High Level Regional meeting in Preparation for Istanbul + 5
Hangzhou, China
20 - 22 October 2000


1. Introduction
The purpose of this paper is to provide participants of the Regional High-level meeting in preparation for Istanbul+5 being held at Hangzhou, China from 19-22 October 2000 information on Shelter in the Asia and Pacific region in order to review and appraise the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. The paper concentrates on the issues of security of tenure and the right to adequate housing in the light of the commitments made at Habitat II and the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. It first highlights what has been achieved and where the implementation of the Habitat Agenda has failed. It then seeks to assess at some more recent solutions and finally presents some ideas on what support will be needed to further the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.

2. The Commitments of the Habitat Agenda
Four years after the adoption of the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements and the Habitat Agenda, a large segment of Asia's population still lacks adequate shelter and sanitation, particularly in developing countries. Access to safe and healthy shelter and basic services was recognised as essential to a person's physical, psychological, social and economic well-being and should be a fundamental part of our urgent actions for the millions of people in the world without decent living conditions. The objective of the Habitat Agenda is to achieve adequate shelter for all, especially the deprived urban and rural poor, through an enabling approach to the development and improvement of shelter that is environmentally sound.

Recognising the global nature of these issues, the international community, at Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996 has decided that a concerted global approach could greatly enhance progress towards achieving these goals. Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, particularly in industrialised countries, environmental degradation, demographic changes, widespread and persistent poverty, and social and economic inequality can have local, cross-national and global impacts. The sooner communities, local governments and partnerships among the public, private and community sectors join efforts to create comprehensive, bold and innovative strategies for shelter and human settlements, the better the prospects will be for the safety, health and well-being of people and brighter the outlook for solutions to global environment and social problems.

The world community reaffirmed at Habitat II its commitment to the full and progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing, as provided for in international instruments. These commitments are to be implemented and promoted in a manner fully consistent with human rights standards. As we prepare to take stock of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda after five years at a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly some of the commitments should be recalled:

" We reaffirm our commitment to the full and progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing, as provided for in international instruments. In this context, we recognise an obligation by Governments to enable people to obtain shelter and to protect and improve dwellings and neighbourhoods. We commit ourselves to the goal of improving living and working conditions on an equitable and sustainable basis, so that everyone will have adequate shelter that is healthy, safe, secure, accessible and affordable and that includes basic services, facilities and amenities, and will enjoy freedom from discrimination in housing and legal security of tenure. We shall implement and promote this objective in a manner fully consistent with human rights standards. Among the goals set and to which governments committed themselves were inter alia:

3. What has been achieved?
So far only few reports on the implementation of the Agenda have been received from governments in the region. These mainly emphasise the actions taken by Governments. Some countries in the region regard the provision of shelter as an important component of their efforts in reducing/eradicating poverty, particularly in the sprawling slums and squatter settlements around the major cities. Some countries, such as China have been successful in addressing housing shortages and inadequate basic services, however, the economic crisis that struck much of East and South-east Asia in 1997 had a negative impact on the housing sector in this sub-region. On the other hand, the collapse of the building boom might have relieved some of the pressure on urban land.

Mr. Koffi Annan, Secretary General of United Nations in his Millennium Report to the General Assembly which refers to the main challenges humanity is made to face as we enter the 21st Century said,

c slums and squatter settlements are only partially caused by inherent resource scarcities. Also to blame are poorly functioning markets for property and land, unresponsive financial systems, failed policies, corruption and fundamental lack of political will. And yet these cities-within-cities are well springs of entrepreneurial energy that can be mobilised to provide welfare improvements for their inhabitants and for society at large."

Policy changes in the region have included the development and review of urban development and housing acts with the objective of promoting national housing and settlement policies that seek to facilitate the access of the poor to shelter and basic services. In some countries policy changes had to be made regarding allocation of land. These have included making idle government land available for housing purposes, in others inventories were undertaken in conjunction with departments of agriculture to determine what land was available for residential purpose. The revision of pieces of legislation such as donation tax and inheritance law to enable women to enjoy equal inheritance rights with men, particularly for land and property, has been completed in one country.

Among the major trends in the region is the shift of government policy towards an enabling role and more reliance on partnerships with the private sector as well as with NGOs and local community organisations. In many countries with national level organisations, self-reliance of well-organised communities is playing a growing role. This is particularly visible in the well-established democracies, while more centralised states tend to move towards more inclusive shelter policies more cautiously. Such policies tend to include various actors, but are mostly relying on the private sector to deliver shelter to all strata of the population.

