Report on residents of informal settlements and the right to housing

19 September 2018
Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha
To the GA at its 73rd session


Outside view of a house in bad condition © SR on housingIn her 2018 report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing examines the issue of the right to housing for residents of informal settlements. States have committed under Goal 11 of the Agenda for Sustainable Development to upgrade all informal settlements and ensure adequate housing for all by 2030.

Currently nearly one quarter of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements or encampments, most in developing countries but increasingly also in the most affluent countries. Living conditions are shocking and intolerable. Residents often live without water and sanitation, and are in constant fear of eviction.

The living conditions in informal settlements are one of the most pervasive violations of human rights globally. It is thus a human rights imperative that informal settlements be upgraded to meet basic standards of human dignity. Recognizing this, and mobilizing all actors within a shared human rights paradigm, can make the 2030 upgrading agenda achievable.   

 Past approaches have been premised on the idea of eliminating “slums”, often resorting to evictions and relocating residents to remote locations on the outskirts of cities. This report proposes a very different, rights-based approach that builds upon informal settlement communities and their inherent capacities. It understands informality as resulting from systemic exclusion and advances a set of recommendations for supporting and enabling residents to become full participants in upgrading. The recommendations are based on international human rights obligations, particularly those flowing from the right to housing. They cover a number of areas, including:

  • the right to participation
  • access to justice
  • international cooperation
  • development assistance
  • environmental concerns
  • business and human rights

Related documents and publications

UN-Habitat: The Human Rights Approach to Housing and Slum Upgrading UN-Habitat: The Human Rights Approach to Housing and Slum Upgrading (2017)

This publication explains a human rights based approach to upgrading of informal settlements.

PDF: English


When elaborating her report, the Special Rapporteur invited Governments, UN agencies, development agencies, international financial institutions, National Human Rights Institutions, independent monitoring mechanisms, civil society organizations to share contributions and inputs on the basis of a questionnaire.

Questionnaire in English (word | pdf) | Français (word | pdf) | Español (word | pdf

Inputs received


International Organizations and International Development Banks

National Development Agencies and Local Governments

National Human Rights Institutions

Civil Society Organizations