourage public authorities, at all levels, to adopt comprehensive approaches and policies.

Participation in the preparation of housing policies

30. Roma should be involved as early as possible in the process of planning and setting up of their future settlement areas or permanent  housing units, so as to assess as precisely as possible what their particular needs are, or will be, in the future. Member states should also ensure that Roma residing on their territory – whether sedentary, nomadic or semi-nomadic – are given an appropriate assistance to define their specific needs in terms of housing, as well as access to appropriate welfare and social services (health, education, employment, culture, and so on).

The need for adequate housing models

31. Bearing in mind the diversity of national, regional and local situations, member states should provide for adequate housing models, through national legislations, policies or strategies. Provision should also be made for Roma to be able to acquire their own accommodation by different means, forms and methods of access to housing, such as social housing, cooperatives, do-it-yourself housing, public housing, caravans and other innovative forms of housing. All the relevant elements to the housing models mentioned (financial, social and other) should be carefully defined.

Housing policy adapted to specific situations

32. Member states should develop and implement programmes and projects that are tailored to the specific situations of the diverse Roma communities. Such programmes and policies should include the building or development of the entire physical and social infrastructure that is needed for adequate and sustainable housing.

Providing equipped transit/halting sites

33. Member states should ensure that an adequate number of transit/halting sites are provided to nomadic and semi-nomadic Roma. These transit/halting sites should be adequately equipped with necessary facilities including water, electricity, sanitation and refuse collection. The physical borders or fences should not harm the dignity of the persons and their freedom of movement.

Access to health and sanitary services

34. Nomadic or semi-nomadic groups should be provided access to proper and adequate sanitary conditions as well as easier access to existing health infrastructures and services (especially in emergency situations, and as part of preventive health campaigns). Roma who are permanently and legally settled in derelict or unhealthy surroundings should receive assistance in order to improve the sanitary conditions of their homes (help for repairs, assistance in improving their living conditions and environment, measures to allow them better access to short-term loans for acquiring better housing, mediation in their relations with administrations or public services).

Role of regional and local authorities

35. Member states should make sure that local and regional authorities meet their obligations with regard to Roma, even when the latter do not reside permanently on a given territory. Local government agencies should be educated in the area of non-discrimination and should be held accountable by the state for discriminatory practices and policies in the field of housing.

International relief

36. When they are unable to carry out their obligations in the field of housing, member states should accept international relief assistance for the benefit of Roma. Member states should pay particular attention to international assistance projects or programmes so as to ensure a high level of cooperation, transparency and closer cooperation with local partners.

Awareness-raising

37. Member states should launch and encourage local authorities and Non-governmental Organisations active in the field of housing to launch awareness-raising campaigns on the rights of Roma to equal access to the housing market and information campaigns for the Roma communities on their rights to adequate housing. National campaigns on secure tenure promoted by the national committees on implementation of the United Nations Habitat Agenda, as adopted and ratified by member states at the Habitat II Conference, could be an adequate framework for such awareness-raising campaigns.

Employment initiatives and construction

38. Member states should encourage employment initiatives at local level inter alia by providing incentives for Roma to participate in the entire process of renovation/construction works of their future homes. This would contribute to improving their economic situation, help to give them better access to funding for their projects, both individual and collective, help to mitigate their feeling of precariousness and rejection, and foster a sense of ownership. This would also provide Roma with new competences that would allow them to explore new vocational avenues and would leave them less vulnerable to unemployment.

Statistical data-base and housing policy indicators

39. As a preliminary tool for policy development, in order to better assess the actual situation of disadvantaged categories of persons as regards housing, member states should ensure that the relevant national public authorities gather statistical data on a regular basis in accordance with, and in the spirit of, international and national norms in the field of personal data protection. They should also establish indicators for measuring the achievement of policy objectives over time. Member states which regularly collect Habitat housing indicators should also apply this to Roma housing.

VII. Financing of housing

Sustainability of financial resources

40. Member states should acknowledge that successful social cohesion policies require proper funding and assistance, continuous commitment and a long-term approach. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that solutions to such a wide array of different issues and problems will necessarily have to be implemented in a flexible manner. Suitable and proper access to funding and to means of fostering stability and security (including, but not restricted to, access to property) are central to any long-term action in this field.

Financing housing projects from various sources

41. Member states should ensure that housing-related projects are financed from national public budgets as well as from a variety of sources (private donors and international financial institutions) and be administered through a network of partners, at local, regional, national and transfrontier level. Since the implementing period of housing projects is quite long, these projects should be accurately planned in terms of financing and works so as not to raise false expectations among the populations concerned. In addition, since these are mainly area- and community-based projects, it is of the utmost importance that local networks and partnerships be built and fostered.

Integrated funding

42. Since housing projects are part of wider-based, further-reaching policies, member states, through their relevant authorities, should approach the financing of such projects in a comprehensive manner that takes into account aspects such as physical and health infrastructures, social cohesion needs and potential initiatives, culture, education, or employment opportunities.

International support for Roma housing

43. Member states should be encouraged to make use of the possibilities, including loans offered by international financial institutions in favour of Roma housing projects. They should also make use of the expertise of international financial institutions that have gained extensive knowledge in managing this kind of integrated project in many parts of the world, among them the Council of Europe Development Bank, whose mandate includes operating in areas such as housing of disadvantaged population groups in Europe so as to promote social cohesion. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as some European Union programmes could also be of particular use in this respect.

Access to funding possibilities to acquire housing

44. Member states should develop adequate financial structures that provide for easier access to available sources of funding for housing, in cooperation with international financial institutions if necessary. Member states, through their relevant authorities, should also consider appropriate mechanisms to enable nomadic and semi-nomadic people to acquire caravans or mobile homes through low interest loans or other financial schemes, which do not put them at a disadvantage with regard to possibilities offered to sedentary people.

Funding infrastructure and services

45. Member states should ensure that local authorities and financial institutions provide funding for accompanying measures aiming at developing or building basic infrastructures and services and enhancing the quality of life of Roma in general, in order to improve the daily management of settlements or sites and to strengthen the overall social cohesion.

Specific budgetary provisions

46. Competent bodies of member states should allocate specific financial means to serve as an incentive for positive action on the part of the responsible authorities, such as development of field work, inclusion of the issue of Roma housing in land-use plans, access to expert advice and mediation for municipalities concerned, and so on.

VIII. Housing standards

Adequate housing as a basis for all housing standards

47. Member states should regulate and implement in practice, the concept of “adequate housing” as defined in Paragraph 60 of the United Nations Habitat Agenda, and General Comments Nos. 4 and 7 of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, bearing in mind the human rights dimension, economic conditions both locally and in the country as a whole, and related social and cultural elements. This concept should be defined so as to apply to all citizens, including Roma. The definition of “adequate housing” should form the basis for all other housing standards.

Standard for housing location and surroundings

48. Member states, through their relevant authorities, should ensure that Roma housing is located in areas that are fit for habitation or suitable for construction under current legislation, and in ecologically healthy surroundings. Moreover, they should adopt measures that would enable Roma communities to react to unexpected events, such as natural disasters or epidemics, which often disproportionately affect vulnerable groups living in precarious settlements. The existing settlements which cannot be removed from unsuitable locations should be improved by appropriate and constructive environmental measures.

Legal standards for public and social services

49. Legal standards applying to public services – water, electricity, street cleaning, sewage systems, refuse disposal, and so on – should equally apply to Roma settlements and camp sites. Public transportation should be a part of area-based facilities. The authorities should also make sure that public services, such as health care facilities, access to education, police stations, post and telecommunication offices, are available in these areas. Authorities should pay specific attention to the physical distance between Roma settlements and camp sites and schools, as it is an important factor in fighting against the creation of ghettos.

The need for non-discriminatory security standards

50. The Roma housing environment should not be worse than, or inferior, to the housing areas, settlements and towns of the majority population. The standards used in supplying settlements and building apartments should not discriminate against Roma in any way.

Minimum construction standards

51. The quality of the material (built-in and permanently visible parts of the apartments and houses, such as joinery, wall and floor coatings, installations, sanitary fixtures, technical equipment, and so on) depends directly on the economic possibilities of the tenants, on community funds, and ultimately on the economic situation of society as a whole. Member states should therefore ensure that minimum construction standards exist, guaranteeing a healthy life, balanced family relations and proper conditions for children, and good neighbourhood relations.

Standards for adaptability and enhancement of housing

52. The apartment surface area should correspond to the number of tenants, while bearing in mind normal human adjustment to the spatial framework. Since families are dynamic – an increasing number of members, changes in economic possibilities and cultural needs, changes in vital needs and the development of aspirations – the architectural and legal solutions should make it possible to follow these dynamics by facilitating extensions to, and improving the interior properties of, apartments. Even when apartments are built with less surface area than average, they should be designed in advance for extension and enhancement. Standards regarding the adaptability of structure and surface size should be introduced, providing the technical possibilities for poor families to start with modest housing that they can expand and enhance later on.

CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

  • Article 1 states: “Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected.”
  • Article 4 states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
  • Article 33.1 states: “The family shall enjoy legal, economic and social protection.”
  • Article 34.3 states: “In order to combat social exclusion and poverty, the Union recognises and respects the right to social and housing assistance so as to ensure a decent existence for all those who lack sufficient resources, in accordance with the rules laid down by Community law and national laws and practices.”

COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION: RACIAL EQUALITY DIRECTIVE (2000/43/EC) of 29 June 2000

This EU directive covers in accordance with its article 3.1 (h) ethnic and racial discrimination in the field of housing and social protection, both in the public and private sector, including by public bodies.

GENERAL PROVISIONS

Article 1: Purpose

The purpose of this Directive is to lay down a framework for combating discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, with a view to putting into effect in the Member States the principle of equal treatment.

Article 2: Concept of discrimination

1. For the purposes of this Directive, the principle of equal treatment shall mean that there shall be no direct or indirect discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin.
2. For the purposes of paragraph 1:
(a) direct discrimination shall be taken to occur where one person is treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on grounds of racial or ethnic origin;
(b) indirect discrimination shall be taken to occur where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of a racial or ethnic origin at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.
3. Harassment shall be deemed to be discrimination within the meaning of paragraph 1, when an unwanted conduct related to racial or ethnic origin takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. In this context, the concept of harassment may be defined in accordance with the national laws and practice of the Member States.
4. An instruction to discriminate against persons on grounds of racial or ethnic origin shall be deemed to be discrimination within the meaning of paragraph 1.

Article 3: Scope

1. Within the limits of the powers conferred upon the Community, this Directive shall apply to all persons, as regards both the public and private sectors, including public bodies, in relation to: […]
(e) social protection, including social security and healthcare; […]
(h) access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public, including housing.
2. This Directive does not cover difference of treatment based on nationality and is without prejudice to provisions and conditions relating to the entry into and residence of third-country nationals and stateless persons on the territory of Member States, and to any treatment which arises from the legal status of the third-country nationals and stateless persons concerned. […]

REMEDIES AND ENFORCEMENT

Article 7: Defence of rights

1. Member States shall ensure that judicial and/or administrative procedures, including where they deem it appropriate conciliation procedures, for the enforcement of obligations under this Directive are available to all persons who consider themselves wronged by failure to apply the principle of equal treatment to them, even after the relationship in which the discrimination is alleged to have occurred has ended.
2. Member States shall ensure that associations, organisations or other legal entities, which have, in accordance with the criteria laid down by their national law, a legitimate interest in ensuring that the provisions of this Directive are complied with, may engage, either on behalf or in support of the complainant, with his or her approval, in any judicial and/or administrative procedure provided for the enforcement of obligations under this Directive.
3. Paragraphs 1 and 2 are without prejudice to national rules relating to time limits for bringing actions as regards the principle of equality of treatment. […]

BODIES FOR THE PROMOTION OF EQUAL TREATMENT

Article 13

1. Member States shall designate a body or bodies for the promotion of equal treatment of all persons without discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin. These bodies may form part of agencies charged at national level with the defence of human rights or the safeguard of individuals' rights.
2. Member States shall ensure that the competences of these bodies include:
- without prejudice to the right of victims and of associations, organisations or other legal entities referred to in Article 7(2), providing independent assistance to victims of discrimination in pursuing their complaints about discrimination,
- conducting independent surveys concerning discrimination,
- publishing independent reports and making recommendations on any issue relating to such discrimination.

FINAL PROVISIONS

Article 14: Compliance

Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that:
(a) any laws, regulations and administrative provisions contrary to the principle of equal treatment are abolished;
(b) any provisions contrary to the principle of equal treatment which are included in individual or collective contracts or agreements, internal rules of undertakings, rules governing profit-making or non-profit-making associations, and rules governing the independent professions and workers' and employers' organisations, are or may be declared, null and void or are amended.

Article 15: Sanctions

Member States shall lay down the rules on sanctions applicable to infringements of the national provisions adopted pursuant to this Directive and shall take all measures necessary to ensure that they are applied. The sanctions, which may comprise the payment of compensation to the victim, must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. The Member States shall notify those provisions to the Commission by 19 July 2003 at the latest and shall notify it without delay of any subsequent amendment affecting them.

Declarations of the United Nations

DECLARATION ON THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT (1986)

  • Article 1.1 states that: “The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.
  • Article 2.1 states that: “The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development.”
  • Article 2.3 states that: “States have the right and the duty to formulate appropriate national development policies that aim at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals, on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of the benefits resulting therefrom.”
  • Article 8.1  states that: “States should undertake, at the national level, all necessary measures for the realization of the right to development and shall ensure, inter alia, equality of opportunity for all in their access to basic resources, education, health services, food, housing, employment and the fair distribution of income. Effective measures should be undertaken to ensure that women have an active role in the development process. Appropriate economic and social reforms should be carried out with a view to eradicating all social injustices.”
  • Article 8.2 states that: “States should encourage popular participation in all spheres as an important factor in development and in the full realization of all human rights.”

UNITED NATIONS PRINCIPLES FOR OLDER PERSONS (1991)

  • Independence
    5. Older persons should be able to live in environments that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities.
    6. Older persons should be able to reside at home for as long as possible.
  • Care
    14. Older persons should be able to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in any shelter, care or treatment facility, including full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care and the quality of their lives.
  • Dignity
    17. Older persons should be able to live in dignity and security and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse.

