Is housing a right or an aspiration?
Negotiators at the U.N. conference on urban problems agreed Friday to a compromise on that sensitive issue, saying governments have an obligation to help people find shelter but stopping short of requiring them to provide housing to every citizen.The agreement also accepts that the right to adequate housing is contained in a number of international human rights documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Negotiators from the United States, the European Union, the Vatican, Cuba and Mexico were among the mixed group of developed and developing nations that reached the accord. It will be submitted next week to the more than 130 countries attending the conference for final approval.
"This has no legal status. It has political status," said Thierry Rommel, acting head of the European Commission delegation. "What it means is pressure groups can put pressure on national governments to create conditions for adequate shelter."
The United States vehemently opposed any wording that would have allowed citizens to take the government to court for not providing housing. The European Union also opposed a legally enforceable right to housing. Many developing nations had pushed for it.
"We do not anticipate that we did anything that would bring any kind of judicial remedies," said Michael A. Stegman, assistant secretary with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Under the draft text, governments are required to create the necessary conditions to enable people to obtain adequate shelter by implementing 14 actions.
Those actions include providing effective protection against discrimination and supporting community-based, cooperative, nonprofit and owner-occupied housing programs.
"Governments have a duty to create those enabling conditions. It's same as a right to work," Rommel said.