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UN to Lead a Global Movement for the Right to Housing

A guest blog in form of a plea by Marc Uhry

Brussels, 29 October 2015 | Social
From UN Headquarters- Photo: @adequatehousing
From UN Headquarters- Photo: @adequatehousing

Marc Uhry* has attended in New York the presentation by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing of her report to the UN General Assembly and follows up with a plea for a global movement for the Right to Housing. Ready to join?

On October 23rd in New York UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha together with Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, brought together -for the first time- the two former UN special rapporteurs before her, and a bunch of international stakeholders working for the right to housing: civil society (Habitat International Coalition, tenants from the US), public bodies (Cities Alliance), research (Institute on Global Homelessness), legal defenders and campaigners from the US and Canada, social rights global stakeholders, financial operators, local NGO’s, etc.

The aim was to launch a convergent and comprehensive process to achieve significant improvement concerning the right to housing, especially for people in most urgent need.

The UN special rapporteur should not only have the proper legitimacy and international echo to launch this process, but all kinds of support is required, too: there is a need for coordinated campaigners to raise awareness and change the views on housing exclusion through its different forms around the world; there is a need for coordinated lawyers to check the efficiency of “good policies” at the individual level and to challenge regressive orientations where they happen to exist. There is a need for good will from the side of the local and national public bodies to make measurable improvement towards a new paradigm in housing policies. There is a need for service providers, including private housing, social housing, the NGO sector, to make sure there is a sufficient offer and that it is adapted to the social needs. At the same time research has to focus in shedding light to the demand side, while also illustrating what kind of solutions work better. Finally, local communities and individuals can be the key changers.

Let us be “big on big things”: why not use international tools to make it possible, to stimulate good will? 

Financial investment tools, legal monitoring tools, training tools, local benchmarking tools, support to communities and individuals to facilitate raising the right to housing as a major political issue. No general statements, not just a bunch of good practices but measurable efforts that lead to measurable results.

European stakeholders have a key role to play regarding the development of housing policies and the right to housing in some European countries as well as regarding the experience of transnational cooperation. Among them, the social housing sector is particularly essential, because of its size and of its technical expertise in building, financing, managing dwellings and in training staff and tenants.

Of course, this is probably over-ambitious. There are so many challenges and counter-streams on the road. But the main barriers are the ones in our minds, our own collective laziness towards insufficient results. Aside of the ambitions, there is here a tempting invitation… Shall we manage to go beyond our usual nuances? Shall we accept to reenergize our goals beyond the comfortable acceptance of things as they are? Shall we work on a broader scale? Shall we merge our competences in a boiling, fragile but enthusiastic common bowl?

Yes we will. Because the situation of millions of people around the world, and the situation of millions of people in Europe, deserves a huge effort from us all. And because we will be proud to have managed to reactivate social progress. Together, through the right to housing, we will show that for most suffering members of our common humanity, tomorrow can-will- be again better than yesterday.

We rely on you, social housing friends. And from now on, let me better say: we rely on us, together.

* Marc Uhry is Coordinator for European Affairs at Fondation Abbé Pierre.

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