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Most States have failed to keep promises made at 1996 Habitat forum: UN expert

Most States have failed to keep promises made at 1996 Habitat forum: UN expert

On the second day of the General Assembly's review of the five-year progress made in ensuring shelter for all, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing told reporters at a press conference that most States were reneging on the pledges they had collectively made at the landmark Habitat forum in Istanbul in 1996.

Miloon Kathari said that, in spite of reaffirmations of the right to adequate housing both within the UN human rights system and in national legislation, its implementation and realization were far from reality for the majority of the world's poor. He noted that the UN's Global Report on Human Settlements had given a "very grave picture" of the state of housing and living conditions across the world.

At the 1996 Second UN Conference on Human Settlements, also known as "Habitat II," Governments had given repeated recognition of housing as a distinct human right in the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda - the plan of action in which Governments reaffirmed their commitments to "full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing as provided for in international instruments."

However, Mr. Kathari said, "most States have failed to implement the Habitat Agenda and are in fact now backing away and giving up on the responsibilities that they had collectively assumed in Istanbul."

Elaborating on the type of housing that people were forced to live in, Mr. Kathari cited slums and squatter settlements, old buses, shipping containers, pavements, railway platforms, streets, road side embankments, cellars, staircases, rooftops, elevator enclosures, cages, cardboard boxes, plastic sheets, and tin shelters. Many of those forms of housing could be found in New York, the very city where "Istanbul + 5" was taking place, he said. "If we acknowledge this global reality and the assault on the dignity of people and entire communities, it is clear that only the human rights paradigm in general, and a housing and land rights approach in particular, can offer the radical and systemic solutions to this crisis."

The Special Rapporteur's comments to the press were made as the General Assembly special session - also known as "Istanbul + 5" - continued its deliberations. This morning's debate focused on the combination of successes and obstacles of individual countries, primarily in the developing world, in meeting the twin goals of the Habitat Agenda: adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development.

The dramatic urbanization of the world's population, and the pitfalls associated with its rapid pace, dominated the debate.