Thailand's Urban Community Development Office (UCDO) is a good example for the adoption of community development as national policy. Set up in 1992 under the National Housing Authority, it has supported urban communities through savings and loan schemes for income generation and slum upgrading. It has proved so successful that it has recently been enlarged to include rural community development. With such support Thai urban poor communities have, in the past decade, consolidated their organisations firstly through resisting evictions and more recently through strengthening savings and credit groups, federating them and creating networks of urban poor organisations in various regions, and around issues and common circumstances. With these changes and the changing political context within the country and the Government, Thai communities are today creating their own development path, negotiating partnerships with government and leading the way to improvement in their political and economic condition.

The Kampung Improvement Programme in Indonesia is one of the successful examples of low-income housing improvement in Asia, which has reached an estimated 15 million people. The programme was a combined effort of local and national governments implemented with the participation of communities. More recently Indonesia has also successfully adopted the community based approach to provision of housing to low income communities which has now been incorporated in the national housing policies in Indonesia.

It is now well recognised that security of tenure is a key ingredient to meaningful slum upgrading and urban poverty eradication strategies. Though the issue of providing secure tenure is a very complex one, some countries have tried to address the issue. In India, the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act of 1976 which has now been repealed in the year 2000 sought to bring large vacant private land holdings under public ownership or control. However, the increased demands that public ownership place upon the state have invariably proved greater than the ability to develop and allocate lands according to needs, so that a substantial proportion of urban populations were forced into the very unauthorised settlements that the policy was intended to prevent. Currently in India Draft National slum policy is being debated which proposes (a) grant of tenurial rights to all residents on tenable sites owned or acquired by government, (b) full property rights on resettlement sites, and (c) facilitating tenure on privately owned lands on which tenable slum settlements exist by acquiring those lands through negotiated settlements. The Draft Policy has also proposes other forms of tenure which include group tenure, collective tenure, co-operative tenure and other forms of innovative forms of tenure.

The World Bank's Draft Urban Strategy Paper (2000) emphasises the need for stronger property rights in real estate markets and `secure and clear' tenure in upgrading projects. Further, tenure security and property rights are listed as among the most important factors influencing housing demand and it is argued that insecure tenure leads to under-investment in housing and to reduced housing quality. Earlier, the Bank's Housing Policy Paper of 1993 argued for upgrading systems of land titling and regularising tenure in squatter settlements in the case of low- income countries. The form of tenure proposed, as a long-term objective, was individual freehold titles or private ownership, though it was accepted that other forms of title, which could be upgraded to full freehold title over time, may also be appropriate. Secure individual property rights are considered to be critical in establishing a structure of economic incentives for investment in land-based activities. The objectives of encouraging systems of individual titles or regularising insecure tenure are (1) encouraging investment in housing construction and improvements, (2) improving access to formal channels of credit, (3) widening the property tax revenue base of local authorities, (4) enable urban development authorities to increase their influence over land and housing markets, and (5) improve the efficiency and the equity characteristics of such markets.

At the international level, UNCHS (Habitat) has taken the lead in a global campaign for secure tenure. This campaign has put a number of key issues on the agenda.

The main message of the campaign is that "only by recognising the permanence and the citizenship of the urban poor do we have the conditions for providing shelter for all and for sustainable development." The global campaign, which was launched in Mumbai, India, in July 2000, does not argue for any particular type of tenure freehold, rental, leasehold or any other which is a choice for local conditions. What is recognised is the firmness of the certainty of that security. Only when people are sure that they are not going to be evicted that they put in their time, their energy and their resources into building shelter and improving their own conditions. In so doing they improve the conditions for everyone in that city. This remains the key agenda for the immediate future.

Another achievement at the international level is the decision of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, holding its annual session in Geneva in 1999 (?), to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Housing Rights for a period of three years. The new Rapporteur will be responsible for promoting and reporting on housing rights as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The Rapporteur will also assist Governments in their efforts to secure housing rights.

