Statement by Habitat for Humanity about the future of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme, UN-Habitat

ATLANTA (Sept. 5, 2017) As the United Nations considers reforms to its Human Settlement Programme, UN-Habitat, Habitat for Humanity International is calling on the body to recommit to its efforts to expand access to safe, adequate and affordable housing across the world.

“As flooding ravages cities from Houston to Niamey to Mumbai to Karachi, displacing millions from their homes, this is a vital time for the United Nations to refocus on its role in addressing access to safe, adequate and affordable housing across the globe,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International.

Habitat for Humanity’s global network has been a longstanding stakeholder and partner with the United Nations on addressing housing and urbanization issues. As detailed in Paragraphs 172 and 173 of the New Urban Agenda, member states requested the secretary-general to submit an evidence-based and independent assessment of UN-Habitat containing recommendations to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and oversight of UN-Habitat. Habitat for Humanity welcomes that assessment, the Report of the High Level Independent Panel to Assess and Enhance the Effectiveness of UN-Habitat.”

“Habitat for Humanity applauds the panel’s work and its overarching priority recommendation ‘to save, stabilize and then rapidly strengthen UN-Habitat to equip it for a renewed role based on the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda,’” Reckford said. “We are committed to engaging our global network in the ongoing dialogue with the secretary-general, member states, local governments, civil society and other stakeholders as we support the difficult and necessary task of improving, strengthening and enhancing the UN system’s role in addressing housing and sustainable urbanization.”

Habitat for Humanity specifically recommends:

  • The UN must continue and strengthen efforts to address adequate and affordable housing. The number of people living in slums continues to grow. Approximately 1.6 billion people around the world are being denied the basic human right of adequate shelter. The world’s ability to meet the housing needs of the global urban population is currently outpaced by the rate of urbanization.
  • The UN must continue and strengthen a focus on security of tenure. Residential land use occupies 65 to 75 percent of the surface area of cities, yet 1 billion people in cities around the world lack secure land rights. Secure land rights refer to the ability to use and control the use of land and helps define the relationship between people — as individuals or groups — and land. These rights bring with them the freedom to live without fear of eviction or property theft and can apply to a variety of formal and informal arrangements.
  • The UN must continue and strengthen a focus on support for community-based organizations. Communities know their needs and should be able to define their future. The UN must focus on the priorities of citizens and communities, especially for women, the poor and vulnerable groups, as well as the organizations supporting them. Beyond input, community organizations should be included in decision making processes and be formally part of implementing the New Urban Agenda.
  • The UN must take specific and measurable action to implement the New Urban Agenda. Read Habitat for Humanity’s report for the New Urban Agenda implementation.

Read more on Habitat for Humanity’s response to the panel report.

Background on Habitat for Humanity’s relationship with the United Nations

Habitat for Humanity has had a long-standing relationship with UN-Habitat. Both organizations were founded at the same time in 1976, and both care deeply about the issues around the growth of people living in slums and the approximately 1.6 billion people around the world lacking adequate housing. As noted in the assessment, a third of the urban population is estimated to live in slums and informal settlements, often without access to proper housing, infrastructure or services.

Habitat for Humanity engaged extensively in the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the lead up to the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016 with the adoption of the New Urban Agenda by over 150 member states. Habitat successfully advocated for inclusion of key provisions in the New Urban Agenda around the importance of housing, land and community-led development. We announced tangible commitments in Quito to help to promote sustainable cities, increasing security of tenure and catalyzing market development to implement the New Urban Agenda. And Habitat participated in stakeholder engagement platforms noted in the NUA—representing Civil Society Organizations in the World Urban Campaign, co-leading the CSO partner group in the General Assembly of Partners, and representing the urban cluster on the Global Land Tool Network Advisory Board.

About Habitat for Humanity

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in more than 1,300 communities throughout the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit