Wednesday, December 5, 2007

City Government of Naga honoured with Housing Rights Protector Award for its exceptional commitment to the human right to adequate housing

MEDIA RELEASE

City Government of Naga honoured with Housing Rights Protector Award for its exceptional commitment to the human right to adequate housing

5 December 2007. The City Government of Naga, Philippines, has been awarded the 2007 Housing Rights Protector Award for its Kaantabay sa Kauswagan (Partners in Development) Programme, an initiative providing security of tenure and improved living conditions for thousands of its residents.

The Housing Rights Protector Award is presented annually by the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) to a government or other institution demonstrating an exceptional commitment to the protection and fulfilment of housing rights.

“COHRE commends the City Government of Naga for assisting over 6,000 families to obtain legal title to their land, thereby safeguarding them from the threat of forced eviction, and for improving the living conditions of 27 urban poor communities by providing and upgrading infrastructure,” said Jean du Plessis, COHRE’s Deputy Director. Du Plessis added, “COHRE is honoured to present the City Government of Naga with the 2007 Housing Rights Protector Award for its Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Programme, which clearly demonstrates that the human right to adequate housing can indeed be made a reality if the political will exists.”

Naga City, with a population of around 140,000, is centrally located in Bicol, a region comprising the southernmost portion of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Naga City was grappling with serious urban housing problems in the late 1980s with 25 percent of its population living as squatters or in slums. Most of the urban poor living in slums in Naga City did not have legal title to their land. Residents of these informal settlements lacked basic services such as access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, because previous local governments in Naga City ignored their responsibilities to provide basic infrastructure in these areas, due to their informal status.

The Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Programme’s mandate includes: providing low-cost homelots for urban poor residents; facilitating the transfer of land ownership from government and private owners to those who are currently occupying the land; providing legal assistance and support for the titling or regularisation of informal land allotments; and improving living conditions in informal land allotments through the provision of basic amenities such as clean drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities and other essential services to residents.

A total of 30 on-site and off-site development projects under the programme have assisted 6,046 households (20 percent of Naga City’s population) to obtain legal title, thereby providing them with security of tenure. Negotiations are ongoing to provide another 2,717 households (nine percent of Naga City’s population) with security of tenure in the near future. The Programme has also assisted more than 27 urban poor communities in Naga City to obtain better living conditions through the provision of basic services and infrastructure improvement.

COHRE’s Du Plessis, said, “The Naga City Government’s consultation with civil society and urban poor associations in the development and implementation of housing policies has produced effective remedies for thousands of inadequately housed people. The Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Programme’s success in implementing housing and poverty alleviation policies, anchored in the understanding that the participation of the urban poor is vital to sustainable development, is commendable.”

Du Plessis added, “COHRE praises the proactive initiatives undertaken by the City Government of Naga to effectively guarantee the protection and progressive realisation of the human right to adequate housing. Its efforts provide a powerful example that governments can implement practical policies to realise housing rights and that these are integral to fighting poverty.”

The 2007 Housing Rights Protector Award will be presented by COHRE to the Mayor of the Naga City Government, Jesse Robredo, at a ceremony in Geneva today.


COHRE 2007 Housing Rights Protector Award
Municipal Government of Naga City, Philippines

COHRE’s Housing Rights Protector Award is presented annually to a government or other institution demonstrating an exceptional commitment to the protection and fulfilment of housing rights. The Protector Award demonstrates that the human right to adequate housing can indeed be made a reality, if the political will exists.

The City Government of Naga, Philippines, has been selected as the 2007 Housing Rights Protector Award winner for its Kaantabay sa Kauswagan (Partners in Development) Programme, which is administered by its department, the Urban Poor Affairs Office (UPAO). This unique programme, which was established in 1989 under the leadership of Mayor Jesse Robriedo, aims to provide security of tenure to urban poor communities living on informal land allotments in Naga City, and to improve their living conditions through slum upgrading.

Naga City, with a population of around 140,000, is centrally located in Bicol, a region comprising the southernmost portion of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Naga City was grappling with serious urban housing problems in the late 1980s with 25 percent of its population living as squatters or in slums. Today, it has developed a reputation for being a centre for innovations in local governance. The Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Programme facilitated by the UPAO of the Naga City Government is a successful housing and poverty alleviation programme anchored in the understanding that the participation of the urban poor is vital to sustainable development.

The Programme has been successful in devising effective strategies to cushion the negative impacts of urbanisation. These strategies include various modes of land acquisition, such as direct purchase, land swapping, land sharing, community mortgage, and resettlement; creating a separate section in the lending arm of the local government to specifically cater to the needs of the urban poor; and developing a financing scheme anchored on internally-generated resources of the beneficiaries.

The Programme’s mandate includes: providing low-cost homelots for urban poor residents; facilitating transfer of land ownership from government and private owners to those who are currently occupying the land; providing legal assistance and support for the titling or regularisation of informal land allotments; and improving living conditions in informal land allotments through the provision of basic amenities such as clean drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities and other essential services to residents.

A total of 30 on-site and off-site development projects under the programme have assisted 6,046 households (20 percent of Naga City’s population) to obtain legal title, thereby providing them with security of tenure. Negotiations are ongoing to provide another 2,717 households (nine percent of of Naga City’s population) with security of tenure in the near future. The Programme has also assisted more than 27 urban poor communities in Naga City to obtain better living conditions through the provision of basic services and infrastructure improvement.

The Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Programme has been successful in institutionalising a tripartite mechanism that effectively brings together a) government agencies, b) urban poor associations and their allied NGOs, and c) private land owners to solve standing tenurial problems with finality.

The success of the Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Programme is anchored on the following strategies:

· The adoption of a “partner-beneficiary” perspective in dealing with clients - This approach sees the urban poor as both programme partner and beneficiary, compelling them to actively participate in every step of problem resolution.

· Role definition and specialisation – This is the recognition that NGOs have more expertise than governments in certain areas of community development. Thus, the Naga City Government relies on its NGO partner, the Community Organisation of the Philippines Enterprise (COPE) Foundation, to assist in community organising and the preparation of beneficiaries.

· A policy of dealing only with urban poor organisations and not individuals - This compels urban poor residents to take the initiative to organise themselves, thereby facilitating community organising.

· Strategy of focus – To maximize scarce resources, the Programme focuses exclusively on the urban poor sector in Naga City. The urban poor are identified on the basis of a single criterion; the lack of security of tenure. ###

For interviews with Jean du Plessis or additional information please contact COHRE’s Media Officer, Radhika Satkunanathan on +41-22-7341028, +61-400-899474 or media@cohre.org

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