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Towards a popular Fund for the right to land and housing

The Americas Social Forum, 2004.

Today more than one billion people in the world do not have access to adequate housing due to the unequal distribution of resources, to armed conflicts and to the precariousness of land tenancy.

Before 2030 this number will have doubled despite the commitment of all the governments of the planet to improve the living conditions of 100 million inadequately housed people before the year 2020.

This objective which is part of the UN Millennium Development Goals (see MDG Goal 7, target 11), has been formulated without considering that the challenge is more than improving housing conditions of a part of the inadequately housed, it must also include socio-economic policies to diminish poverty and homelessness, which is now estimated to be 1700 million people in 2020 (source: UN-Habitat ).

Facing this situation the International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI) inaugurated the “Zero evictions!” campaign during the World Social Forum in Mumbai (January 2004) inciting new initiatives in Nairobi, the Dominican Republic, Peru, France, and Italy among others.These actions can only have a long-term impact if there are policies to convert external debt into Popular Funds to support the right to land tenancy and housing.

These funds must be financed with resources coming from the conversion of the external debt and managed by housing policies under the control of organisations of inhabitants with explicit mechanisms to guarantee the transparency.
The security of land tenure is a right recognised by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, ratified by 176 countries), by the UN-Habitat Agenda and Agenda 21. Through this covenant States are bound to take all appropriate measures to ensure that adequate and consensual alternative housing is available in the case where eviction are inevitable.
What is the reason for which governments do not fulfill their commitments?

There are already many instances (from Nairobi to Karachi to Lima to Santo Domingo) in which governments approve foreign investments for infrastructure without taking into account the impact on social housing and its inhabitants. It is said that these investments are essential for the payment of interests generated by external debt. In fact, this inhumane policy is generating a new social debt.

UN programmes, such as « Cities without Slums », of the Cities Alliance, will not have a significant impact because: 1) they do not challenge the central question of external debt and 2) they count on inadequate funds which are far from the 0.7% of the GDP that donating countries should comply with.