Human Rights and Security of Tenure
What is the Human Right to Security of Tenure?
100 million persons are homeless worldwide, and over 1 billion are inadequately housed. The problems of inadequate housing and homelessness are exacerbated by forced evictions, a practice routinely carried out in the absence of enforceable legal security of tenure. Housing and security of tenure are human rights issues! Reinforcing the right to secure, adequate housing are universal human rights standards defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, CEDAW, the International Covenants and other widely adhered to international human rights treaties and Declarations -- powerful tools that must be put to use in realizing the human right to secure, adequate housing!
The Human Rights at Issue
The human right to security of tenure includes:
- The human right to adequate housing.
- The human right to an adequate standard of living.
- The human right to security, including enforceable legal security of tenure.
- The human right to protection from forced evictions and the destruction and/or demolition of one's home including in situations of military occupation, international and civil armed conflict, establishment and construction of alien settlements, population transfer, development projects and international events.
- The human right to full equality between men and women.
- The human right to freedom from discrimination based on sex, race, or any other status.
- The human right to equal protection of the law and to judicial remedy in case of violation of the right to adequate housing.
- The human right to freedom of expression and of association.
- The human right to education and access to information.
- The human right to participate in public decision-making.
The human right to Security of Tenure is prerequisite to the full realization of the human right to adequate housing, which includes:
- The human right to choose one's residence, to determine where and how to live, and to freedom of movement.
- The human right to livelihood and land.
- The human right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
- The human right to a safe and healthy environment.
- The human right to access to resources, including energy for cooking, heating, and lighting.
- The human right of access to basic services, schools, transportation and employment options.
- The human right to freedom from arbitrary interference with one's privacy.
- The human right to affordability in housing so that other basic needs are not threatened or compromised.
Governments' Obligations to Ensuring the Human Right to Security of Tenure
What provisions of human rights law guarantee everyone the Human Right to Security of Tenure?
Includes excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- "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...."
- -- Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25
- "The States Parties ... 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...."
- --International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 11
- "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association .... All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law...."
- -- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 22 and 26
- "States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas ... to ensure ... the right ... to enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications...."
- --Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Article 14
- "States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination ... and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, ... in the enjoyment of ... the right to housing...."
- -- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Article 5
- "States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the childıs physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.... States Parties ... 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 ..., particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing."
- --Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 27
Governments' Commitments to Ensuring the Human Right to Security of Tenure
What commitments have governments made to ensuring the realization of the Human Right to Security of Tenure for all?
Includes commitments made at the Habitat II conference in Istanbul, and excerpts from the UN Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 1993/77.
- "We reaffirm our commitment to the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing .... We shall seek ... to ensure legal security of tenure, protection from discrimination and equal access to affordable, adequate housing for all persons and their families.... As we move into the twentyfirst century, we offer ... an exhortation to join ... [in] building together a world where everyone can live in a safe home with the promise of a decent life of dignity, good health, safety, happiness and hope."
- --Istanbul Declaration, paras. 8 and 15
- "We reaffirm our commitment to the ... realization of the right to adequate housing .... We recognize an obligation by Governments to enable people to obtain shelter .... We commit ourselves to the goal ...that everyone ... will enjoy freedom from discrimination in housing and legal security of tenure.... We ... commit ourselves to the objectives of ... Providing legal security of tenure and equal access to land to all people ....; Ensuring transparent, comprehensive and accessible systems in transferring land rights and legal security of tenure.... Special attention is given to all those, including women, who are at considerable risk because they lack security of tenure...."
- -- Habitat Agenda, paras. 39, 40 and 63
- "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.... It is ... one way of breaking the vicious circle of poverty....Governments ... should ... 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....To facilitate access to land and security of tenure for all socioeconomic groups, Governments ... should ... Adopt an enabling legal and regulatory framework ...specifying recognized types of land tenure and prescribing procedures for the regularization of tenure...; Promote measures to ensure that women have equal protection for the legal security of tenure of such land;..."
- -- Habitat Agenda, paras. 75 and 79
- "[The Commission on Human Rights] Affirms that the practice of forced evictions constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing;... urges Governments to confer legal security of tenure to all persons currently threatened with forced eviction and to adopt all necessary measures giving full protection against forced evictions...."
- -- UN Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 1993/77
For more information, please contact PDHRE
The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) / NY Office
Shulamith Koenig / Executive Director
526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025
tel: 212.749-3156; fax: 212.666-6325;