DURBAN DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION (2001)

DECLARATION

31. We also express our deep concern whenever indicators in the fields of, inter alia, education, employment, health, housing, infant mortality and life expectancy for many peoples show a situation of disadvantage, particularly where the contributing factors include racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; […]
33. We consider it essential for all countries in the region of the Americas and all other areas of the African Diaspora to recognize the existence of their population of African descent and the cultural, economic, political and scientific contributions made by that population, and recognize the persistence of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that specifically affect them, and recognize that, in many countries, their long-standing inequality in terms of access to, inter alia, education, health care and housing has been a profound cause of the socio-economic disparities that affect them; […]
108. We recognize the necessity for special measures or positive actions for the victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to promote their full integration into society. Those measures for effective action, including social measures, should aim at correcting the conditions that impair the enjoyment of rights and the introduction of special measures to encourage equal participation of all racial and cultural, linguistic and religious groups in all sectors of society and to bring all onto an equal footing. Those measures should include measures to achieve appropriate representation in educational institutions, housing, political parties, parliaments and employment, especially in the judiciary, police, army and other civil services, which in some cases might involve electoral reforms, land reforms and campaigns for equal participation;

PROGRAMME OF ACTION

Africans and people of African descent

8. Urges financial and development institutions and the operational programmes and specialized agencies of the United Nations, in accordance with their regular budgets and the procedures of their governing bodies: […]

(c) To develop programmes intended for people of African descent allocating additional investments to health systems, education, housing, electricity, drinking water and environmental control measures and promoting equal opportunities in employment, as well as other affirmative or positive action initiatives; […]

Migrant

33. Recommends that host countries of migrants consider the provision of adequate social services, in particular in the areas of health, education and adequate housing, as a matter of priority, in cooperation with the United Nations agencies, the regional organizations and international financial bodies; also requests that these agencies provide an adequate response to requests for such services;

Other victims

48. Urges States to recognize the effect that discrimination, marginalization and social exclusion have had and continue to have on many racial groups living in a numerically based minority situation within a State, and to ensure that persons in such groups can exercise, as individual members of such groups, fully and effectively, all human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction and in full equality before the law, and to take, where applicable, appropriate measures in respect of employment, housing and education with a view to preventing racial discrimination;

49. Urges States to take, where applicable, appropriate measures to prevent racial discrimination against persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in respect of employment, health care, housing, social services and education, and in this context forms of multiple discrimination should be taken into account; […]

81. Urges all States to prohibit discriminatory treatment based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin against foreigners and migrant workers, inter alia, where appropriate, concerning the granting of work visas and work permits, housing, health care and access to justice;

Data collection and disaggregation, research and study

92. Urges States to collect, compile, analyse, disseminate and publish reliable statistical data at the national and local levels and undertake all other related measures which are necessary to assess regularly the situation of individuals and groups of individuals who are victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; […]

(c) The information should take into account economic and social indicators, including, where appropriate, health and health status, infant and maternal mortality, life expectancy, literacy, education, employment, housing, land ownership, mental and physical health care, water, sanitation, energy and communications services, poverty and average disposable income, in order to elaborate social and economic development policies with a view to closing the existing gaps in social and economic conditions;

Action-oriented policies and action plans, including affirmative action to ensure nondiscrimination, in particular as regards access to social services, employment, housing, education, health care, etc.

100. Urges States to establish, on the basis of statistical information, national programmes, including affirmative or positive measures, to promote the access of individuals and groups of individuals who are or may be victims of racial discrimination to basic social services, including primary education, basic health care and adequate housing;

UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES (2007)

  • Article 10 states that: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.”
  • Article 21.1 states that: “Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.”
  • Article 23 states that: “Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.”
  • Article 26 states that: “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired. 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired. 3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.”
  • Article 27 states that: “States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in this process.”
  • Articles 28 states that: “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent. 2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.”
  • Article 32 states that: “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources. 2. States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. 3. States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.”

UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF PEASANTS AND OTHER PERSONS WORKING IN RURAL AREAS (2018)

  • Article 17
    1. Peasants and other people living in rural areas have the right to land, individually and/or collectively, in accordance with article 28 of the present Declaration, including the right to have access to, sustainably use and manage land and the water bodies, coastal seas, fisheries, pastures and forests therein, to achieve an adequate standard of living, to have a place to live in security, peace and dignity and to develop their cultures.
    2. States shall take appropriate measures to remove and prohibit all forms of discrimination relating to the right to land, including those resulting from change of marital status, lack of legal capacity or lack of access to economic resources.
    3. States shall take appropriate measures to provide legal recognition for land tenure rights, including customary land tenure rights not currently protected by law, recognizing the existence of different models and systems. States shall protect legitimate tenure and ensure that peasants and other people working in rural areas are not arbitrarily or unlawfully evicted and that their rights are not otherwise extinguished or infringed. States shall recognize and protect the natural commons and their related systems of collective use and management.
    4. Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right to be protected against arbitrary and unlawful displacement from their land or place of habitual residence, or from other natural resources used in their activities and necessary for the enjoyment of adequate living conditions. States shall incorporate protections against displacement into domestic legislation that are consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law. States shall prohibit arbitrary and unlawful forced eviction, the destruction of agricultural areas and the confiscation or expropriation of land and other natural resources, including as a punitive measure or as a means or method of war.
    5. Peasants and other people working in rural areas who have been arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived of their lands have the right, individually and/or collectively, in association with others or as a community, to return to their land of which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived, including in cases of natural disasters and/or armed conflict, and to have restored their access to the natural resources used in their activities and necessary for the enjoyment of adequate living conditions, when ever possible, or to receive just, fair and lawful compensation when their return is not possible. […]
  • Article 24
    1. Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right to adequate housing. They have the right to sustain a secure home and community in which to live in peace and dignity, and the right to non-discrimination in this context.
    2. Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right to be protected against forced eviction from their home, harassment and other threats.
    3. States shall not, arbitrarily or unlawfully, either temporarily or permanently, remove peasants or other people working in rural areas against their will from the homes or land that they occupy without providing or affording access to appropriate forms of legal or other protection. When eviction is unavoidable, the State must provide or ensure fair and just compensation for any material or other losses.

UNITED NATIONS STANDARD MINIMUM RULES FOR THE TREATMENT OF PRISONERS (Nelson Mandela Rules) (2015)

On 17 December 2015 the General Assembly adopted a revised version of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The rules contain the following provisions in relation to accommodation and housing of prisoners during and after imprisonment.

Separation of categories
Rule 11
The different categories of prisoners shall be kept in separate institutions or parts of institutions, taking account of their sex, age, criminal record, the legal reason for their detention and the necessities of their treatment; thus:
(a) Men and women shall so far as possible be detained in separate institutions; in an institution which receives both men and women, the whole of the premises allocated to women shall be entirely separate;
(b) Untried prisoners shall be kept separate from convicted prisoners;
(c) Persons imprisoned for debt and other civil prisoners shall be kept separate from persons imprisoned by reason of a criminal offence;
(d) Young prisoners shall be kept separate from adults.

Accommodation
Rule 12
1. Where sleeping accommodation is in individual cells or rooms, each prisoner shall occupy by night a cell or room by himself or herself. If for special reasons, such as temporary overcrowding, it becomes necessary for the central prison administration to make an exception to this rule, it is not desirable to have two prisoners in a cell or room.
2. Where dormitories are used, they shall be occupied by prisoners carefully selected as being suitable to associate with one another in those conditions. There shall be regular supervision by night, in keeping with the nature of the prison.

Rule 13
All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.

Rule 14
In all places where prisoners are required to live or work:
(a) The windows shall be large enough to enable the prisoners to read or work by natural light and shall be so constructed that they can allow the entrance of fresh air whether or not there is artificial ventilation;
(b) Artificial light shall be provided sufficient for the prisoners to read or work without injury to eyesight.

Rule 15
The sanitary installations shall be adequate to enable every prisoner to comply with the needs of nature when necessary and in a clean and decent manner.

Rule 16
Adequate bathing and shower installations shall be provided so that every prisoner can, and may be required to, have a bath or shower, at a temperature suitable to the climate, as frequently as necessary for general hygiene according to season and geographical region, but at least once a week in a temperate climate.

Rule 17
All parts of a prison regularly used by prisoners shall be properly maintained and kept scrupulously clean at all times.
[…]

Rule 21
Every prisoner shall, in accordance with local or national standards, be provided with a separate bed and with separate and sufficient bedding which shall be clean when issued, kept in good order and changed often enough to ensure its cleanliness.
[…]

Rule 59
Prisoners shall be allocated, to the extent possible, to prisons close to their homes or their places of social rehabilitation.

Social relations and aftercare
Rule 108
1. Services and agencies, governmental or otherwise, which assist released prisoners in re-establishing themselves in society shall ensure, so far as is possible and necessary, that released prisoners are provided with appropriate documents and identification papers, have suitable homes and work to go to, are suitably and adequately clothed having regard to the climate and season and have sufficient means to reach their destination and maintain themselves in the period immediately following their release.

Related recommendations:
While not having the legal status of a UN Declaration, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has published the following related recommendations covering the right to adequate housing in prisons:
ICRC: Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Habitat in Prisons – Handbook (2012)
ICRC: Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Habitat in Prisons – Supplementary Guidance (2015)

SENDAI FRAMEWORK FOR DISASTER RISK REDUCTION (2015)

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, on 18 March 2015.

  • Para. 19 specifies among other: “(c) Managing the risk of disasters is aimed at protecting persons and their property, health, livelihoods and productive assets, as well as cultural and environmental assets, while promoting and protecting all human rights, including the right to development;
    (d) Disaster risk reduction requires an all-of-society engagement and partnership. It also requires empowerment and inclusive, accessible and non-discriminatory participation, paying special attention to people disproportionately affected by disasters, especially the poorest. A gender, age, disability and cultural perspective should be integrated in all policies and practices, and women and youth leadership should be promoted. In this context, special attention should be paid to the improvement of organized voluntary work of citizens; […]
    (f) While the enabling, guiding and coordinating role of national and federal State Governments remain essential, it is necessary to empower local authorities and local communities to reduce disaster risk, including through resources, incentives and decision-making responsibilities, as appropriate;”

2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (2015)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, includes Sustainable Development Goal 11 to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

  • Under SDG target 11.1 States have declared to ensure “by 2030, […] access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums”

VANCOUVER DECLARATION ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS (1976)
Adopted by the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in 1976.

II. General Principles

1. The improvement of the quality of life of human beings is the first and most important objective of every human settlement policy. These policies must facilitate the rapid and continuous improvement in the quality of life of all people, beginning with the satisfaction of the basic needs of food, shelter, clean water, employment, health, education, training, social security without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, ideology, national or social origin or other cause, in a frame of freedom, dignity and social justice.

2. In striving to achieve this objective, priority must be given to the needs of the most disadvantaged people. […]

5. The establishment of settlements in territories occupied by force is illegal. It is condemned by the international community. However, action still remains to be taken against the establishment of such settlements.

6. The right of free movement and the right of each individual to choose the place of settlement within the domain of his own country should be recognized and safeguarded. […]

13. All persons have the right and the duty to participate, individually and collectively in the elaboration and implementation of policies and programmes of their human settlements. […]

15. The highest priority should be placed on the rehabilitation of expelled and homeless people who have been displaced by natural or man--‐made catastrophes, and especially by the act of foreign aggression. In the latter case, all countries have the duty to fully co--‐operate in order to guarantee that the parties involved allow the return of displaced persons to their homes and to give them the right to possess and enjoy their properties and belongings without interference. […]

17. Every State has the sovereign right to rule and exercise effective control over foreign investments, including transnational corporations – within its national jurisdiction, which affect directly or indirectly the human settlement programmes.

III. Guidelines for Action

6. Human settlement policies and programmes should define and strive for progressive minimum standards for an acceptable quality of life. These standards will vary within and between countries, as well as over periods of time, and therefore must be subject to change in accordance with conditions and possibilities. Some standards are most appropriately defined in quantitative terms, thus providing precisely defined targets at the local and national levels. Others must be qualitative, with their achievement subject to felt need. At the same time, social justice and a fair sharing of resources demand the discouragement of excessive consumption. […]

8. Adequate shelter and services are a basic human right which places an obligation on Governments to ensure their attainment by all people, beginning with direct assistance to the least advantaged through guided programmes of self-help and community action. Governments should endeavour to remove all impediments hindering attainment of these goals. Of special importance is the elimination of social and racial segregation, inter alia, through the creation of better balanced communities, which blend different social groups, occupations, housing and amenities

9. Health is an essential element in the development of the individual and one of the goals of human settlement policies should be to improve environmental health conditions and basic health services.

10. Basic human dignity is the right of people, individually and collectively, to participate directly in shaping the policies and programmes affecting their lives. The process of choosing and carrying out a given course of action for human settlement improvement should be designed expressly to fulfil that right. Effective human settlement policies require a continuous co--‐operative relationship between a Government and its people at all levels. It is recommended that national Governments promote programmes that will encourage and assist local authorities to participate to a greater extent in national development.

11. Since a genuine human settlement policy requires the effective participation of the entire population, recourse must therefore be made at all times to technical arrangements permitting the use of all human resources, both skilled and unskilled. The equal participation of women must be guaranteed. These goals must be associated with a global training programme to facilitate the introduction and use of technologies that maximize productive employment.

Recommendations for National Action

  • Paragraph A.3 states: “"The ideologies of States are reflected in their human settlement policies. These being powerful instruments for change, they must not be used to dispossess people from their homes or land or to entrench privilege and exploitation. The human settlement policies must be in conformity with the declaration of principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

INSTANBUL DECLARATION ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS (1996)

adopted during the UN Habitat II Conference on 14 June 1996. Below are excerpts of references to human rights, to non-discrimination and the right to adequate housing in the Declaration.

7. As human beings are at the centre of our concern for sustainable development, they are the basis for our actions as in implementing the Habitat Agenda. We recognize the particular needs of women, children and youth for safe, healthy and secure living conditions. We shall intensify our efforts to eradicate poverty and discrimination, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, and to provide for basic needs, such as education, nutrition and life-span health care services, and, especially, adequate shelter for all. To this end, we commit ourselves to improving the living conditions in human settlements in ways that are consonant with local needs and realities, and we acknowledge the need to address the global, economic, social and environmental trends to ensure the creation of better living environments for all people. We shall also ensure the full and equal participation of all women and men, and the effective participation of youth, in political, economic and social life. We shall promote full accessibility for people with disabilities, as well as gender equality in policies, programmes and projects for shelter and sustainable human settlements development. We make these commitments with particular reference to the more than one billion people living in absolute poverty and to the members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups identified in the Habitat Agenda.

8. We reaffirm our commitment to the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing as provided for in international instruments. To that end, we shall seek the active participation of our public, private and non-governmental partners at all levels to ensure legal security of tenure, protection from discrimination and equal access to affordable, adequate housing for all persons and their families.

