United Nations

IUT and the UN


Housing is a Human Right

The right to adequate housing (as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living) is enshrined in many international human rights instruments. Most notable among these are the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 25.1) and the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 11.1).

At the first UN Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver in 1976 a number of recommendations were adopted concerning housing and human settlements, land and urban planning, infrastructure, development of social services and civil participation. In 1988, a Global Strategy for Shelter up to the year 2000 was adopted, which established the right for all to an adequate shelter and the responsibility of all countries for guaranteeing the settlement of their citizens.

However, housing conditions have deteriorated in many parts of the world and today an estimated one fifth of the worlds population live without adequate shelter. For many, urban life implies unhealthy living with few opportunities to produce employment. Population growth and difficult living conditions in rural areas put further pressure on cities of the world. Considerable measures are needed to create sustainable housing for all.

To agree on such measures the UN General Assembly decided, in 1992, to convene a second World Conference on Human Settlements, Habitat II. The conference was part of an increasing recognition among the human rights community regarding the right to adequate housing. Many governments also adopted or revised housing policies to include various dimensions of human rights. The Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in 1996 harnessed this momentum. Th conference took place in Istanbul on June 3-14, 1996. Representatives from 171 states assembled, together with some 8550 registered participants from Non Governmental Organisations. This resulted in The Habitat Agenda, which you can read more about here, and The Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements.

Twenty years after Istanbul and Habitat II, the UN organised Habitat III, in Quito Ecuador, October 17-20, 2016. The Habitat III conference was concluding with the adaptation of a New Urban Agenda, the outcome document agreed upon by the governments. IUT, as an NGO with consultative status, has provided input to the New Urban Agenda.

The New Urban Agenda draws upon the Sustainable Development Goals and aims to set a new global standard for sustainable urban development, and rethink how we plan, manage and live in cities. The New Urban Agenda is the UNs roadmap for building cities that can serve as engines of prosperity and centres of cultural and social well-being while protecting the environment.

World Habitat Day


The UN World Habitat Day is observed every year on the first Monday of October. For more information, please visist the official webpage. On the same day, by initiative of the IUT, we also celebrate the International Tenants Day.

Earlier themes:

  • 2019: Frontier Technologies as an innovative Tool to Transform Waste into Wealth
  • 2018: Municipal Solid Waste Management
  • 2017 : Housing Policies: Affordable Homes
  • 2016: Housing at the Centre
  • 2015: Public Spaces for All’
  • 2013: Urban Mobility
  • 2012: Changing Cities, Building Opportunities
  • 2011: Cities and Climate Change
  • 2010: Better City – Better Life
  • 2009: Planning our urban future
  • 2008: Harmonious Cities
  • 2007: A Safe City is a Juste City
  • 2006: Cities, Magnets and Hope
  • 2005: Millenium Development Goals and the City
  • 2004: Cities – Engines of Rural Development
  • 2003: Water and Sanitation for Cities
  • 2002: City-to-city Cooperation
  • 2001: Cities without Slums

Reports and publications by the UN

Annual reports on housing

Communications issued by the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing from 2014 – Present

A policy Guide to Rental Housing in Developing Countries 2011

Rental Housing – An essential option for the urban poor in developing countries 2003


The World Urban Forum is an international forum dedicated to urban issues, organised by the United Nations.The most recent World Urban Forum was held in 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2012, the IUT participated and here are some of the presentations from the 6th World Urban Forum Naples, Italy, 1–7 September 2012. 

13 IUT Arguments for Rental Housing
By Magnus Hammar, 2012.

“Addressing the Neglect of Renting in Government Housing Agendas
By Alan Gilbert, 2012.

“Enabling the Housing Sector to Work
…providing rental housing opportunities as one of the fundamental goals of housing policies. By Claudio Acioly Jr, 2012.

“European Commission – Advocate or Opponent of Social Rental Housing
By Barbara Steenbergen, 2012.

“Investigating Rental Housing in Latin Ameriva and the Caribbean
By Andres Blanco, 2012.

“Rental Housing – A Public Policy Option in Mexico
By Clara Salazar and Gabriela Ponce.

“Tenants make Cities – Cities need Affordable Rental Housing!
IUT report from IUT networking event, 2012.

The Road to Tenure Nautral Policies
By Marja Elsinfa, 2012.

The State and Potential of Rental Housing in Latin America and the Caribbean
By Vicente Fretes Cibils, 2012.

The Tenth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10) will take place in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates in 2020. The official announcement has been made in March 2017 after the conclusion of the bidding process, which took place in 2016. WUF10 will be the first Forum to be held in the Arab region and it will be another opportunity to review the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

WUFs has been held in:

  • 2018 Kuala Lumpur
  • 2014 Medellin, Colombia
  • 2012, Neapels, Italy
  • 2010, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • 2008 Nanjing, China
  • 2006 Vancouver, Canada
  • 2004 Barcelona, Spain
  • 2002 Nairobi, Kenya

UN Charter on Sustainable Housing

The Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing is a non-legally binding document that aims to support member States as they seek to ensure access to decent, adequate, affordable and healthy housing for all. It was endorsed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on 16 April 2015.



Visit the UNECE site to learn more

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