4. Where have we failed in the implementation?
Public sector attempts to provide new housing for low-income groups in most developing countries have not met with much success except in Singapore, where its Housing Development Board operates possibly the largest public housing programme in the capitalist world in terms of the proportion of the population living in public housing. Sometimes the locations chosen have been inappropriate, but more often building regulations and high construction costs have priced the target populations out of the market. In most developing economies formal building regulations are largely unrealistic, mandating oversized plots and rights-of-way and setting standards for infrastructure and building materials that result in structures low-income households cannot afford. The result of this shortage is a proliferation of privately developed and spontaneous settlements in many cities throughout the developing world. Over half the urban population in Karachi lives in such settlements, which are known there as katchi abadis. Slums and squatter settlements in many large cities are growing in size and in share of urban population, a testament to policy and institutional failures of land, housing and infrastructure systems to generate adequate supply even where people have demonstrated a strong willingness to pay.

In countries where governments have supported private land ownership systems, high costs, reinforced by inappropriate regulatory frameworks, forced many lower income households into unauthorised settlements. The resulting insecurity has been compounded by the requirement from mainstream financial institutions for title deeds as collateral for loans. This has restricted access by the poor to formal credit and the opportunity to improve their housing conditions.

Despite a long tradition of public participation in shelter development processes in some countries, Sri Lanka's Million Houses Programme and Thailand's Urban Community Development Office come to mind, widening these participatory processes and mechanisms by involving more stakeholders and promoting sustainability still remains a challenge.

There are nearly 2000 slum communities scattered throughout Bangkok providing homes to about 20% of the city's families (around 1.5 million people) writes Somsook Boonyabancha from Thailand and similar reports could come from most developing countries in the region. "Eviction is the greatest threat to most existing slum dwellers since it means an end to their former settlements which includes cheap affordable housing at a convenient location and a loss of an interdependent community lifestyle." The urban poor communities remain under the threat of eviction because of development projects. The Ban Krua community, facing eviction because of road construction, is a case in point. The community had fought off the threat for years, however, it has been renewed recently.

Communities under threat of eviction because of the Pasig River Redevelopment Project with the support of the Urban Poor Consortium (Philippines) held a forum, which was attended by the Mayor, the Housing Secretary, other government representatives and multi-national agencies involved in the project. As a result the communities were granted four months to develop and put forward an alternative proposal to the present scheme . Here at least is a sign of hope, which reflects the increased readiness of Governments in the region to cooperate with the NGOs and communities.

The instances were governments, central or local, recognise slum dwellers' rights to stay where they are unless an acceptable alternative can be found are still too few. Recognised as a basic human right, housing rights will create a climate where power relationships of slum upgrading will change fundamentally.

Slum improvement is neither technically very demanding, nor unduly expensive. So why isn't it happening at the required scale? Certainly, institutional capacity problems and inadequate policy guidelines for local, national and international stakeholders may delay the process, but it would seem to be equally apparent that many slums aren't being upgraded, because there isn't the political will to do so.

5. What needs to be done?
Perhaps the most important ingredient of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda is the provision of security of tenure. This does not necessarily mean land tenure, it also plays an important role for tenants in the residential neighbourhoods of the poor.

There are many examples of successful housing and slum upgrading projects in the past, from the Orangi Pilot Project in Pakistan to the Million Houses Programme of Sri Lanka, from the land sharing initiatives in Thailand to the pavement dwellers programme of SPARC in India, from the building together programmes in the Philippines to Kampung Improvement Projects in Indonesia. There have been successful resettlement schemes in India, in Thailand etc. These success stories have been documented and are available in Habitat's Best Practices Documentation.

The most successful experiences have one trace in common; they are all organised with direct involvement of the communities concerned. If well-organised communities are involved from the very beginning, are able to find solutions that meet their needs and have control over the development process, realistic solutions can be found. On the basis of this experience, the Habitat Agenda has laid so much emphasis on the development of partnerships between central and local authorities, private sector entities, NGOs and the local communities.

5.1 Equal Access to Land in Developing Countries
Cities in all countries are beginning to play an increasingly important role in the national economy, and the urban real estate markets reflect these socio-economic trends. Land issues are central to those of urban development. Cities are built on the basis of land markets, and evolve as these markets transform to provide space for commerce, manufacturing, residential uses. The evolving land markets reflect economic, social and political processes of change, as much as the legacy of administrative rules, instruments and social conventions.

The central problems of urban development are thus of land markets not responding to the needs and demands made by the poor. While land markets are developing, public agencies and the poor in most cities of the region are finding it increasingly difficult to get access to land. It is evident that the situation is not really the result of an absolute shortage of land, but rather because there are a variety of barriers that inhibit and constrict supply in the face of growing demand. Legal encumbrances, lengthy procedures, inappropriate institutional structures, skewed distribution, information barriers and resistance of land owners to part with land, are some of the factors that contribute significantly to this problem.