9. We shall work to expand the supply of affordable housing by enabling markets to perform efficiently and in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, enhancing access to land and credit and assisting those who are unable to participate in housing markets.

THE HABITAT AGENDA

PREAMBLE

3. As to the first theme, a large segment of the world's population lacks shelter and sanitation, particularly in developing countries. We recognize that access to safe and healthy shelter and basic services is essential to a person's physical, psychological, social and economic well-being and should be a fundamental part of our urgent actions for the more than one billion people without decent living conditions. Our objective is to achieve adequate shelter for all, especially the deprived urban and rural poor, through an enabling approach to the development and improvement of shelter that is environmentally sound.  […]

11. More people than ever are living in absolute poverty and without adequate shelter. Inadequate shelter and homelessness are growing plights in many countries, threatening standards of health, security and even life itself. Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing, housing, water and sanitation, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.

12. The rapidly increasing number of displaced persons, including refugees, other displaced persons in need of international protection and internally displaced persons, as a result of natural and human-made disasters in many regions of the world, is aggravating the shelter crisis, highlighting the need for a speedy solution to the problem on a durable basis.

13. The needs of children and youth, particularly with regard to their living environment, have to be taken fully into account. Special attention needs to be paid to the participatory processes dealing with the shaping of cities, towns and neighbourhoods; this is in order to secure the living conditions of children and of youth and to make use of their insight, creativity and thoughts on the environment. Special attention must be paid to the shelter needs of vulnerable children, such as street children, refugee children and children who are victims of sexual exploitation. Parents and other persons legally responsible for children have responsibilities, rights and duties, consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to address these needs.

14. In shelter and urban development and management policies, particular attention should be given to the needs and participation of indigenous people. These policies should fully respect their identity and culture and provide an appropriate environment that enables them to participate in political, social and economic life.

15. Women have an important role to play in the attainment of sustainable human settlements. Nevertheless, as a result of a number of factors, including the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women and discrimination against women, women face particular constraints in obtaining adequate shelter and in fully participating in decision-making related to sustainable human settlements. The empowerment of women and their full and equal participation in political, social and economic life, the improvement of health and the eradication of poverty are essential to achieving sustainable human settlements.

16. Encountering disabilities is a part of normal life. Persons with disabilities have not always had the opportunity to participate fully and equally in human settlements development and management, including decision-making, often owing to social, economic, attitudinal and physical barriers, and discrimination. Such barriers should be removed and the needs and concerns of persons with disabilities should be fully integrated into shelter and sustainable human settlement plans and policies to create access for all.

17. Older persons are entitled to lead fulfilling and productive lives and should have opportunities for full participation in their communities and society, and in all decision-making regarding their well-being, especially their shelter needs. Their many contributions to the political, social and economic processes of human settlements should be recognized and valued. Special attention should be given to meeting the evolving housing and mobility needs in order to enable them to continue to lead rewarding lives in their communities. […]

GOALS AND PRINCIPLES

22. The objectives of the Habitat Agenda are in full conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law.

23. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of all States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development. […]

26. We reaffirm and are guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring the full realization of the human rights set out in international instruments and in particular, in this context, the right to adequate housing as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and provided for in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, taking into account that the right to adequate housing, as included in the above-mentioned international instruments, shall be realized progressively. We reaffirm that all human rights - civil, cultural, economic, political and social - are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. We subscribe to the principles and goals set out below to guide us in our actions.

27. Equitable human settlements are those in which all people, without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, have equal access to housing, infrastructure, health services, adequate food and water, education and open spaces. In addition, such human settlements provide equal opportunity for a productive and freely chosen livelihood; equal access to economic resources, including the right to inheritance, the ownership of land and other property, credit, natural resources and appropriate technologies; equal opportunity for personal, spiritual, religious, cultural and social development; equal opportunity for participation in public decision-making; equal rights and obligations with regard to the conservation and use of natural and cultural resources; and equal access to mechanisms to ensure that rights are not violated. The empowerment of women and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, whether rural or urban, are fundamental to sustainable human settlements development. […]

36. Human health and quality of life are at the centre of the effort to develop sustainable human settlements. We therefore commit ourselves to promoting and attaining the goals of universal and equal access to quality education, the highest attainable standard of physical, mental and environmental health, and the equal access of all to primary health care, making particular efforts to rectify inequalities relating to social and economic conditions, including housing, without distinction as to race, national origin, gender, age, or disability, respecting and promoting our common and particular cultures. Good health throughout the life-span of every man and woman, good health for every child, and quality education for all are fundamental to ensuring that people of all ages are able to develop their full capacities in health and dignity and to participate fully in the social, economic and political processes of human settlements, thus contributing, inter alia, to the eradication of poverty. Sustainable human settlements depend on the interactive development of policies and concrete actions to provide access to food and nutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation, and universal access to the widest range of primary health-care services, consistent with the report of the International Conference on Population and Development; to eradicate major diseases that take a heavy toll of human lives, particularly childhood diseases; to create safe places to work and live; and to protect the environment. […]

38. In implementing these commitments, special attention should be given to the circumstances and needs of people living in poverty, people who are homeless, women, older people, indigenous people, refugees, displaced persons, persons with disabilities and those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Special consideration should also be given to the needs of migrants. Furthermore, special attention should be given to the specific needs and circumstances of children, particularly street children.

A. Adequate shelter for all

39. We reaffirm our commitment to the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing, as provided for in international instruments. In this context, we recognize an obligation by Governments to enable people to obtain shelter and to protect and improve dwellings and neighbourhoods. We commit ourselves to the goal of improving living and working conditions on an equitable and sustainable basis, so that everyone will have adequate shelter that is healthy, safe, secure, accessible and affordable and that includes basic services, facilities and amenities, and will enjoy freedom from discrimination in housing and legal security of tenure. We shall implement and promote this objective in a manner fully consistent with human rights standards. 

40. We further commit ourselves to the objectives of:

(a) Ensuring consistency and coordination of macroeconomic and shelter policies and strategies as a social priority within the framework of national development programmes and urban policies in order to support resource mobilization, employment generation, poverty eradication and social integration;

(c) Promoting access for all people to safe drinking water, sanitation and other basic services, facilities and amenities, especially for people living in poverty, women and those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups;

(d) Ensuring transparent, comprehensive and accessible systems in transferring land rights and legal security of tenure;

(e) Promoting broad, non-discriminatory access to open, efficient, effective and appropriate housing financing for all people, including mobilizing innovative financial and other resources - public and private - for community development;

(f) Promoting locally available, appropriate, affordable, safe, efficient and environmentally sound construction methods and technologies in all countries, particularly in developing countries, at the local, national, regional and subregional levels that emphasize optimal use of local human resources and encourage energy-saving methods and are protective of human health;

(g) Designing and implementing standards that provide accessibility also to persons with disabilities in accordance with the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities;

(h) Increasing the supply of affordable housing, including through encouraging and promoting affordable home ownership and increasing the supply of affordable rental, communal, cooperative and other housing through partnerships among public, private and community initiatives, creating and promoting market-based incentives while giving due respect to the rights and obligations of both tenants and owners;

(i) Promoting the upgrading of existing housing stock through rehabilitation and maintenance and the adequate supply of basic services, facilities and amenities;

(j) Eradicating and ensuring legal protection from discrimination in access to shelter and basic services, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status; similar protection should be ensured against discrimination on the grounds of disability or age;

(k) Helping the family, in its supporting, educating and nurturing roles, to recognize its important contribution to social integration, and encouraging social and economic policies that are designed to meet the housing needs of families and their individual members, especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members, with particular attention to the care of children;

(l) Promoting shelter and supporting basic services and facilities for education and health for the homeless, displaced persons, indigenous people, women and children who are survivors of family violence, persons with disabilities, older persons, victims of natural and man-made disasters and people belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, including temporary shelter and basic services for refugees;

(m) Protecting, within the national context, the legal traditional rights of indigenous people to land and other resources, as well as strengthening of land management;

(n) Protecting all people from and providing legal protection and redress for forced evictions that are contrary to the law, taking human rights into consideration; when evictions are unavoidable, ensuring, as appropriate, that alternative suitable solutions are provided. […]

GLOBAL PLAN OF ACTION: STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTATION
[…]

B. Adequate shelter for all

1. Introduction

60. Adequate shelter means more than a roof over one's head. It also means adequate privacy; adequate space; physical accessibility; adequate security; security of tenure; structural stability and durability; adequate lighting, heating and ventilation; adequate basic infrastructure, such as water-supply, sanitation and waste-management facilities; suitable environmental quality and health-related factors; and adequate and accessible location with regard to work and basic facilities: all of which should be available at an affordable cost. Adequacy should be determined together with the people concerned, bearing in mind the prospect for gradual development. Adequacy often varies from country to country, since it depends on specific cultural, social, environmental and economic factors. Gender-specific and age-specific factors, such as the exposure of children and women to toxic substances, should be considered in this context.

61. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the right to adequate housing has been recognized as an important component of the right to an adequate standard of living. All Governments without exception have a responsibility in the shelter sector, as exemplified by their creation of ministries of housing or agencies, by their allocation of funds for the housing sector and by their policies, programmes and projects. The provision of adequate housing for everyone requires action not only by Governments, but by all sectors of society, including the private sector, non-governmental organizations, communities and local authorities, as well as by partner organizations and entities of the international community. Within the overall context of an enabling approach, Governments should take appropriate action in order to promote, protect and ensure the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing. These actions include, but are not limited to: 

(a) Providing, in the matter of housing, that the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;

(b) Providing legal security of tenure and equal access to land for all, including women and those living in poverty, as well as effective protection from forced evictions that are contrary to the law, taking human rights into consideration and bearing in mind that homeless people should not be penalized for their status;

(c) Adopting policies aimed at making housing habitable, affordable and accessible, including for those who are unable to secure adequate housing through their own means, by, inter alia:

(i) Expanding the supply of affordable housing through appropriate regulatory measures and market incentives;
(ii) Increasing affordability through the provision of subsidies and rental and other forms of housing assistance to people living in poverty;
(iii) Supporting community-based, cooperative and non-profit rental and owner-occupied housing programmes;
(iv) Promoting supporting services for the homeless and other vulnerable groups;
(v) Mobilizing innovative financial and other resources - public and private - for housing and community development;
(vi) Creating and promoting market-based incentives to encourage the private sector to meet the need for affordable rental and owner-occupied housing;
(vii) Promoting sustainable spatial development patterns and transportation systems that improve accessibility of goods, services, amenities and work;

(d) Effective monitoring and evaluation of housing conditions, including the extent of homelessness and inadequate housing, and, in consultation with the affected population, formulating and adopting appropriate housing policies and implementing effective strategies and plans to address those problems. […]

3. Shelter delivery systems

(a) Enabling markets to work

72. To ensure market efficiency, Governments at the appropriate levels and consistent with their legal authority should:

(a) Assess housing supply and demand on a gender-disaggregated basis and collect, analyse and disseminate information about housing markets and other delivery mechanisms, and encourage the private and non-profit sectors and the media to do the same, while avoiding duplication of efforts; […]

(e) Undertake legislative and administrative reforms to give women full and equal access to economic resources, including the right to inheritance and the ownership of land and other property, credit, natural resources and appropriate technologies; […]

(b)Facilitating community-based production of housing

73. In many countries, particularly developing countries, more than half the existing housing stock has been built by the owner-occupiers themselves, serving mainly the lower-income population. Self-built housing will continue to play a major role in the provision of housing into the distant future. Many countries are supporting self-built housing by regularizing and upgrading programmes.

74. To support the efforts of people, individually or collectively, to produce shelter, Governments at the appropriate levels should, where appropriate:

(a) Promote self-built housing within the context of a comprehensive land-use policy;

(b) Integrate and regularize self-built housing, especially through appropriate land registration programmes, as a holistic part of the overall housing and infrastructure system in urban and rural areas, subject to a comprehensive land-use policy;

(c) Encourage efforts to improve existing self-built housing through better access to housing resources, including land, finance and building materials;

(d) Develop the means and methods to improve the standards of self-built housing;

(e) Encourage community-based and non-governmental organizations in their role of assisting and facilitating the production of self-built housing;

(f) Facilitate regular dialogue and gender-sensitive participation of the various actors involved in housing production at all levels and stages of decision-making;

(g) Mitigate the problems related to spontaneous human settlements through programmes and policies that anticipate unplanned settlements.

(c) Ensuring access to land

75. Access to land and legal security of tenure are strategic prerequisites for the provision of adequate shelter for all and for the development of sustainable human settlements affecting both urban and rural areas. It is also one way of breaking the vicious circle of poverty. Every Government must show a commitment to promoting the provision of an adequate supply of land in the context of sustainable land-use policies. While recognizing the existence of different national laws and/or systems of land tenure, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, should nevertheless strive to remove all possible obstacles that may hamper equitable access to land and ensure that equal rights of women and men related to land and property are protected under the law.[…]

78. To eradicate legal and social barriers to the equal and equitable access to land, especially the access of women, people with disabilities and those belonging to vulnerable groups, Governments at the appropriate levels, in partnership with the private sector, non-governmental organizations, the cooperative sector and community-based organizations, should:

(a) Address the cultural, ethnic, religious, social and disability-based causes that result in the creation of barriers that lead to segregation and exclusion, inter alia, by encouraging education and training for peaceful conflict resolution;

(b) Promote awareness campaigns, education and enabling practices regarding, in particular, legal rights with respect to tenure, land ownership and inheritance for women, so as to overcome existing barriers;

(c) Review legal and regulatory frameworks, adjusting them to the principles and commitments of the Global Plan of Action and ensuring that the equal rights of women and men are clearly specified and enforced;

(d) Develop regularization programmes and formulate and implement such programmes and projects in consultation with the concerned population and organized groups, ensuring the full and equal participation of women and taking into account the needs differentiated by gender, age, disability and vulnerability;

(e) Support, inter alia, community projects, policies and programmes that aim to remove all barriers to women's access to affordable housing, land and property ownership, economic resources, infrastructure and social services, and ensure the full participation of women in all decision-making processes, with particular regard to women in poverty, especially female heads of households and women who are sole providers for their families;

(f) Undertake legislative and administrative reforms to give women full and equal access to economic resources, including the right to inheritance and the ownership of land and other property, credit, natural resources and appropriate technologies;

(g) Promote mechanisms for the protection of women who risk losing their homes and properties when their husbands die.

