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COMMISSION ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS

Committee II resumed discussion of the right to housing, considering several proposals to resolve disagreements over its inclusion in Commission documents. The small working party chaired by Brazil presented a draft that takes note of the term 'right to adequate housing' in several Commission reports and states that the term should be understood as referring to the basic need for adequate shelter and the goal of Governments to help their populations meet that need. The phrase does not, in such documents, refer to an international human right. The draft also requires that the statement be appended to documents distributed outside the Commission. Brazil said the draft did not prejudice other decisions or activities of the Commission. He said at least two Member States are facing problems in their courts over judicial claims to the right to housing and that this should be considered.

The Netherlands objected to the working party's text, noting that it prejudges the Secretariat's review agreed to in a resolution Thursday. Supported by Sweden, the Holy See, France, and Senegal, he proposed an alternative to state that no consensus existed on the interpretation of the concept of the right to adequate housing.

The Philippines rejected the working party's text, noting that it would manacle the ability of member States to apply their own legal systems regarding the right to housing. It would preclude further consideration of other instruments on the right to adequate housing and would negate existing international instruments that many delegations believe include the human right to housing. The right does not mean a State is obliged to give property to citizens.

Cameroon opposed the draft. China said the document should be re-examined. Russia expressed frustration at the mess that resulted after three days of debate. Supported by Mexico, he said the document should indicate that there is no consensus on assessing the legal meaning of the right to housing or on the contents of the documents, and that this should be indicated in Commission documents.

Romania cannot accept the obligation to the right to housing. He supported either the working party draft or Russia's proposal. The US said the working party language is non-prejudicial and that the Committee cannot approve documents as if there is agreement. The Committee problems could jeopardize the substantive work programme.

After several hours of afternoon in-the-corridor consultations, the Chair proposed a non-paper stating that the Commission found no agreement on the existence and/or the legal status of the 'right to adequate housing.' He proposed that a note to that effect should be appended to documents distributed outside the Commission, that factual errors on this matter should be corrected and that the Commission's biennial work programme (HS/C/15/7) should be revised to reflect this. Mexico supported the Chair's non-paper.

The Philippines said delegates had debated the corrections submitted, but were now making a mockery of themselves. He said if others insisted, he would ask for a roll- call vote. Russia called for the vote, noting that a procedural motion takes precedence. A discussion of procedure ensued for the next hour.

China called for the decision not to be made, noting that this motion takes precedence. Norway noted that UN practice suggests that proposals from the Chair should be withdrawn in the absence of consensus. The Chair withdrew the non-paper, noting there was nothing on which to vote and nothing to be decided. Delegates planned to resume the discussion Saturday morning.

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