The contradictions are becoming much more dramatic on day three of the World Urban Forum III in Vancouver. The forum, sponsored by UN Habitat – the United Nations’ Centre for Housing and Human Settlements – has drawn thousands of delegates from government and non-governmental organizations to Canada’s west coast for an intense week of housing and urban debate.
The contradictions come from the split between what the governments – and the United Nations – say, and what they do. It’s a split with which we are painfully familiar here in Canada.
Over the past 30 years since the first global summit on housing (which was also held in Vancouver), the international community has proclaimed a series of covenants, treaties, declarations and other legal instruments that set out the international right to housing. Some of these provide specific detail to guide countries.
Canada, in particular, has not only signed dozens of treaties and declarations, but the performance of our government has been reviewed by the UN. The most recent review was released in May of 2006 by the United Nations’ Economic, Social and Cultural Committee (you’ll find a copy in the “housing and homelessness” section of Wellesley’s public policy section of our web site). The United Nations found that Canada has failed to meet the commitments that it has made.
At the World Urban Forum, representatives of non-government housing groups from around the world have been delivering much the same message: Despite 30 years of progress in defining the international right to housing, governments are failing to honour their obligations.
The goal of NGOs at WUFIII is to try to bridge that gap and reconnect the promises to the urgent need for action.
– Michael Shapcott