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Habitat II Conference                      [ Back to Habitat II ]

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IV Global Plan of Action

B. Adequate Shelter for All

4. Vulnerable groups and people with special needs

93. Vulnerability and disadvantage are often caused by marginalization in and exclusion from the socio-economic mainstream and decision-making processes and the lack of access on an equal basis to resources and opportunities. If vulnerability and disadvantage are to be reduced, there is a need to improve and ensure access by those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups to shelter, finance, infrastructure, basic social services, safety nets and decision-making processes within national and international enabling environments. It is understood that not all those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are vulnerable and disadvantaged at all times. Vulnerability and disadvantage are mainly caused by circumstances, rather than inherent characteristics. Recognizing that vulnerability and disadvantage are affected, inter alia, by conditions in the housing sector and the availability, enforcement and effectiveness of legal protection guaranteeing equal access to resources and opportunities, some members of certain groups are more likely to be vulnerable and experience disadvantage with regard to shelter and human settlements conditions. Those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are especially at risk when they have no security of tenure or where they lack basic services or face disproportionately adverse environmental and health impacts, or because they may be excluded, either inadvertently or deliberately, from the housing market and services.

94. Adequate shelter must be recognized as an important component of the particular care and assistance to which children and their families, as well as children living outside or without families, have a right. Special consideration must be given to the needs of children living in difficult circumstances.

95. Inadequate shelter or lack of shelter contributes to a loss of dignity, security and health in the lives of refugees, other displaced persons in need of international protection and internally displaced persons. There is a need to strengthen the support for the international protection of and assistance to refugees, especially refugee women and children, who are particularly vulnerable.


96. To remove barriers and eradicate discrimination in the provision of shelter, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, should:

(a) Review and revise legal, fiscal and regulatory frameworks that act as barriers within the shelter sectors;

(b) Support, through legislation, incentives and other means, where appropriate, organizations of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups so that they may promote their interests and become involved in local and national economic, social and political decision-making;

(c) Establish laws and regulations aimed at preventing discrimination and barriers and, where such laws and regulations already exist, ensure their enforcement;

(d) Work with private sector cooperatives, local communities and other interested parties to raise awareness of the need to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in housing transactions and the provision of services;

(e) Consider becoming parties to the relevant instruments of the United Nations system that, inter alia, deal with the specific and special needs of those belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and abiding by the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities;

(f) Promote systems of public transport that are affordable and accessible in order to make a wider range of housing and jobs available to vulnerable groups;

(g) Provide vulnerable and disadvantaged groups with access to information and with opportunities to participate in the local decision-making process on community and shelter issues that will affect them;

(h) Provide increased coverage of water supply and sanitation services to ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged groups have access to adequate quantities of safe water and to hygienic sanitation.

97. To provide for the shelter needs of those belonging to vulnerable groups, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, in cooperation with all interested parties, as appropriate, should:

(a) Provide, where appropriate, targeted and transparent subsidies, social services and various types of safety nets to the most vulnerable groups;

(b) Work with the private and non-profit sectors, community-based organizations and other actors to provide adequate shelter for people belonging to vulnerable groups, making special efforts to remove all physical constraints to the independent living of persons with disabilities and of older persons;

(c) Strive to provide special living facilities and shelter solutions for people belonging to vulnerable groups, as appropriate, such as shelters for women subjected to violence, or shared living arrangements for persons with mental or physical disabilities;

(d) Provide an environment that enables people belonging to vulnerable groups to participate in the social, economic and political life of their community and country.

98. To reduce vulnerability, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, should:

(a) Work with non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations to assist members of vulnerable groups to obtain secure tenure;

(b) Protect all people from and provide legal protection and redress for forced evictions that are contrary to the law, taking human rights into consideration; when evictions are unavoidable, ensure that, as appropriate, alternative suitable solutions are provided;

(c) Promote and support self-help housing programmes and initiatives;

(d) Promote, where appropriate, compliance with and enforcement of all health and environmental laws, especially in low-income areas with vulnerable groups;

(e) Facilitate actions aimed at, inter alia, ensuring legal security of tenure, capacity-building and improving access to credit, which, apart from subsidies and other financial instruments, can provide safety nets that reduce vulnerability;

(f) Pursue policies that will provide information to and consultation with vulnerable groups;

(g) Facilitate the availability of legal information and assistance to vulnerable groups;

(h) Promote the use of tools for disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness in order to reduce the vulnerability of populations to natural, man-made and technological disasters.

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