Guest Post by Chris Vincent, Government Relations and Advocacy, Habitat for Humanity
June 21, 2013
The Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015 and the release of a recent report by a United Nation’s advisory group has kicked off a lively discussion about the future of global development. The jury is still out if housing, slums and urbanization will get any attention from policy-makers.
On May 31st, a U.N. task team called the High Level Panel released its recommendations, including a set of illustrative goals for a post-2015 agenda. Generally, the report is strong and lays out a vision to end extreme poverty. However, from a housing perspective, the report has important elements, but falls short. Good options exist to tackle housing and urbanization issues along with cities and resilience.
The High Level Panel should be applauded for singling out the importance of secure land tenure by increasing the percentage of “women and men, communities and small businesses with secure rights to land, property and other assets.” Secure tenure, or freedom from the fear of eviction, is foundational to adequate housing. Other essential targets on water, sanitation, gender and financial services are also included in the framework.
While the High Level Panel allows that “cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost”, there is little of this trend reflected in their goals and targets. Estimates from the U.N. predict 3 billion people will be living in slums by 2050, a 200% increase from today’s levels. The U.N. officially states the current MDG target on slums has been achieved, but this “success” discounts that slum populations are increasing dramatically, especially in Africa. Despite this, the High Level Panel failed to include any target on slums in their report.
Additionally, the Panel calls to “build resilience and reduce deaths from natural disasters by x%.” This is a critical point for housing, but with little defining narrative, the target appears like it was tacked on at the 11th hour.
Overlooking housing, slums and urbanization was a major miss by the High Level Panel and should be addressed directly by the Open Working Group and Secretary General moving forward.
Fortunately, blueprints exist. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a U.N initiative formed in 2012 to mobilize scientific and technological knowledge for sustainable development, published its framework a week after the HLP report.
The SDSN calls for universal access to housing and dedicates one of their ten goals to “empower inclusive, productive, and resilient cities.” Targets within this goal expand employment, raise living standards, ensure universal access to the built environment and basic services, and integrate climate and disaster resilience into standards and investments. If this sounds ambitious, it’s because it should be. A target on slums and adequate housing would fit naturally under this frame in the Post-2015 agenda.
Additionally, the International Housing Coalition and Habitat for Humanity jointly developed a case for a universal target on shelter, highlighting the importance of universal access and offering creative ideas for measuring such a target and aligning with other priorities like water.
If housing and cities are to be included in any meaningful way in the Post-2015 agenda, the framework must build on the High Level Panel’s emphasis on secure tenure. Policy makers should think holistically about cities and resilience, and specific targets for housing and slums should be part of those broader goals.
For more information on the MDGs, check out Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford’s statement and Habitat and the IHC case for a universal shelter target. You can learn more about Habitat’s broader advocacy efforts here.