One of the pillars of sustainable development is the right to adequate housing and land. However some 1.6 billion people are currently living in sub-standard housing, 100 million are homeless, and around a quarter of the world’s population is estimated to be landless. In ‘developing’ countries the number of people living in slums is 828 million; all of them lack access to ‘improved’ water sources and adequate sanitation and live in distressed housing conditions without sufficient space or secure tenure. More than 60 million new slum dwellers have been added to the global urban population since 2000.
Civil society organizations and social movements worldwide are articulating the “right to the city,” promoting land as a human right and stressing the need to recapture the social function of property. These movements and campaigns provide the beginnings of the radical rethinking necessary to challenge the neo-liberal economic policies that have been institutionalized around the world.
The adoption and implementation of the human rights approach is essential if sustainable development is to become a reality for all, especially the world’s marginalized. Failure to embrace this approach will lead to more hunger, dispossession, homelessness, landlessness and environmental degradation across the globe. The impact of rights violations will be particularly severe for women, children, indigenous peoples, coastal communities, forest dwellers, small farmers, landless workers, and the urban poor.
Sustainable development and the indivisibility of human rights
The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 marked a significant moment in the history of international law and policy. It affirmed the progress made at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 and further established, through legal and moral commitments, the inextricable link between human beings and their environment and between nations and peoples. Using the framework of key principles such as sustainability, inter-generational equity, common but differentiated responsibility, polluter pays, and the precautionary principle, UNCED helped launch an international campaign to meet our responsibilities towards protecting not just the rights of the less fortunate and marginalized but also of future generations and the planet. (Read More)