What Good Is Habitat III?
Six months have passed since the adoption of the new Habitat Agenda commitments for the next 20 years as embodied in the adoption of the final version of the New Urban Agenda in October 2016. Meanwhile, the same government practices continue and have not reflected any intention to end forced evictions, displacement of hundreds of poor neighborhood families living in inadequate living conditions without access to basic services and secure tenure, land confiscation without the adoption of reparation principles or the empowerment of affected groups.
In these few months, the HIC-HLRN Violation Database has recorded 16 cases of grave violations ranging from forced eviction to confiscation, demolition and destruction of housing. Paradoxically, some of these violations took place in four States that hosted forums of the Habitat III process (Indonesia, Nigeria, the occupying State of Israel and France). It should be noted that all violations and crimes committed by the occupation and other non-State actors in the destruction of the habitat environment, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa region, have not been properly addressed either in the Habitat III process, or even in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. While these practices have resulted in the crisis of refugees and displaced persons, and to close the gap in ending the destruction caused by conflicts and wars in the ruination of human habitat.
We are reminded of the failure of states to uphold their commitments and obligations when we see the continued destruction and dispossession of the habitat of the Palestinians people. It is appropriate, therefore, that this 15th edition of Land Times appears on the Palestinian national Day of the Land (30 March).
In addition, urban areas have become the site of overlapping claims and interests to the benefit of financial and real estate institutions as a result of the depletion of land. This also has led to various forms of displacement, the perpetuation of acute social divisions and the deepening of suffering for the poor and the affected communities as a result of their marginalization and forced resettlement, thus impeding the achievement of the principle of comprehensive, secure, flexible and sustainable cities.
Practices that do not consider the right to adequate housing appear to continue despite the Habitat III process and the Sustainable Development Agenda. Such practices will only further isolate the poor and vulnerable groups from decent work and protection them from evictions and displacement, especially as the causes and consequences of housing financialization programs and the mortgage crisis persist. Those market-driven conditions and their recipe for cyclical crises are what compelled the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing to dedicate her most recent annual report to the problem of financialization as an obstacle to realization of the human right to adequate housing in March 2017.
In the context of those practices mentioned above, it should be recalled also that, already in the first UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I) the Vancouver Action Plan (1976), the international community recognized The ideologies of States are reflected in their human settlement policies” and warned that “These being powerful instruments for change, …must not be used to dispossess people from their homes and their land, or to entrench privilege and exploitation. The latest development of new global norms and their continued violation are found in the coverage of this issue of Land Times, keeping in mind that 40-year-old warning against policies of displacement and dispossession that remain a recipe for perpetual conflict.