79. To facilitate access to land and security of tenure for all socio-economic groups, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, should:

(a) Adopt an enabling legal and regulatory framework based on an enhanced knowledge, understanding and acceptance of existing practices and land delivery mechanisms so as to stimulate partnerships with the private business and community sectors, specifying recognized types of land tenure and prescribing procedures for the regularization of tenure, where needed;

(c) Explore innovative arrangements to enhance the security of tenure, other than full legalization, which may be too costly and time-consuming in certain situations, including access to credit, as appropriate, in the absence of a conventional title to land;

(d) Promote measures to ensure that women have equal access to credit for buying, leasing or renting land, and equal protection for the legal security of tenure of such land;

(e) Capitalize on the potential contribution of key interested parties in the private formal and informal sectors, and support the engagement of non-governmental organizations, community organizations and the private sector in participatory and collective initiatives and mechanisms appropriate to conflict resolution;

(f) Encourage, in particular, the participation of community and non-governmental organizations by:

(i) Reviewing and adjusting legal and regulatory frameworks in order to recognize and stimulate the diverse forms of organization of the population engaged in the production and management of land, housing and services;
(ii) Considering financial systems that recognize organizations as credit holders, extend credit to collective units backed by collective collateral and introduce financial procedures that are adapted to the needs of housing production by the people themselves and to the modalities through which the population generates income and savings;
(iii) Developing and implementing complementary measures designed to enhance their capabilities, including, where appropriate, fiscal support, educational and training programmes, and technical assistance and funds in support of technological innovation;
(iv) Supporting the capacity-building and accumulation of experience of non-governmental organizations and peoples' organizations in order to make them efficient and competent partners in the implementation of national housing plans of action;
(v) Encouraging lending institutions to recognize that community-based organizations may act as guarantors for those who, because of poverty or discrimination, lack other sources of equity, giving particular attention to the needs of individual women.

4. Vulnerable groups and people with special needs

93. Vulnerability and disadvantage are often caused by marginalization in and exclusion from the socio-economic mainstream and decision-making processes and the lack of access on an equal basis to resources and opportunities. If vulnerability and disadvantage are to be reduced, there is a need to improve and ensure access by those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups to shelter, finance, infrastructure, basic social services, safety nets and decision-making processes within national and international enabling environments. It is understood that not all those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are vulnerable and disadvantaged at all times. Vulnerability and disadvantage are mainly caused by circumstances, rather than inherent characteristics. Recognizing that vulnerability and disadvantage are affected, inter alia, by conditions in the housing sector and the availability, enforcement and effectiveness of legal protection guaranteeing equal access to resources and opportunities, some members of certain groups are more likely to be vulnerable and experience disadvantage with regard to shelter and human settlements conditions. Those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are especially at risk when they have no security of tenure or where they lack basic services or face disproportionately adverse environmental and health impacts, or because they may be excluded, either inadvertently or deliberately, from the housing market and services.

94. Adequate shelter must be recognized as an important component of the particular care and assistance to which children and their families, as well as children living outside or without families, have a right. Special consideration must be given to the needs of children living in difficult circumstances.

95. Inadequate shelter or lack of shelter contributes to a loss of dignity, security and health in the lives of refugees, other displaced persons in need of international protection and internally displaced persons. There is a need to strengthen the support for the international protection of and assistance to refugees, especially refugee women and children, who are particularly vulnerable.

96. To remove barriers and eradicate discrimination in the provision of shelter, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, should:

(a) Review and revise legal, fiscal and regulatory frameworks that act as barriers within the shelter sectors;

(b) Support, through legislation, incentives and other means, where appropriate, organizations of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups so that they may promote their interests and become involved in local and national economic, social and political decision-making;

(c) Establish laws and regulations aimed at preventing discrimination and barriers and, where such laws and regulations already exist, ensure their enforcement;

(d) Work with private sector cooperatives, local communities and other interested parties to raise awareness of the need to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in housing transactions and the provision of services;

(e) Consider becoming parties to the relevant instruments of the United Nations system that, inter alia, deal with the specific and special needs of those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and abiding by the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities;

(f) Promote systems of public transport that are affordable and accessible in order to make a wider range of housing and jobs available to vulnerable groups;

(g) Provide vulnerable and disadvantaged groups with access to information and with opportunities to participate in the local decision-making process on community and shelter issues that will affect them;

(h) Provide increased coverage of water supply and sanitation services to ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged groups have access to adequate quantities of safe water and to hygienic sanitation.

97. To provide for the shelter needs of those belonging to vulnerable groups, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, in cooperation with all interested parties, as appropriate, should:

(a) Provide, where appropriate, targeted and transparent subsidies, social services and various types of safety nets to the most vulnerable groups;

(b) Work with the private and non-profit sectors, community-based organizations and other actors to provide adequate shelter for people belonging to vulnerable groups, making special efforts to remove all physical constraints to the independent living of persons with disabilities and of older persons;

(c) Strive to provide special living facilities and shelter solutions for people belonging to vulnerable groups, as appropriate, such as shelters for women subjected to violence, or shared living arrangements for persons with mental or physical disabilities;

(d) Provide an environment that enables people belonging to vulnerable groups to participate in the social, economic and political life of their community and country.

98. To reduce vulnerability, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, should:

(a) Work with non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations to assist members of vulnerable groups to obtain secure tenure;

(b) Protect all people from and provide legal protection and redress for forced evictions that are contrary to the law, taking human rights into consideration; when evictions are unavoidable, ensure that, as appropriate, alternative suitable solutions are provided;

(c) Promote and support self-help housing programmes and initiatives;

(d) Promote, where appropriate, compliance with and enforcement of all health and environmental laws, especially in low-income areas with vulnerable groups;

(e) Facilitate actions aimed at, inter alia, ensuring legal security of tenure, capacity-building and improving access to credit, which, apart from subsidies and other financial instruments, can provide safety nets that reduce vulnerability;

(b) Providing legal security of tenure and equal access to land to all people, including women and those living in poverty; and undertaking legislative and administrative reforms to give women full and equal access to economic resources, including the right to inheritance and to ownership of land and other property, credit, natural resources and appropriate technologies;

(f) Pursue policies that will provide information to and consultation with vulnerable groups;

(g) Facilitate the availability of legal information and assistance to vulnerable groups;

(h) Promote the use of tools for disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness in order to reduce the vulnerability of populations to natural, man-made and technological disasters. […]

C. Sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world

3. Social development: eradication of poverty, creation of productive employment and social integration

115. Promoting equitable, socially viable and stable human settlements is inextricably linked to eradicating poverty. The concerns of the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty and the International Decade for the Eradication of Poverty are shared by the international community, which also acknowledges the feminization of poverty. Poverty has various manifestations, including homelessness and inadequate housing. The eradication of poverty requires, inter alia, sound macroeconomic policies aimed at creating employment opportunities, equal and universal access to economic opportunities (and special efforts to facilitate such access for the disadvantaged); education and training that will promote sustainable livelihoods through freely chosen productive employment and work; and basic social services, including health facilities. However, there are no universal solutions that can be fairly applied. People living in poverty must be empowered through freely chosen participation in all aspects of political, economic and social life. Other key elements of a poverty eradication strategy include policies geared to reducing inequalities, increasing opportunities, improving and providing, as appropriate, access to resources, employment and income; promoting rural development and measures to improve economic, social and environmental conditions in rural areas; providing social protection for those who cannot support themselves; recognizing the needs and skills of women; developing human resources; improving infrastructure, including communication facilities, and making it more accessible; and promoting domestic policies for meeting the basic needs of all.

116. To promote equal access to and fair and equitable provision of services in human settlements, Governments at the appropriate level, including local authorities, should:

(a) Formulate and implement human settlements development policies that ensure equal access to and maintenance of basic services, including those related to the provision of food security; education; employment and livelihood; basic health care services; safe drinking water and sanitation; adequate shelter; and access to open and green spaces, giving priority to the needs and rights of women and children, who often bear the greatest burden of poverty;

(b) Where appropriate, redirect public resources to encourage community-based management of services and infrastructure and promote the participation of the private sector and local residents, including people living in poverty, women, people with disabilities, indigenous people and members of disadvantaged groups, in the identification of public service needs, spatial planning and the design, provision and maintenance of urban infrastructure and open and green spaces.

117. To promote social integration, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, recognizing the importance of volunteer contributions and in close cooperation with non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, the cooperative sector and public and private foundations, should:

(a) Prohibit discriminatory, exclusionary practices related to shelter, employment and access to social and cultural facilities;

(b) Offer opportunities and physical space to encourage positive interaction among culturally diverse groups;

(c) Involve marginalized and/or disadvantaged groups and individuals in the planning, decision-making, monitoring and assessment related to human settlements development;

(d) Encourage, in cooperation with relevant interested parties, including parents with respect to their children's education, the development of school curricula, education programmes and community-based centres aimed at developing understanding and cooperation among members of diverse cultures. […]

119. In order to promote gender-sensitive planning and management of human settlements, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, in collaboration with women's groups and other interested parties, should:

(a) Adopt, where appropriate, by-laws, standards and norms and develop planning guidelines that take into consideration the needs and situations of women and men and girls and boys in relation to human settlements planning, development and decision-making, and in the provision of and access to basic services, including public transportation, health and educational facilities;

(b) Consider in the planning process the fact that women are often involved in the informal sector and use their homes for business or market activities;

(c) Promote representative structures, while ensuring women's full and equal participation;

(d) Develop policy guidelines and programmes that encourage and actively pursue the involvement of women's groups in all aspects of community development related to environmental infrastructure and the provision of basic urban services, and encourage women's own cooperatives, as well as their membership in other cooperatives;

(e) Promote changes in attitudes, structures, policies, laws and other practices relating to gender in order to eliminate all obstacles to human dignity and equality in family and society and promote full and equal participation of women and men, including persons with disabilities, in social, economic and political life, including in the formulation, implementation and follow-up of public policies and programmes;

(f) Foster economic policies that have a positive impact on the employment and income of women workers in both the formal and informal sectors and adopt specific measures to address women's unemployment, in particular their long-term unemployment;

(g) Eliminate legal and customary barriers, where they exist, to women's equal access to and control of land and finance;

(h) Promote equal access to all levels of education for girls and women;

(i) Establish programmes that address the absolute poverty found among rural women, focusing on their need for adequate shelter and employment;

(j) Generate and disseminate gender disaggregated data, while ensuring that such statistics are collected, compiled, analysed and presented by age and sex; set up monitoring mechanisms in government structures; and integrate the results into mainstream policies for sustainable human settlements development;

(k) Enhance community awareness of issues facing women living in poverty, the homeless, migrants, refugees, other displaced women in need of international protection, and internally displaced women, especially those issues related to physical and sexual abuse, and design appropriate community responses;

(l) Ensure equal access to housing, land and public services in the urban and rural areas in line with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

D. Capacity-building and institutional development

[…]

179. Empowerment and participation contribute to democracy and sustainable human settlements development. Policy formulation and implementation by Governments should be guided by the principles of accountability, transparency and broad-based public participation. Accountability and transparency are imperative in order to prevent corruption and ensure that the available resources are used to the benefit of all people. Each Government should ensure the right of all members of its society to take an active part in the affairs of the community in which they live, and ensure and encourage participation in policy-making at all levels. […]

3. Popular participation and civic engagement

182. To encourage and support participation, civic engagement and the fulfilment of governmental responsibilities, national Governments, local authorities and/or civil society organizations should put into effect, at appropriate levels, institutional and legal frameworks that facilitate and enable the broad-based participation of all people and their community organizations in decision-making and in the implementation and monitoring of human settlements strategies, policies and programmes; these institutional and legal frameworks would be specifically aimed at, inter alia:

(a) Protecting the human right to hold and express opinions and to seek, receive and impart ideas and information without interference;

(b) Facilitating the legal recognition of organized communities and their consolidation;

(c) Permitting, facilitating and protecting the formation of independent non-governmental community, local, national and international organizations;

(d) Providing full, timely and comprehensible information, without undue financial burden to the applicant;

(e) Undertaking civic and human rights education and training programmes, using all forms of the media and education and information campaigns, to promote a civic spirit and an awareness of civil rights and responsibilities and the means of exercising them, of the changing roles of women and men and of issues relating to sustainable human settlements development and the quality of life;

(f) Establishing regular and broad-based consultative mechanisms for involving civil society in decision-making in order to reflect the diverse needs of the community;

(g) Removing legal barriers to participation in public life by socially marginalized groups and promoting non-discrimination legislation;

(h) Establishing agenda-setting participatory mechanisms enabling individuals, families, communities, indigenous people and civil society to play a proactive role in identifying local needs and priorities and formulating new policies, plans and projects;

(i) Fostering an understanding of contractual and other relationships with the private and non-governmental sectors to acquire the skills for negotiating effective partnerships for project implementation, development and management that will maximize benefits for all people;

(j) Promoting equality and equity, incorporating gender considerations and the full and equal participation of women, and involving vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, including people living in poverty and other low-income groups, through institutional measures to ensure that their interests are represented in policy- and decision-making processes and through such techniques as advocacy training and seminars, including those that develop mediating and consensus-building skills that will facilitate effective networking and alliance formation;

(k) Providing access to effective judicial and administrative channels for affected individuals and groups so that they can challenge or seek redress from decisions and actions that are socially and environmentally harmful or violate human rights, including legal mechanisms to ensure that all State bodies, both national and local, and other civil organizations remain accountable for their actions, in accordance with their social, environmental and human rights obligations;

(l) Broadening the procedural right of individuals and civil society organizations to take legal action on behalf of affected communities or groups that do not have the resources or skills to take such action themselves;

(m) Promoting the representation of intergenerational interests, including those of children and future generations in decision-making processes, while strengthening families;

(n) Promoting the full potential of youth as key partners for the achievement of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements through various forms of education, quality training and skill-building, taking into account the diverse abilities, realities and experiences of youth;

(o) Facilitating access to decision-making and planning structures and legal services by people living in poverty and other low-income groups through the provision of such facilities as legal aid and free legal advice centres;

(p) Strengthening the capacity of local authorities and civil society to review social, economic and environmental policies affecting their communities and to set local priorities and contribute to the setting of local standards for services in such areas as basic education, child care, public health, public safety, drug-abuse awareness and environmental management;

(q) Promoting the use of new information technologies and the media, including the local media, to facilitate dialogue, to exchange relevant information, experiences and practices concerning human settlements and to form constructive partnerships among civil society and decision makers.

NEW URBAN AGENDA (2016)

On 20 October 2016 the UN Habitat III Conference adopted the New Urban Agenda which includes several commitments of States to human rights, equality, non-discrimination, participation and the right to adequate housing. Key references to human rights in the New Urban Agenda can be found at the following link.

GENEVA UN CHARTER ON SUSTAINABLE HOUSING (2015)

The Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing is a non-legally binding document that aims to support member States as they seek to ensure access to decent, adequate, affordable and healthy housing for all. It was endorsed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on 16 April 2015.

