United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

UN-Habitat

UN-HABITAT Statement to CSD-17, 25 February 2009
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Madame Chairperson,
Let me begin by saying that UN-HABITAT is fully committed to the sustainable
development agenda and the CSD process.
We all know that access to land is essential for human shelter, food production and
other economic activities, both by businesses and natural resource users. More
importantly, we have learnt at UN-HABITAT that securing rights to land and
property encourages people to invest in improving both dwellings and the land itself.
They can also enable people to access public services and sources of credit.
In order to do these things it is UN-HABITAT?s view that is important to shift our
strategic focus from land ownership to security of tenure. Forced eviction, which is
increasingly sharply, is a dramatic consequence of insecurity of tenure. Evictions not
only cause personal suffering, destroy livelihoods and investments, but also reduce
available housing stocks just when they need to increase dramatically. We also know
that when evictions occur, the poor, weak, women and children and other vulnerable
groups suffer the most. Eviction often leads to the creation of new un-authorized
settlements elsewhere, only moving the problem from one location to another at
great social, economic, environmental, and occasionally political cost. We at UNHABITAT
believe that alternative solutions to forced evictions should be promoted.
We can assist governments to provide these alternatives.
We also know that in cities, peri-urban and rural areas, insecure tenure and informal
settlements combine with other factors ? unplanned, congested development, safety
concerns and social vulnerability ? to reduce public revenues, infrastructure
investment, employment and economic growth. We therefore believe that sustainable
development cannot take place in a context where the bulk of human settlements are
unplanned and populations are exposed to hazardous, unsanitary and insecure living
conditions.
At UN-HABITAT, we are documenting a range of land and property rights that can
also facilitate other rights and opportunities. These include the right to political
participation, access to basic services and to credit. We are pleased to report that
there is an increasing worldwide convergence of views that individual titling alone is
not delivering security of tenure for all. Governments are therefore encouraged to
investigate a menu of options to document land rights in their respective countries,
including drawing lessons from de facto rights. We now know that no single form of
tenure can meet the different needs of all social groups. It is clear that a range of land
tenure options can enable both women and men from all social groups to meet their
changing needs over time. Legal recognition for different forms of tenure can also
strengthen the development of dynamic land markets in highly populated areas. UNHABITAT?s
recent publication on ?Secure Land Rights for All? launched during
UN-HABITAT Statement to CSD-17, 25 February 2009
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CSD 16 explores a range of experiences and practices useful for policy-makers to
make secure land rights for all a reality in their respective countries.
A number of governments have, to varying degrees, recognised a range of land rights
including customary rights as legitimate. Also, some functional alternative systems to
document land rights and transactions have emerged. Still, most governments
continue to grapple with conflicting sets of tenure rules (and relevant institutions),
particularly in Africa and Asia. These tensions can be exacerbated by multiple layers
of legislation and fragmented institutional responsibilities for land allocation which
leads to widespread uncertainty, insecurity and disputes, consequently inhibiting
investment in land development and to reduced prospects for sustainable
urbanisation.
I thank you for your kind attention