The poor are by far the worst affected in their search for a bit of urban space to live and make a livelihood. While the formal private market was never within their means and land in public projects being perpetually in short supply, at least earlier they were able to find their own solutions. However with the pressure on urban land, even informal land supply mechanisms are drying up or getting commercialised. It is seen that in every way low-income families are being driven to more and more precarious positions in terms of location, site conditions, tenure, and at prices they can scarcely afford. This is likely to infringe on and seriously affect their livelihood and survival.

The question, therefore, is, how can access to land by the poor be increased and sustained? Also, what is the nature of interventions needed to enable increased and sustained supply of land in a manner that provides equal opportunities for living and earning a livelihood? For this, it is clear that existing barriers to both supply and access need to be removed. At the same time, it is necessary to build into the overall city development process, viable and practical mechanisms for land supply that are appropriate for the poor.

In the existing, institutional mechanisms poor groups are seen as a residual part of the planning process - to be allocated a certain number of the developed plots. While this might be good to ensure accessibility from an administrative perspective, it is an incomplete perspective. In good neighbourhoods, the poor are one of the decision making groups from the initial stages of development - shaping the priorities of upgrading services and infrastructure, and the nature of local regulations. These processes allow the poor to participate on the basis of their comparative advantage - that of numbers and group organisation, rather than monetary strength.

5.2 Forming a range of financial alliances
A critical bottleneck however remains in the provision of housing finance. Access to credit remains limited for the poor. Community savings and credit schemes rarely have the level of funding needed to extend housing loans on the required scale. New ways need to be found to link these credit providers to the larger capital market. One example of how the gap can be bridged is described below.

Homeless International entered into discussions to support a relocation scheme in 1997 and began negotiations with Citibank, which had already entered into a support partnership with SPARC as part of the bank's corporate responsibility activities. The initial proposal to finance the scheme was based on a model that reduced the financial risk to Citibank by incorporating an assured sale of at least six apartments into the early stages of the project financing. As negotiations proceeded Citibank suggested that a standard guarantee arrangement, with Homeless International taking the top slice of the risk (i.e. the first 20%), would be simpler to arrange and could be agreed locally without a procedural requirement to refer to Citibank headquarters or to other agencies in India. A draft agreement was consequently drawn up and agreed in principle. Thus with a 20% guarantee, the local finance institution lends five times the value of the foreign exchange guarantee in local currency. The local co-operatives or community organisations are responsible for the loan repayment to Citibank. Although the final implementation had its difficulties, this provides an example of a creative response to the need of the poor to access finance for housing.

5.3 Planning for the poor
Use of Master Planning as an instrument of city restructuring has also priced and regulated the poor out of urban land in many developing countries. The conventional instruments of planning have only inflated illegality. The rich, fewer in number and in legal settlements, co-exist with the poor, much larger in numbers and in illegal settlements.

The public planning norms and standards have not recognised the poor and their needs, while the market has priced them out. This process has forced illegality, regularised it, and also capitalised on it. It has resulted in an urban situation where the majority of the population (the poorer groups) occupy a marginal per cent of the land.

Public policy has an important role with regard to the various aspects to land. In response to demands for location, public authorities can direct transport, infrastructure to not only open up new land as conventionally argued, but also `follow' the settlement process via regularisation and consequent upgrading. Entry costs can be lowered substantially if development standards are lowered and capital is attracted to these. Modifying approval procedures, and taxes can lower transaction costs, to make markets operate more efficiently. The promotion of a diversity of investment options in the various capital markets can help reducing land prices, minimising speculative investments and optimising the use of capital.

6. What support is needed?
UNCHS (Habitat) has successfully launched its Global Campaign on Secure Tenure in cooperation with the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and with the attendance of Central, State and Local Government. International recognition and support has proved to be strengthening those actors in the field of shelter and urban development, which have worked for and with the urban poor. An example is the Magsaysay Award for International Understanding and Government Service, which was bestowed on Jockin Amputham of the NSDF. Subsequently successful meetings were arranged with the Housing Secretary of the Philippines and President Estrada. As a result funding was immediately received for the Manila federations' urban poor development fund and promises of more for the funding in other cities.

The World Bank - UNCHS (Habitat) co-operation in the Cities Alliance is calling for a commitment towards a national slum improvement policy before it will engage at project level in a country. This is a powerful motivator for any country that wants to access World Bank and bilateral funding. To be effective, qualitative criteria for such policies and conditions that will ensure their implementation are needed in addition to the co-operation directed towards policy formulation.