Chapter 1. Challenges to sustainable housing

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe member States note that:

1. Sustainable housing has a key role in the quality of human life. The positive impact of housing can be increased through the application of principles of: environmental protection; economic effectiveness; social inclusion and participation; and cultural adequacy. The development of sustainable housing in the ECE region faces multiple challenges resulting mainly from globalization, demographic changes, climate change and the economic crisis.

2. Housing provision, management and demolition impact the environment; these processes consume resources (land, water, energy and building materials) and produce, for example, greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing this impact requires the engagement of Governments and civil society as well as action by the ECE and other international organizations. Achieving effective housing management, investing in large-scale retrofitting to improve environmental performance and developing financial mechanisms to improve access to housing should be policy priorities. The life-cycle approach in design should be promoted as one way to reduce the impact of this sector on the environment.

3. A degraded urban environment, with air and noise pollution and a lack of green spaces and mobility options, poses health risks. Housing conditions also have a direct effect on the physical and mental health of the population. Poor housing and indoor environments cause, or contribute to, many preventable diseases and injuries such as respiratory, nervous system and cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

4. The 2008 financial and economic crisis underscored the vital role that stable and transparent housing markets play in the economy. As a result of the crisis, some countries have experienced disturbing imbalances in their housing markets with foreclosures, homelessness, excess housing stock and a lack of affordable housing.

5. Poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable populations may lack affordable and adequate housing, face unhealthy and unsafe housing and physical barriers, and/or related discrimination and exclusion. Those living in substandard and informal settlements often lack water, sanitation and other public services.

6. In some cases urbanization has led to urban sprawl. This has had a negative impact on existing settlements and has reduced the land available for other uses. In other cases, urbanization has been uncontrolled, creating and expanding informal settlements, whose residents may lack security of tenure and social and physical infrastructure.

7. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and landslides, as well as human generated disasters, have resulted in large-scale damage to housing across the ECE region and present serious challenges for governments and the region. National policies and planning are often inadequate to prevent and minimize damage from disasters and emergency situations. Affected populations should be provided with adequate temporary housing solutions, if necessary, through international and humanitarian assistance.

8. Climate change has become a tangible reality, with rising global temperatures, flooding, storms and landslides affecting people’s lives and assets and causing economic and social losses. Houses and human settlements need to become resilient to extreme weather events, including those caused by climate change.

Chapter 2. Goal, Scope and Principles

9. The Charter is a non-legally binding document. The goal of the Charter is to support member States as they seek to ensure access to decent, adequate, affordable and healthy housing for all, with due attention to reducing the impact of the housing sector on the environment.

10. The scope of the Charter is to improve the sustainability of housing in the ECE region through effective policies and actions at all levels, supported by international cooperation, in order to contribute to sustainable development in the region.

11. The Charter contributes to the implementation of relevant Sustainable Development Goals on Cities and Human Settlements and the implementation of the UN HABITAT Global Housing Strategy Framework.

12. When addressing the challenges outlined in Chapter 1, the following four principles and related rationales form the basis of sustainable housing:

(a) Environmental protection;
(b) Economic effectiveness;
(c) Social inclusion and participation;
(d) Cultural adequacy.

(a) Environmental protection

13. Housing should be planned, constructed and used in a way that minimizes environmental impact and promotes environmental sustainability. This should be addressed through:

(i) Housing practices that contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of buildings throughout their life-cycle, from design, material supply, manufacturing, and construction, to use, maintenance, refurbishment, and demolition;
(ii) Improved environmental and energy performance of dwellings, which contribute to combating energy poverty, improving residents’ quality of life and reducing health problems;
(iii) Resilient urban settlements which, when possible, use renewable energy, and proactively take into account climate change;
(iv) Existing houses that are retrofitted, as much as possible, for the efficient use of resources;
(v) Housing stock that is resilient to natural and human-generated hazards, enhanced through adequate planning, design and safe construction;
(vi) Green spaces around and within housing areas, including areas that provide habitat for wildlife, space for leisure, sport and urban agriculture;
(vii) Compact housing settlements with planned growth to prevent urban sprawl;
(viii) Housing settlements with priority given to sustainable and integrated transport systems and the provision of green infrastructure;
(ix) Encouragement of healthy living through: good housing design; maintenance; and retrofitting;
(x) Waste management treated as an integral part of sustainable housing strategies, including in housing construction, housing demolition and household living, with the encouragement of re-use, recycling, and composting.

(b) Economic effectiveness

14. Housing is, and has been, an influential sector in national economies. Housing should be both a sustainable element in a vibrant economy as well as a sector for meeting people’s needs. This should be addressed through:

(i) Secure and neutral tenure (i.e. with flexibility between owning and renting);
(ii) Cadastral and land registration information and services that support an environment conducive to investment in housing and the promotion of secure land and housing tenure;
(iii) Transparent, efficient and effective accounting, regulatory procedures and mortgage rules in order to ensure appropriate mortgage availability, protect consumers, enhance their housing security, enlarge housing choices and reduce the risk of homes being lost;
(iv) Increased investment in sustainable housing promoted through private and public investments including public-private partnerships and other financing instruments;
(v) Housing construction and renovation as well as retrofitting of the existing housing stock in order to combat energy poverty by supporting energy efficiency (which will also contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation);
(vi) Housing construction performed based on the use of building codes and standards, which promote harmonization of common practices, procedures, products specifications to allow compatibility across state borders and support building safety;
(vii) The production of housing stock based, as much as possible, on local solutions, labour and local materials for their design, construction, refurbishment and maintenance, thus contributing to local employment;
(viii) The retrofitting of existing housing using appropriate technologies and in such a way as to generate employment;
(ix) Infrastructure and services to people in low income and informal settlements, when possible and appropriate;
(x) National policies and programmes that encourage, when possible and appropriate, dwellers of informal construction to regularize and upgrade their constructions provided that the geographic location and other factors allow minimum safety requirements to be met;
(xi) More integrated urban development and regeneration with workplaces and services brought into closer spatial relation to housing, while taking into account potential dangers and hazards;
(xii) Spatial planning that includes policies to: efficiently distribute economic activities; improve technical and social infrastructure and services; undertake urban regeneration; provide affordable housing; and address urban sprawl.

(c) Social inclusion and participation

15. Housing policy and debate should be advanced with an enhanced emphasis on engaged and negotiated civic involvement, social inclusiveness, public health, transparency, and a concern for ethical processes. This should be addressed through:

(i) Instruments of state support for adequate, healthy, safe and affordable housing, including access to basic utilities and services, which promote social cohesion and contribute to meeting the housing needs of various social groups, including marginalised and vulnerable groups and people;
(ii) Increased availability of housing options, particularly affordable and social housing, through different instruments, including through promoting tenure neutrality;
(iii) Planning, housing design, maintenance and retrofitting that: promotes healthy living; encourages the implementation of universal design principles in order to increase the usability of homes for all people across generational, gender and disability divides; and encourages socially mixed communities;
(iv) Support for adequate housing solutions for people affected by natural and human-made disasters;
(v) Housing and land tenure policies that support social justice;
(vi) National housing policies developed through deliberative and democratic processes based on expert knowledge, extensive data collection, transparent reporting of statistics, and extensive and inclusive public debate about all aspects of housing development;
(vii) Research and exchange of knowledge on all aspects of sustainable housing;
(viii) Effective, clear, and transparent governance at all levels, including institutionalized procedures for appeals to decisions related to housing

(d) Cultural adequacy

16. Housing policy should take into consideration questions of cultural identity, value, and emotional wellbeing. This should be addressed through:

(i) National housing policies that take into account social and territorial peculiarities and support the protection and enhancement of: landscapes; historical heritage; and cultural heritage;
(ii) Emphasizing the development of public spaces for cultural and social activities;
(iii) Housing that takes into consideration the background and culture of inhabitants;
(iv) Houses and neighbourhoods designed and actively maintained in order to enhance the emotional wellbeing of people, including by involving local communities in this process.

Chapter 3. Key directions of work and measures to promote sustainable housing

17. Member States have the intention to advance in the following four key directions towards sustainable housing:

(a) Limit the negative impact of housing on the environment and enhance the energy efficiency of the housing sector;
(b) Promote access to housing, in the context of sustainable economic development;
(c) Promote decent, adequate, healthy, barrier free and safe housing; (d) Promote the continued application of sustainable housing principles.

18. Member States support the following actions:

(a) Limit the negative impact of housing on the environment and enhance the energy efficiency of the housing sector by taking measures to:

(i) Reduce the carbon footprint of the housing sector by reducing energy use throughout the entire life cycle of buildings, which includes: housing design; material supply and manufacturing; construction; maintenance; refurbishment; and demolition processes;
(ii) Decrease the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air and water quality, and waste management;
(iii) Apply building codes and standards for energy efficiency and the environmental safety of new and existing residential buildings;
(iv) Increase the proportion of low-energy housing units also as a part of an integrated urban renewal approach;
(v) Increase the use of low carbon and renewable energy technologies in housing;
(vi) Retrofit and renovate existing housing stock in an environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, affordable and cost-efficient way; making use of local solutions and knowledge when possible;
(vii) Put in place strategies to ensure that the design and construction of dwellings apply principles of environmental sustainability, with special regard to climate change mitigation and adaptation;
(viii) Adopt green housing policies and integrate them into sustainable urban and territorial development policies;
(ix) Make waste and water management an integral part of sustainable housing strategies and policies;
(x) Encourage construction of multifamily housing, promote integrated public transportation and facilitate the use of clean vehicles in order to, mainly, counteract urban sprawl and save energy;
(xi) Provide appropriate technical and financial support to housing stakeholders and, in particular, ensure the feasibility and affordability of energy efficiency measures, including for the most vulnerable parts of the population;
(xii) Promote and monitor integrated urban development and regeneration which brings workplaces and services into closer spatial relation to housing, while taking into account potential dangers and hazards; and increasing resilience to climate change;
(xiii) Provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, particularly for disadvantaged population groups.

(b) Promote access to housing in the context of sustainable economic development by taking measures to:

(i) Ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services;
(ii) Promote secure tenure and the availability of housing options, including the neutral treatment of tenure options (such as ownership or renting), in order to encourage the development of adequate supplies of affordable housing;
(iii) Promote transparent and fair rental markets with a balance of rights and duties between landlords and tenants through adequate legislation and conflict resolution mechanisms in order to facilitate residential and labour mobility;
(iv) Contribute to well-functioning, efficient, equitable and transparent housing markets and land markets, which respond to different types of housing demand as well as favouring credit access for socially and economically vulnerable population groups, including through alternative forms of funding, such as housing microfinance;
(v) Develop and review policies and procedures for integrated urban renewal and housing maintenance, including utility systems and the encouragement of green investments in the sector;
(vi) Encourage effective management of the housing stock and develop mechanisms for affordable housing refurbishment;
(vii) Promote investment in sustainable housing through private and public investments, public-private partnership, and other means of financing;
(viii) Develop programmes, where appropriate, to assist those who are in danger of housing-loan default because of social or economic shocks and are threatened with homelessness;
(ix) Develop frameworks to ensure the rights and duties of all property owners as well as tenants;
(x) Where possible and appropriate, assist people living in informal and lowincome settlements to have access to adequate infrastructure and services;
(xi) Promote national policies and programmes that encourage, when possible and appropriate, dwellers of informal construction to regularize and upgrade their constructions provided that the geographic location and other factors allow minimum safety requirements to be met;
(xii) Encourage the use of efficient solutions for the design, construction, refurbishment and maintenance of sustainable housing while respecting the cultural and geographic particularities of member States;
(xiii) Establish effective, clear and transparent regulations and procedures, as well as appropriate institutions for issuing building permits, with the objective of helping ensure fairness and non-discrimination and fighting corruption in the housing sector;
(xiv) Promote the use of spatial, cadastral and land registration information and services to create an environment conducive to investment in housing and the security of land and housing tenure;
(xv) Support cities and human settlements adopting and implementing smart city concepts, integrated policies and plans to support: inclusion, including socially mixed communities; resource efficiency; and resilience to climate change and disasters;
(xvi) Promote integrated spatial planning which supports: the efficient spatial distribution of economic activities; the improvement of technical and social infrastructure; urban regeneration and integrated urban renewal; and affordable housing and which also addresses urban sprawl.

(c) Promote decent, adequate, healthy, barrier free and safe housing by taking measures to:

(i) Improve access for all to good quality and healthy housing, reduce homelessness and improve access to barrier-free housing;
(ii) Develop socially mixed communities and avoid social segregation, gentrification and gated communities;
(iii) Encourage healthy living through housing design, maintenance and retrofitting as well as through public and green spaces around and within housing areas;
(iv) Improve the resilience of buildings to natural and human-generated hazards through safety planning, design and construction;
(v) Develop sustainable housing strategies that improve access to basic utilities and services, including safe drinking water and sanitation;
(vi) Promote the use of universal design principles in order to increase access to adequate housing and the ability to live independently for all;
(vii) Ensure that housing policy and legislation, and their implementation, are non-discriminatory.

(d) Promote the continued application of sustainable housing principles by taking measures to:

(i) Gather data on housing, including on homelessness, using common international standards to ensure data comparability between member States; make these data and national statistics publicly available in order to support policy-making, research and economic development; and make use of global and regional data repositories to support the policy-making process;
(ii) Encourage investment in research and innovation in all aspects of sustainable housing;
(iii) Support good governance at all levels, cooperation between relevant government agencies within countries, effective public participation in decision-making and the rule of law in housing;
(iv) Develop capacities for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management;
(v) Intensify the regional and international exchange of experience and cooperation in housing, urban planning and land management;
(vi) Develop and implement capacity-building programmes on housing, urban planning and land management issues for all stakeholders.

International Labour Standards

INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION (ILO) CONVENTION NO. 110 CONCERNING CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT OF PLANTATION WORKERS(1958)

  • Article 88.1 states that:” Where housing is provided by the employer the conditions under which plantation workers are entitled to occupancy shall be not less favourable than those established by national custom or national legislation.”

INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION (ILO) CONVENTION NO. 117  CONCERNING BASIC AIMS AND STANDARDS OF SOCIAL POLICY (1962)

  • Article 2 states that: “The improvement of standards of living shall be regarded as the principal objective in the planning of economic development.”
  • Article 5.2 states that: “In ascertaining the minimum standards of living, account shall be taken of such essential family needs of the workers as food and its nutritive value, housing, clothing, medical care and education.”

INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION (ILO) CONVENTION NO. 161 CONCERNING OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH SERVICES (1985)

  • Article 5 (b) states that: “Without prejudice to the responsibility of each employer for the health and safety of the workers in his employment, and with due regard to the necessity for the workers to participate in matters of occupational health and safety, occupational health services shall have such of the following functions as are adequate and appropriate to the occupational risks of the undertaking: (…) (b) surveillance of the factors in the working environment and working practices which may affect workers' health, including sanitary installations, canteens and housing where these facilities are provided by the employer.”

INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION (ILO) CONVENTION NO. 169 CONCERNING INDIGENOUS AND TRIBAL PEOPLES IN INDEPENDENT COUNTRIES(1989)

  • Article 16 states “1. Subject to the following paragraphs of this Article, the peoples concerned shall not be removed from the lands which they occupy.
    2. Where the relocation of these peoples is considered necessary as an exceptional measure, such relocation shall take place only with their free and informed consent. Where their consent cannot be obtained, such relocation shall take place only following appropriate procedures established by national laws and regulations, including public inquiries where appropriate, which provide the opportunity for effective representation of the peoples concerned. 3. Whenever possible, these peoples shall have the right to return to their traditional lands, as soon as the grounds for relocation cease to exist.
    4. When such return is not possible, as determined by agreement or, in the absence of such agreement, through appropriate procedures, these peoples shall be provided in all possible cases with lands of quality and legal status at least equal to that of the lands previously occupied by them, suitable to provide for their present needs and future development. Where the peoples concerned express a preference for compensation in money or in kind, they shall be so compensated under appropriate guarantees.
    5. Persons thus relocated shall be fully compensated for any resulting loss or injury.
  • Article 20.2 c) states: “2. Governments shall do everything possible to prevent any discrimination between workers belonging to the peoples concerned and other workers, in particular as regards: … (c)  medical and social assistance, occupational safety and health, all social security benefits and any other occupationally related benefits, and housing;”

INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION (ILO): DOMESTIC WORKERS CONVENTION (No. 189)

  • Article 5 states: “Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers enjoy effective protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence.”
  • Article 6 states: “Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers, like workers generally, enjoy fair terms of employment as well as decent working conditions and, if they reside in the household, decent living conditions that respect their privacy.”
  • Article 7 states: “Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers are informed of their terms and conditions of employment in an appropriate, verifiable and easily understandable manner and preferably, where possible, through written contracts in accordance with national laws, regulations or collective agreements, in particular: … (h) the provision of food and accommodation, if applicable;”
  • Article 8.4 states: “Each Member shall specify, by means of laws, regulations or other measures, the conditions under which migrant domestic workers are entitled to repatriation on the expiry or termination of the employment contract for which they were recruited.”
  • Article 9 states: “Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers:
    (a) are free to reach agreement with their employer or potential employer on whether to reside in the household;
    (b) who reside in the household are not obliged to remain in the household or with household members during periods of daily and weekly rest or annual leave; and
    (c) are entitled to keep in their possession their travel and identity documents.”
  • Article 17 states: “1. Each Member shall establish effective and accessible complaint mechanisms and means of ensuring compliance with national laws and regulations for the protection of domestic workers.
    2. Each Member shall develop and implement measures for labour inspection, enforcement and penalties with due regard for the special characteristics of domestic work, in accordance with national laws and regulations.
    3. In so far as compatible with national laws and regulations, such measures shall specify the conditions under which access to household premises may be granted, having due respect for privacy.”

INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION (ILO) RECOMMENDATION NO. 115 CONCERNING WORKERS' HOUSING (1961)

The General Conference of the International Labour Organisation adopted recommendations regarding workers' housing applicable to the housing of manual and non-manual workers and their families, including those who are self-employed and aged, retired or physically handicapped persons.

  • Para. 2 states “It should be an objective of national policy to promote, within the framework of general housing policy, the construction of housing and related community facilities with a view to ensuring that adequate and decent housing accommodation and a suitable living environment are made available to all workers and their families. A degree of priority should be accorded to those whose needs are most urgent.”
  • Para. 4 states: “The aim should be that adequate and decent housing accommodation should not cost the worker more than a reasonable proportion of income, whether by way of rent for, or by way of payments towards the purchase of, such accommodation.”
  • Para. 19 states: “As a general principle, the competent authority should, in order to ensure structural safety and reasonable levels of decency, hygiene and comfort, establish minimum housing standards in the light of local conditions and take appropriate measures to enforce these standards.”

Under “suggestions concerning methods of application” the following is included:

  • Para. 7 states: “The housing standards […] should relate in particular to--
    (a) the minimum space per person or per family as expressed in terms of one or more of the following, due regard being had to the need for rooms of reasonable dimensions and proportions:

    (i) floor area;
    (ii) cubic volume; or
    (iii) size and number of rooms;
    (b) the supply of safe water in the workers' dwelling in such ample quantities as to provide for all personal and household uses;
    (c) adequate sewage and garbage disposal systems;
    (d) appropriate protection against heat, cold, damp, noise, fire, and disease-carrying animals, and, in particular, insects;
    (e) adequate sanitary and washing facilities, ventilation, cooking and storage facilities and natural and artificial lighting;
    (f) a minimum degree of privacy both--
    (i) as between individual persons within the household; and
    (ii) for the members of the household against undue disturbance by external factors; and
    (g) suitable separation of rooms devoted to living purposes from quarters for animals.”

  • Para. 8 states: “Where housing accommodation for single workers or workers separated from their families is collective, the competent authority should establish housing standards providing, as a minimum, for--
    (a) a separate bed for each worker;
    (b) separate accommodation of the sexes;
    (c) adequate supply of safe water;
    (d) adequate drainage and sanitary conveniences;
    (e) adequate ventilation and, where appropriate, heating; and
    (f) common dining rooms, canteens, rest and recreation rooms and health facilities, where not otherwise available in the community.”
  • Para. 22 states. “In the case of loans granted to workers to promote home ownership, adequate provision should be made to protect the worker against the loss of his financial equity in his house on account of unemployment, accident or other factors beyond his control, and in particular to protect his family against the loss of his financial equity in the event of his death.”
  • Para. 25 states: “Public authorities giving financial assistance to housing programmes should ensure that tenancy or ownership of such workers' houses should not be refused on grounds of race, religion, political opinion or trade union membership.
  • Para. 24 states: “In cases where public authorities provide direct financial assistance toward home ownership, the recipient should assume financial and other responsibilities with respect to such housing in so far as his capacity permits.”
  • Para. 25 states: “Public authorities giving financial assistance to housing programmes should ensure that tenancy or ownership of such workers' houses should not be refused on grounds of race, religion, political opinion or trade union membership.”

Guidelines of the World Health Organization

WHO Housing and Health Guidelines (2018)

The WHO Housing and Health Guidelines bring together the most recent evidence to provide practical recommendations to reduce the health burden due to unsafe and substandard housing. Based on a systematic review, the guidelines provide recommendations on:

Full text of the WHO Housing and Health Guidelines and its accompanying studies 

The right to Healthy Indoor Air (2000)

This WHO statement sets out nine principles related to the right to healthy indoor air, derived from fundamental principles in the fields of human rights, biomedical ethics and ecological sustainability.

  • Principle 1: Under the principle of the human right to health, everyone has the right to breathe healthy indoor air.
  • Principle 2: Under the principle of respect for autonomy (“self-determination”), everyone has the right to adequate information about potentially harmful exposures, and to be provided with effective means for controlling at least part of their indoor exposures.
  • Principle 3:  Under the principle of non-maleficence (“doing no harm”), no agent at a concentration that exposes any occupant to an unnecessary health risk should be introduced into indoor air.
  • Principle 4: Under the principle of beneficence (“doing good”), all individuals, groups and organizations associated with a building, whether private, public, or governmental, bear responsibility to advocate or work for acceptable air quality for the occupants.
  • Principle 5: Under the principle of social justice, the socioeconomic status of occupants should have no bearing on their access to healthy indoor air, but health status may determine special needs for some groups.
  • Principle 6: Under the principle of accountability, all relevant organizations should establish explicit criteria for evaluating and assessing building air quality and its impact on the health of the population and on the environment.
  • Principle 7: Under the precautionary principle, where there is a risk of harmful indoor air exposure, the presence of uncertainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent such exposure.
  • Principle 8: Under the “polluter pays” principle, the polluter is accountable for any harm to health and/or welfare resulting from unhealthy indoor air exposure(s). In addition, the polluter is responsible for mitigation and remediation.
  • Principle 9: Under the principle of sustainability, health and environmental concerns cannot be separated, and the provision of healthy indoor air should not compromise global or local ecological integrity, or the rights of future generations. 

Full text with commentary.

Guiding Principles and Guidelines

GUIDING PRINCIPLES ON INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT (1998)

The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement restate and compile human rights and humanitarian law relevant to internally displaced persons. Read more…    

Para. 1 states: “These Guiding Principles address the specific needs of internally displaced persons worldwide. They identify rights and guarantees relevant to the protection of persons from forced displacement and to their protection and assistance during displacement as well as during return or resettlement and reintegration.”
Para 2 states: “For the purposes of these Principles, internally displaced persons are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.”

Principle 5
All authorities and international actors shall respect and ensure respect for their obligations under international law, including human rights and humanitarian law, in all circumstances, so as to prevent and avoid conditions that might lead to displacement of persons.

Principle 6
1. Every human being shall have the right to be protected against being arbitrarily displaced from his or her home or place of habitual residence.
2. The prohibition of arbitrary displacement includes displacement:
(a) When it is based on policies of apartheid, “ethnic cleansing” or similar practices aimed at/or resulting in altering the ethnic, religious or racial composition of the affected population; (b) In situations of armed conflict, unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand; (c) In cases of large-scale development projects, which are not justified by compelling and overriding public interests; (d) In cases of disasters, unless the safety and health of those affected requires their evacuation; and (e) When it is used as a collective punishment.
3. Displacement shall last no longer than required by the circumstances.

Principle 7
1. Prior to any decision requiring the displacement of persons, the authorities concerned shall ensure that all feasible alternatives are explored in order to avoid displacement altogether. Where no alternatives exist, all measures shall be taken to minimize displacement and its adverse effects.
2. The authorities undertaking such displacement shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to the displaced persons, that such displacements are effected in satisfactory conditions of safety, nutrition, health and hygiene, and that members of the same family are not separated.
3. If displacement occurs in situations other than during the emergency stages of armed conflicts and disasters, the following guarantees shall be complied with: (a) A specific decision shall be taken by a State authority empowered by law to order such measures; (b) Adequate measures shall be taken to guarantee to those to be displaced full information on the reasons and procedures for their displacement and, where applicable, on compensation and relocation; (c) The free and informed consent of those to be displaced shall be sought; (d) The authorities concerned shall endeavour to involve those affected, particularly women, in the planning and management of their relocation; (e) Law enforcement measures, where required, shall be carried out by competent legal authorities; and (f) The right to an effective remedy, including the review of such decisions by appropriate judicial authorities, shall be respected.

Principle 8
Displacement shall not be carried out in a manner that violates the rights to life, dignity, liberty and security of those affected.

Principle 9
States are under a particular obligation to protect against the displacement of indigenous peoples, minorities, peasants, pastoralists and other groups with a special dependency on and attachment to their lands.

Principle 14
1. Every internally displaced person has the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his or her residence.
2. In particular, internally displaced persons have the right to move freely in and out of camps or other settlements.

Principle 15
Internally displaced persons have: (a) The right to seek safety in another part of the country; (b) The right to leave their country; (c) The right to seek asylum in another country; and (d) The right to be protected against forcible return to or resettlement in any place where their life, safety, liberty and/or health would be at risk.

Principle 17
1. Every human being has the right to respect of his or her family life.
2. To give effect to this right for internally displaced persons, family members who wish to remain together shall be allowed to do so.
3. Families which are separated by displacement should be reunited as quickly as possible. All appropriate steps shall be taken to expedite the reunion of such families, particularly when children are involved. The responsible authorities shall facilitate inquiries made by family members and encourage and cooperate with the work of humanitarian organizations engaged in the task of family reunification.
4. Members of internally displaced families whose personal liberty has been restricted by internment or confinement in camps shall have the right to remain together.

Principle 18
1. All internally displaced persons have the right to an adequate standard of living.
2. At the minimum, regardless of the circumstances, and without discrimination, competent authorities shall provide internally displaced persons with and ensure safe access to: (a) Essential food and potable water; (b) Basic shelter and housing; (c) Appropriate clothing; and (d) Essential medical services and sanitation.
3. Special efforts should be made to ensure the full participation of women in the planning and distribution of these basic supplies.

Principle 21
1. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of property and possessions.
2. The property and possessions of internally displaced persons shall in all circumstances be protected, in particular, against the following acts: (a) Pillage; (b) Direct or indiscriminate attacks or other acts of violence; (c) Being used to shield military operations or objectives; (d) Being made the object of reprisal; and (e) Being destroyed or appropriated as a form of collective punishment.
3. Property and possessions left behind by internally displaced persons should be protected against destruction and arbitrary and illegal appropriation, occupation or use.

Principle 28
1. Competent authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to establish conditions, as well as provide the means, which allow internally displaced persons to return voluntarily, in safety and with dignity, to their homes or places of habitual residence, or to resettle voluntarily in another part of the country. Such authorities shall endeavour to facilitate the reintegration of returned or resettled internally displaced persons.
2. Special efforts should be made to ensure the full participation of internally displaced persons in the planning and management of their return or resettlement and reintegration.

Principle 29
1. Internally displaced persons who have returned to their homes or places of habitual residence or who have resettled in another part of the country shall not be discriminated against as a result of their having been displaced. They shall have the right to participate fully and equally in public affairs at all levels and have equal access to public services.
2. Competent authorities have the duty and responsibility to assist returned and/or resettled internally displaced persons to recover, to the extent possible, their property and possessions which they left behind or were dispossessed of upon their displacement. When recovery of such property and possessions is not possible, competent authorities shall provide or assist these persons in obtaining appropriate compensation or another form of just reparation.

Principle 30
All authorities concerned shall grant and facilitate for international humanitarian organizations and other appropriate actors, in the exercise of their respective mandates, rapid and unimpeded access to internally displaced persons to assist in their return or resettlement and reintegration.