The Secretary General of the United Nations noted in a recent article that a few decades ago, only the Governments of Member States participated in the international process while the role of non-governmental organisations was seen merely providing support and mobilising of public opinion in favour of the goals and values of the UN Charter. He wrote,

ctoday, the cultural gap between NGOs and the UN is rapidly and happily disappearing. If the global agenda is to be properly addressed, a true partnership between NGOs and the UN is not an option; it is a necessity".
Such a partnership has recently been initiated with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Slum Dwellers Federation of India and UNCHS (Habitat).

International NGOs in the field of human settlements in Asia, such as ACHR, HIC and EAROPH have co-operated closely with UNCHS (Habitat), however, even more important are the many local NGOs on the ground, operating in areas from protection against eviction to organising communities, from developing housing to providing basic services. They are not only influencing public information, but have also helped shaping public policy as can be seen in Thailand, where they strongly pushed for the creation of UCDO.

In the Asia-Pacific region ACHR is one of the important players, which provides strong support to local NGOs and communities. The objective is to develop and implement solutions and constructive, practical alternatives to the problem of forced evictions taking place throughout the region. At the same time it pursues a program to develop housing rights and the question of rights in general of the urban poor and activities to deal with regional eviction problems.

6.1 The need for advocacy: Declaration on secure tenure
Normative aspects of secure tenure are one of the basic foundations for the realisation of the Habitat Agenda's goal of adequate shelter for all. A rights-based approach to the Habitat Agenda covers issues such as women and land inheritance, slum upgrading and alternatives to forced evictions by developing a normative framework for security of tenure. At PrepCom 1 for Istanbul +5 a draft declaration "Towards a normative framework for security of tenure" was recognised as a sound and useful preliminary document, which still needed to be enhanced, for example by translating substantive elements into legal principles. Emphasis should be placed on civil society, particularly associations of community-based organisations and organisations directly representing the urban poor.

The issue of security of tenure concerns the very essence of human dignity. Without secure tenure, people were forced to live in conditions that were degrading and dehumanising. While technical, administrative and legal elements are crucial to secure tenure, one must not lose sight of the human condition. For that and other reasons, a rights-based approach to the provision of adequate shelter is promoted by Habitat's Global Campaign on Secure Tenure, which was launched at Mumbai in August this year.

National legislation and international legal instruments are important means to advance security of tenure. However, legal mechanisms alone will not work. National legislation and international instruments need to be supported by realistic, on-the-ground policy options and practical strategies. The application of such instruments, and the institutional and administrative capacity to implement them, are as important as their legal adoption.

Women's and men's equal access to secure forms of tenure entails the promotion of national legislative reform on cultural practices that discriminate against women's right to title and inheritance. Efforts to improve women's rights in that area require broad-based coalitions among parliamentarians, mayors and research institutions, as well as women's groups.

Local authorities have an important role in the process of securing tenure. Especially in the context of decentralisation, whereby local governments are increasingly responsible for land registration, slum upgrading and urban development. In order to fulfil these larger tasks, local authorities have to obtain the necessary resources and authority to undertake those new functions. An important area to strengthen local authorities remains systematic capacity building.

Secure tenure does not mean the granting of statutory freehold, as often posited as desirable. It may have negative consequences for the poor, when limited administrative capacity of local governments means that registering formal title can be extremely difficult and lengthy. In such cases only small select groups of the poor receive title, which could lead to a situation whereby downgrading would occur. Therefore, other options, such as intermediate, de facto forms of tenure, community land trusts, group title, certificates of use, etc. have to be explored and integrated into the legal system. By ensuring the security of those forms of tenure, local authorities and community-based organisations could together increase access of people living in poverty to urban citizenship, to basic services and to financial credits. Finally, the question of rental housing, which plays an equally important role in slums and squatter settlements, needs to be addressed.

In order to further the goal of `Adequate Shelter for All', a strategy of the Global Plan of Action was drawn up at Habitat II by the participating governments, the community and the private sector. Under this strategy, government efforts are based on establishing legislative, institutional and financial frameworks that will enable the private sector, NGOs and community groups to fully contribute to the achievement of adequate shelter for all and enable all women and men to work with each other and in their communities with governments at all levels, to determine their future collectively, decide on priorities for action, identify and allocate resources fairly and build partnerships to achieve common goals. What is needed is the implementation of these commitments to provide both shelter and basic infrastructure for the poor.