PRINCIPLES ON HOUSING AND PROPERTY RESTITUTION FOR REFUGEES AND DISPLACED PERSONS (PINHEIRO PRINCIPLES) (2005)

1. Scope and Application

 1.1 The Principles on housing and property restitution for refugees and displaced persons articulated herein are designed to assist all relevant actors, national and international, in addressing the legal and technical issues surrounding housing, land and property restitution in situations where displacement has led to persons being arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived of their former homes, lands, properties or places of habitual residence.
1.2 The Principles on housing and property restitution for refugees and displaced persons apply equally to all refugees, internally displaced persons and to other similarly situated displaced persons who fled across national borders but who may not meet the legal definition of refugee (hereinafter “refugees and displaced persons”) who were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived of their former homes, lands, properties or places of habitual residence, regardless of the nature or circumstances by which displacement originally occurred.

2. The right to housing and property restitution
2.1 All refugees and displaced persons have the right to have restored to them any housing, land and/or property of which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived, or to be compensated for any housing, land and/or property that is factually impossible to restore as determined by an independent, impartial tribunal.
2.2 States shall demonstrably prioritize the right to restitution as the preferred remedy for displacement and as a key element of restorative justice. The right to restitution exists as a distinct right, and is prejudiced neither by the actual return nor non-return of refugees and displaced persons entitled to housing, land and property restitution

3. The right to non-discrimination
3.1 Everyone has the right to be protected from discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
3.2 States shall ensure that de facto and de jure discrimination on the above grounds is prohibited and that all persons, including refugees and displaced persons, are considered equal before the law.

4. The right to equality between men and women
4.1 States shall ensure the equal right of men and women, and the equal right of boys and girls, to housing, land and property restitution. States shall ensure the equal right of men and women, and the equal right of boys and girls, inter alia, to voluntary return in safety and dignity, legal security of tenure, property ownership, equal access to inheritance, as well as the use, control of and access to housing, land and property.
4.2 States should ensure that housing, land and property restitution programmes, policies and practices recognize the joint ownership rights of both male and female heads of the household as an explicit component of the restitution process, and that restitution
4.3 States shall ensure that housing, land and property restitution programmes, policies and practices do not disadvantage women and girls. States should adopt positive measures to ensure gender equality in this regard.

5. The right to be protected from displacement
5.1 Everyone has the right to be protected against being arbitrarily displaced from his or her home, land or place of habitual residence.
5.2 States should incorporate protections against displacement into domestic legislation, consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law and related standards, and should extend these protections to everyone within their legal jurisdiction or effective control.
5.3 States shall prohibit forced eviction, demolition of houses and destruction of agricultural areas and the arbitrary confiscation or expropriation of land as a punitive measure or as a means or method of war.
5.4 States shall take steps to ensure that no one is subjected to displacement by either State or non-State actors. States shall also ensure that individuals, corporations, and other entities within their legal jurisdiction or effective control refrain from carrying out or otherwise participating in displacement.

6. The right to privacy and respect for the home
6.1 Everyone has the right to be protected against arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy and his or her home.
6.2 States shall ensure that everyone is provided with safeguards of due process against arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy and his or her home. programmes, policies and practices reflect a gender-sensitive approach.

7. The right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions
7.1 Everyone has the right to the peaceful enjoyment of his or her possessions.
7.2 States shall only subordinate the use and enjoyment of possessions in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law. Whenever possible, the “interest of society” should be read restrictively, so as to mean only a temporary or limited interference with the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions.

8. The right to adequate housing
8.1 Everyone has the right to adequate housing.
8.2 States should adopt positive measures aimed at alleviating the situation of refugees and displaced persons living in inadequate housing.

9. The right to freedom of movement
9.1 Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and the right to choose his or her residence. No one shall be arbitrarily or unlawfully forced to remain within a certain territory, area or region. Similarly, no one shall be arbitrarily or unlawfully forced to leave a certain territory, area or region.
9.2 States shall ensure that freedom of movement and the right to choose one’s residence are not subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law and related standards.

10. The right to voluntary return in safety and dignity
10.1 All refugees and displaced persons have the right to return voluntarily to their former homes, lands or places of habitual residence, in safety and dignity. Voluntary return in safety and dignity must be based on a free, informed, individual choice. Refugees and displaced persons should be provided with complete, objective, up-to-date, and accurate information, including on physical, material and legal safety issues in countries or places of origin.
10.2 States shall allow refugees and displaced persons who wish to return voluntarily to their former homes, lands or places of habitual residence to do so. This right cannot be abridged under conditions of State succession, nor can it be subject to arbitrary or unlawful time limitations.
10.3 Refugees and displaced persons shall not be forced, or otherwise coerced, either directly or indirectly, to return to their former homes, lands or places of habitual residence. Refugees and displaced persons should be able to effectively pursue durable solutions to displacement other than return, if they so wish, without prejudicing their right to the restitution of their housing, land and property.
10.4 States should, when necessary, request from other States or international organizations the financial and/or technical assistance required to facilitate the effective voluntary return, in safety and dignity, of refugees and displaced persons.

11. Compatibility with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law and related standards
11.1 States should ensure that all housing, land and property restitution procedures, institutions, mechanisms and legal frameworks are fully compatible with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law and related standards, and that the right to voluntary return in safety and dignity is recognized therein.

12. National procedures, institutions and mechanisms
12.1 States should establish and support equitable, timely, independent, transparent and non-discriminatory procedures, institutions and mechanisms to assess and enforce housing, land and property restitution claims. In cases where existing procedures, institutions and mechanisms can effectively address these issues, adequate financial, human and other resources should be made available to facilitate restitution in a just and timely manner.
12.2 States should ensure that housing, land and property restitution procedures, institutions and mechanisms are age and gender sensitive, and recognize the equal rights of men and women, as well as the equal rights of boys and girls, and reflect the overarching principle of the “best interests of the child”.
12.3 States should take all appropriate administrative, legislative and judicial measures to support and facilitate the housing, land and property restitution process. States should provide all relevant agencies with adequate financial, human and other resources to successfully complete their work in a just and timely manner.
12.4 States should establish guidelines that ensure the effectiveness of all relevant housing, land and property restitution procedures, institutions and mechanisms, including guidelines pertaining to institutional organization, staff training and caseloads, investigation and complaints procedures, verification of property ownership or other rights of possession, as well as decision-making, enforcement and appeals mechanisms. States may integrate alternative or informal dispute resolution mechanisms into these processes, insofar as all such mechanisms act in accordance with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law and related standards, including the right to be protected from discrimination.
12.5 Where there has been a general breakdown in the rule of law, or where States are unable to implement the procedures, institutions and mechanisms necessary to facilitate the housing, land and property restitution process in a just and timely manner, States should request the technical assistance and cooperation of relevant international agencies in order to establish provisional regimes for providing refugees and displaced persons with the procedures, institutions and mechanisms necessary to ensure effective restitution remedies.
12.6 States should include housing, land and property restitution procedures, institutions and mechanisms in peace agreements and voluntary repatriation agreements. Peace agreements should include specific undertakings by the parties to appropriately address any housing, land and property issues that require remedies under international law or threaten to undermine the peace process if left unaddressed, while demonstrably prioritizing the right to restitution as the preferred remedy in this regard.

13. Accessibility of restitution claims procedures
13.1 Everyone who has been arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived of housing, land and/or property should be able to submit a claim for restitution and/or compensation to an independent and impartial body, to have a determination made on their claim and to receive notice of such determination. States should not establish any preconditions for filing a restitution claim.
13.2 States should ensure that all aspects of the restitution claims process, including appeals procedures, are just, timely, accessible, free of charge, and are age and gender sensitive. States should adopt positive measures to ensure that women are able to participate on a fully equal basis in this process.
13.3 States should ensure that separated and unaccompanied children are able to participate and are fully represented in the restitution claims process, and that any decision in relation to the restitution claim of separated and unaccompanied children is in compliance with the overarching principle of the “best interests of the child”.
13.4 States should ensure that the restitution claims process is accessible for refugees and other displaced persons regardless of their place of residence during the period of displacement, including in countries of origin, countries of asylum or countries to which they have fled. States should ensure that all affected persons are made aware of the restitution claims process, and that information about this process is made readily available, including in countries of origin, countries of asylum or countries to which they have fled.
13.5 States should seek to establish restitution claims-processing centres and offices throughout affected areas where potential claimants currently reside. In order to facilitate the greatest access to those affected, it should be possible to submit restitution claims by post or by proxy, as well as in person. States should also consider establishing mobile units in order to ensure accessibility to all potential claimants. 13.6 States should ensure that users of housing, land and/or property, including tenants, have the right to participate in the restitution claims process, including through the filing of collective restitution claims. 13.7 States should develop restitution claims forms that are simple and easy to understand and use and make them available in the main language or languages of the groups affected. Competent assistance should be made available to help persons complete and file any necessary restitution claims forms, and such assistance should be provided in a manner that is age and gender sensitive.
13.8 Where restitution claims forms cannot be sufficiently simplified owing to the complexities inherent in the claims process, States should engage qualified persons to interview potential claimants in confidence, and in a manner that is age and gender sensitive, in order to solicit the necessary information and complete the restitution claims forms on their behalf.
13.9 States should establish a clear time period for filing restitution claims. This information should be widely disseminated and should be sufficiently long to ensure that all those affected have an adequate opportunity to file a restitution claim, bearing in mind the number of potential claimants, potential difficulties of collecting information and access, the extent of displacement, the accessibility of the process for potentially disadvantaged groups and vulnerable individuals, and the political situation in the country or region of origin.
13.10 States should ensure that persons needing special assistance, including illiterate and disabled persons, are provided with such assistance in order to ensure that they are not denied access to the restitution claims process.
13.11 States should ensure that adequate legal aid is provided, if possible free of charge, to those seeking to make a restitution claim. While legal aid may be provided by either governmental or non-governmental sources (whether national or international), such legal aid should meet adequate standards of quality, non-discrimination, fairness and impartiality so as not to prejudice the restitution claims process.
13.12 States should ensure that no one is persecuted or punished for making a restitution claim.

14. Adequate consultation and participation in decision-making
14.1 States and other involved international and national actors should ensure that voluntary repatriation and housing, land and property restitution programmes are carried out with adequate consultation and participation with the affected persons, groups and communities.
14.2 States and other involved international and national actors should, in particular, ensure that women, indigenous peoples, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, the disabled and children are adequately represented and included in restitution decision-making processes, and have the appropriate means and information to participate effectively. The needs of vulnerable individuals including the elderly, single female heads of households, separated and unaccompanied children, and the disabled should be given particular attention.

15. Housing, land and property records and documentation
15.1 States should establish or re-establish national multipurpose cadastral or other appropriate systems for the registration of housing, land and property rights as an integral component of any restitution programme, respecting the rights of refugees and displaced persons when doing so.
15.2 States should ensure that any judicial, quasi-judicial, administrative or customary pronouncement regarding the rightful ownership of, or rights to, housing, land and/or property is accompanied by measures to ensure registration or demarcation of that housing, land and/or property as is necessary to ensure legal security of tenure. These determinations shall comply with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law and related standards, including the right to be protected from discrimination.
15.3 States should ensure, where appropriate, that registration systems record and/or recognize the rights of possession of traditional and indigenous communities to collective lands.
15.4 States and other responsible authorities or institutions should ensure that existing registration systems are not destroyed in times of conflict or post-conflict. Measures to prevent the destruction of housing, land and property records could include protection in situ or, if necessary, short-term removal to a safe location or custody. If removed, the records should be returned as soon as possible after the end of hostilities. States and other responsible authorities may also consider establishing procedures for copying records (including in digital format), transferring them securely and recognizing the authenticity of said copies.
15.5 States and other responsible authorities or institutions should provide, at the request of a claimant or his or her proxy, copies of any documentary evidence in their possession required to make and/or support a restitution claim. Such documentary evidence should be provided free of charge, or for a minimal fee.
15.6 States and other responsible authorities or institutions conducting the registration of refugees or displaced persons should endeavour to collect information relevant to facilitating the restitution process, for example by including in the registration form questions regarding the location and status of the individual refugee’s or displaced person’s former home, land, property or place of habitual residence. Such information should be sought whenever information is gathered from refugees and displaced persons, including at the time of flight.
15.7 States may, in situations of mass displacement where little documentary evidence exists as to ownership or rights of possession, adopt the conclusive presumption that persons fleeing their homes during a given period marked by violence or disaster have done so for reasons related to violence or disaster and are therefore entitled to housing, land and property restitution. In such cases, administrative and judicial authorities may independently establish the facts related to undocumented restitution claims.
15.8 States shall not recognize as valid any housing, land and/or property transaction, including any transfer that was made under duress, or which was otherwise coerced or forced, either directly or indirectly, or which was carried out contrary to international human rights standards.

16. The rights of tenants and other non-owners
16.1 States should ensure that the rights of tenants, social-occupancy rights holders and other legitimate occupants or users of housing, land and property are recognized within restitution programmes. To the maximum extent possible, States should ensure that such persons are able to return to and repossess and use their housing, land and property in a similar manner to those possessing formal ownership rights.

17. Secondary occupants
17.1 States should ensure that secondary occupants are protected against arbitrary or unlawful forced eviction. States shall ensure, in cases where evictions of such occupants are deemed justifiable and unavoidable for the purposes of housing, land and property restitution, that evictions are carried out in a manner that is compatible with international human rights law and standards, such that secondary occupants are afforded safeguards of due process, including an opportunity for genuine consultation, adequate and reasonable notice, and the provision of legal remedies, including opportunities for legal redress.
17.2 States should ensure that the safeguards of due process extended to secondary occupants do not prejudice the rights of legitimate owners, tenants and other rights holders to repossess the housing, land and property in question in a just and timely manner.
17.3 In cases where evictions of secondary occupants are justifiable and unavoidable, States should take positive measures to protect those who do not have the means to access any other adequate housing other than that which they are currently occupying from homelessness and other violations of their right to adequate housing. States should undertake to identify and provide alternative housing and/or land for such occupants, including on a temporary basis, as a means of facilitating the timely restitution of refugee and displaced persons’ housing, land and property. Lack of such alternatives, however, should not unnecessarily delay the implementation and enforcement of decisions by relevant bodies regarding housing, land and property restitution.
17.4 In cases where housing, land and property has been sold by secondary occupants to third parties acting in good faith, States may consider establishing mechanisms to provide compensation to injured third parties. The egregiousness of the underlying displacement, however, may arguably give rise to constructive notice of the illegality of purchasing abandoned property, pre-empting the formation of bona fide property interests in such cases.

18. Legislative measures
18.1 States should ensure that the right of refugees and displaced persons to housing, land and property restitution is recognized as an essential component of the rule of law. States should ensure the right to housing, land and property restitution through all necessary legislative means, including through the adoption, amendment, reform, or repeal of relevant laws, regulations and/or practices. States should develop a legal framework for protecting the right to housing, land and property restitution which is clear, consistent and, where necessary, consolidated in a single law.
18.2 States should ensure that all relevant laws clearly delineate every person and/or affected group that is legally entitled to the restitution of their housing, land and property, most notably refugees and displaced persons. Subsidiary claimants should similarly be recognized, including resident family members at the time of displacement, spouses, domestic partners, dependents, legal heirs and others who should be entitled to claim on the same basis as primary claimants.
18.3 States should ensure that national legislation related to housing, land and property restitution is internally consistent, as well as compatible with pre-existing relevant agreements, such as peace agreements and voluntary repatriation agreements, so long as these agreements are themselves compatible with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law and related standards.

19. Prohibition of arbitrary and discriminatory laws
19.1 States should neither adopt nor apply laws that prejudice the restitution process, in particular through arbitrary, discriminatory, or otherwise unjust abandonment laws or statutes of limitations.
19.2 States should take immediate steps to repeal unjust or arbitrary laws and laws that otherwise have a discriminatory effect on the enjoyment of the right to housing, land and property restitution, and should ensure remedies for those wrongfully harmed by the prior application of such laws.
19.3 States should ensure that all national policies related to the right to housing, land and property restitution fully guarantee the rights of women and girls to be protected from discrimination and to equality in both law and practice.

20. Enforcement of restitution decisions and judgements
20.1 States should designate specific public agencies to be entrusted with enforcing housing, land and property restitution decisions and judgements.
20.2 States should ensure, through law and other appropriate means, that local and national authorities are legally obligated to respect, implement and enforce decisions and judgements made by relevant bodies regarding housing, land and property restitution.
20.3 States should adopt specific measures to prevent the public obstruction of enforcement of housing, land and property restitution decisions and judgements. Threats or attacks against officials and agencies carrying out restitution programmes should be fully investigated and prosecuted.
20.4 States should adopt specific measures to prevent the destruction or looting of contested or abandoned housing, land and property. In order to minimize destruction and looting, States should develop procedures to inventory the contents of claimed housing, land and property within the context of housing, land and property restitution programmes.
20.5 States should implement public information campaigns aimed at informing secondary occupants and other relevant parties of their rights and of the legal consequences of non-compliance with housing, land and property restitution decisions and judgements, including failing to vacate occupied housing, land and property voluntarily and damaging and/or looting of occupied housing, land and property.

21. Compensation
21.1 All refugees and displaced persons have the right to full and effective compensation as an integral component of the restitution process. Compensation may be monetary or in kind. States shall, in order to comply with the principle of restorative justice, ensure that the remedy of compensation is only used when the remedy of restitution is not factually possible, or when the injured party knowingly and voluntarily accepts compensation in lieu of restitution, or when the terms of a negotiated peace settlement provide for a combination of restitution and compensation.
21.2 States should ensure, as a rule, that restitution is only deemed factually impossible in exceptional circumstances, namely when housing, land and/or property is destroyed or when it no longer exists, as determined by an independent, impartial tribunal. Even under such circumstances the holder of the housing, land and/or property right should have the option to repair or rebuild whenever possible. In some situations, a combination of compensation and restitution may be the most appropriate remedy and form of restorative justice.

22. Responsibility of the international community
22.1 The international community should promote and protect the right to housing, land and property restitution, as well as the right to voluntary return in safety and dignity.
22.2 International financial, trade, development and other related institutions and agencies, including member or donor States that have voting rights within such bodies, should take fully into account the prohibition against unlawful or arbitrary displacement and, in particular, the prohibition under international human rights law and related standards on the practice of forced evictions.
22.3 International organizations should work with national Governments and share expertise on the development of national housing, land and property restitution policies and programmes and help ensure their compatibility with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law and related standards. International organizations should also support the monitoring of their implementation.
22.4 International organizations, including the United Nations, should strive to ensure that peace agreements and voluntary repatriation agreements contain provisions related to housing, land and property restitution, including through the establishment of national procedures, institutions, mechanisms and legal frameworks.
22.5 International peace operations, in pursuing their overall mandate, should help to maintain a secure and stable environment wherein appropriate housing, land and property restitution policies and programmes may be successfully implemented and enforced.
22.6 International peace operations, depending on the mission context, should be requested to support the protection of the right to housing, land and property restitution, including through the enforcement of restitution decisions and judgements. Members of the Security Council should consider including this role in the mandate of peace operations.
22.7 International organizations and peace operations should avoid occupying, renting or purchasing housing, land and property over which the rights holder does not currently have access or control, and should require that their staff do the same. Similarly, international organizations and peace operations should ensure that bodies or processes under their control or supervision do not obstruct, directly or indirectly, the restitution of housing, land and property.

23. Interpretation
23.1 The Principles on housing and property restitution for refugees and displaced persons shall not be interpreted as limiting, altering or otherwise prejudicing the rights recognized under international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law and related standards, or rights consistent with these laws and standards as recognized under national law.

BASIC PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES ON DEVELOPMENT-BASED EVICTIONS AND DISPLACEMENT (2007)

These guidelines aim to assist States in developing policies and legislation to prevent forced evictions at the domestic level. They specify human rights obligations of States

  • before,
  • during and
  • after an eviction
  • remedies for forced evictions
    • compensation
    • restitution and return
    • resettlement and rehabilitation
  • monitoring, evaluation and follow-up
  • obligations of international organizations

GUIDING PRINCIPLES ON EXTREME POVERTY AND HUMAN RIGHTS (2012)
adopted by the Human Rights Council resolution 21/11

III. Foundational principles

B. Equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons living in extreme poverty

[…]
22. Positive measures must be taken to ensure de facto equality of persons living in poverty. Such measures should include legislative, executive, administrative, budgetary and regulatory instruments and specific policies, programmes and affirmative action in povertysensitive areas such as employment, housing, food, social security, water and sanitation, health, education, culture and participation in public life. […]

D. Rights of the child

33. States must ensure that all children have equal access to basic services, including within the household. At a minimum, children are entitled to a package of basic social services that includes high-quality health care, adequate food, housing, safe drinking water and sanitation and primary education, so that they can grow to their full potential, free of disease, malnutrition, illiteracy and other deprivations. […]

V. Specific rights

A. Right to life and physical integrity

63. Persons living in poverty are often exposed to both institutional and individual risks of violence and threats to their physical integrity from State agents and private actors, causing them to live in constant fear and insecurity. […] Moreover, poverty is a cause of preventable death, ill-health, high mortality rates and low life expectancy, not only through greater exposure to violence but also material deprivation and its consequences, such as lack of food, safe water and sanitation.

64: States should: […]

(b) Develop specific strategies and systems to tackle gender-based violence perpetrated against persons living in poverty, including by providing shelter for women victims of domestic violence;

(c) Take all possible measures, to the maximum of their available resources, to ensure that persons living in poverty have access to at least the minimum essential food that is nutritionally adequate and safe, basic shelter, housing and sanitation, and an adequate supply of safe drinking water, so as to prevent diseases and other harmful consequences of material deprivations, including malnutrition, epidemics and maternal and infant mortality.

B. Rights to liberty and security of the person

65. Various structural and social factors, including discrimination, cause persons living in poverty to come into contact with the criminal justice system with a disproportionately high frequency. They also encounter considerable obstacles in exiting the system. Consequently, disproportionately high numbers of the poorest and most excluded persons are arrested, detained and imprisoned. […]  Fines imposed on persons living in poverty have a disproportionate impact on them, worsen their situation and perpetuate the vicious circle of poverty. Homeless persons in particular are frequently subject to restrictions on their freedom of movement and criminalized for using public space.

66. States should:
(a) Assess and address any disproportionate effect of criminal sanctions and incarceration proceedings on persons living in poverty;
(b) Ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, bail processes take into account the economic and societal circumstances of persons living in poverty;
(c) Repeal or reform any laws that criminalize life-sustaining activities in public places, such as sleeping, begging, eating or performing personal hygiene activities;
(d) Review sanctions procedures that require the payment of disproportionate fines by persons living in poverty, especially those related to begging, use of public space and welfare fraud, and consider abolishing prison sentences for non-payment of fines for those unable to pay […]

E. Right to privacy and to protection for home and family

71. Persons living in poverty are more likely to be subject to attacks on their privacy and reputation by State and non-State actors. Such intrusions may be caused by overcrowded housing conditions or the excessive intervention of law enforcement or social services. For example, children from families living in poverty are at greater risk of being removed by the authorities and placed in institutional care.

72. States should:
(a) Revise legal and administrative frameworks to protect persons living in poverty from inappropriate intrusion into their privacy by the authorities. Surveillance policies, welfare conditionalities and other administrative requirements must be reviewed to ensure that they do not impose a disproportionate burden on those living in poverty or invade their privacy;
(b) Ensure that financial and material poverty is never the sole justification for removing a child from parental care or for preventing his or her reintegration. In line with the obligation to protect the best interests of the child in any child protection proceedings, efforts should be directed primarily towards enabling the child to remain in or return to the care of his or her parents, including by tackling the material deprivation of the family; […]

H. Rights to water and sanitation

77. Persons living in poverty are disproportionately affected by limited access to water and adequate sanitation. Unsafe water and lack of access to sanitation are a primary cause of diarrhoeal diseases linked to high levels of child and infant mortality among families living in poverty and restrict the enjoyment of many other rights, including those to health, education, work and privacy, thereby seriously undermining the possibilities of escaping poverty. […]

78. States should:
(a) Ensure that persons living in poverty have access to at least the minimum essential amount of water that is sufficient and safe for personal and domestic uses (including drinking, personal sanitation, laundry, food preparation and personal and household hygiene) and sanitation that is gender-sensitive, safe, physically accessible and affordable;
(b) In the context of informal settlements, lift legal barriers related to land tenure to allow inhabitants to obtain a formal and official connection to water and sanitation services. No household should be denied the rights to water and sanitation on the grounds of its housing or land status;
(c) Ensure access to water and sanitation for homeless persons, and refrain from criminalizing sanitation activities, including washing, urinating and defecating in public places, where there are no adequate sanitation services available;
(d) Implement measures to ensure that persons living in poverty are not charged higher rates for water services owing to consumption levels;
(e) Organize large-scale public information campaigns on hygiene through channels accessible to persons living in poverty.

I. Right to adequate housing, security of tenure and prohibition of forced eviction

79. Persons living in poverty often live in inadequate housing conditions, including in slums and informal settlements, with limited or no access to basic services. Overcrowding, insecurity and disproportionate exposure to natural disasters or environmental hazards commonly threaten the life or health of persons living in poverty. Many lack security of tenure and live in constant fear of evictions and expropriation, without the means of upholding their rights in courts. Discrimination in access to housing, lack of affordable housing and speculation in housing and land, in addition to violations perpetrated by private actors, including landlords, real estate agents and financial companies, contribute to the increased vulnerability of persons living in poverty and push them further into destitution or homelessness. Under these circumstances, women in particular experience multiple forms of discrimination and are exposed to abuse and violence.

80. States should:
(a) Accord priority to the eradication of homelessness through a national strategy, while allocating sufficient resources to the provision of adequate transitional shelter to all homeless persons;
(b) Adopt laws protecting all individuals, groups and communities, including those living in poverty, against forced eviction by State and non-State actors. This should include preventive measures to avoid and/or eliminate the underlying causes of forced evictions, such as speculation in land and real estate;
(c) Accord priority to individuals and communities living in poverty in housing and land allocation, especially where access to work and services is available. Such allocation must be done in a gender-sensitive manner, ensuring that men and women benefit equally from such schemes;
(d) Take immediate measures aimed at conferring legal security of tenure for persons and households living in poverty who lack such protection, including those who do not have recognized titles to home and land and those living in informal settlements;
(e) Ensure that women’s equal rights to land or tenure are recognized and enforced;
(f) Ensure adequate public expenditure on affordable housing and promote policies and programmes that enable access to affordable housing for persons living in poverty. Such policies and programmes should accord priority to the most disadvantaged groups and may include housing finance programmes, slum upgrading, titling and regularization of informal settlements, and/or State subsidies for rent or credit for housing.
(g) Accord priority to improvements in infrastructure and services in areas inhabited by persons living in poverty, including all-weather roads, safe drinking water, waste and sewage disposal and sanitation facilities, health-care and education facilities and electricity;
(h) Design and implement disaster risk reduction policies and programmes related to housing with due regard to the rights of persons living in poverty. Post-disaster rehabilitation efforts should include measures to strengthen tenure security for those with insecure status and accord priority to housing reconstruction and the provision of alternate housing, such as social or public housing, for the most disadvantaged groups. […]

GUIDING PRINCIPLES ON SECURITY OF TENURE FOR THE URBAN POOR (2014)

These Guiding principles give guidance on existing human rights standards as they pertain to housing and land tenure.  They cover the following topics:

  • Strengthening diverse tenure forms
  • Improving security of tenure
  • Prioritizing in situ solutions
  • Promoting the social function of property
  • Combating discrimination on the basis of tenure
  • Promoting women’s security of tenure
  • Respecting security of tenure in business activities
  • Strengthening security of tenure in development cooperation
  • Empowering the urban poor and holding States accountable
  • Ensuring access to justice

Read more

GUIDELINES FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION ON THE RIGHT TO ADEQUATE HOUSING (2020)

These Guidelines outline key elements for States, local Governments and others that are needed for the effective implementation of the right to housing.

Guideline No. 1. Guarantee the right to housing as a fundamental human right linked to dignity and the right to life
Guideline No. 2. Take immediate steps to ensure the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing in compliance with the standard of reasonableness.
Guideline No. 3. Ensure meaningful participation in the design, implementation and monitoring of housing policies and decisions
Guideline No. 4. Implement comprehensive strategies for the realization of the right to housing
Guideline No. 5. Eliminate homelessness in the shortest possible time and stop the criminalization of persons living in homelessness
Guideline No. 6. Prohibit forced evictions and prevent evictions whenever possible
Guideline No. 7. Upgrade informal settlements incorporating a human rights-based approach
Guideline No. 8. Address discrimination and ensure equality
Guideline No. 9. Ensure gender equality in housing and land
Guideline No. 10. Ensure the right to adequate housing for migrants and internally displaced persons
Guideline No. 11. Ensure the capacity and accountability of local and regional governments for the realization of the right to adequate housing
Guideline No. 12. Ensure the regulation of businesses in a manner consistent with State obligations and address the financialization of housing
Guideline No. 13. Ensure that the right to housing informs and is responsive to climate change and address the effects of the climate crisis on the right to housing
Guideline No. 14. Engage in international cooperation to ensure the realization of the right to adequate housing
Guideline No. 15. Ensure effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms
Guideline No. 16. Ensure access to justice for all aspects of the right to housing

Read more