Better cities, better life

Don’t deny one billion people’s rights

Without warning bulldozers and police entered the Dey Krahorm community in Phnom Penh early in the morning on Saturday January 24 January 2009 © Nicolas Axelrod© Nicolas Axelrod

Every year on the first Monday of October, the world is asked to respect World Habitat Day and reflect on the state of our towns and cities. The UN has set the theme for this year as ‘Better City, Better Life’. For the one billion people who live in slums and informal settlements, this hope can only be realized if governments stop denying them their human rights.

From Europe to Africa, Amnesty International has documented how governments violate the right to adequate housing and carry out forced evictions of people living in slums and informal settlements, driving them deeper into poverty. Forced evictions often result in people losing not just their homes, but also their possessions, their social networks, and their access to work and services.

People living in such marginalized and impoverished communities, in both the richest and poorest countries of the world, talk of the same experiences of daily human rights violations.

Communities in Europe and Africa, separated by thousands of kilometres, have shared similar experiences of the threat of forced evictions, how they are not consulted on plans that affect their lives, how they have no remedies when their human rights are violated, how they do not benefit from the protection of laws and institutions that are available to others. They describe how they often struggle for access to the services they need – water, sanitation, education and health - to survive and live a life of dignity.

In late September, the UN concluded a summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at which world leaders reviewed the progress they had made in addressing various aspects of poverty. The MDG target on slums has ignored more than 90 per cent of those living in such communities over the past 10 years, as it only commits to improving the lives of a 100 million people living in slums. The plan of action that world leaders adopted ignored this growing challenge. It did not call on governments to end forced evictions and to set proper national targets for progress.

Don’t let governments off the hook. On this World Habitat Day, join us: remind governments that they cannot claim to address poverty or create better cities if they ignore 900 million of the billion people living in slums, and deny all of them their human rights.

Better Cities, Better Life? Take action to make it more than a slogan.

Amnesty International has launched a series of focused actions in the last year on Cambodia, Chad, Egypt, Italy, Kenya, Romania, Serbia, Zimbabwe, amongst other countries. It has also launched two regional campaigns on forced evictions in Europe and Africa.

For more on specific country examples, explore the evidence in this suitcase, or see:



Return to the Slums Evidence Suitcase

  Return to the Slums Evidence Suitcase



Explore the Rights Journey

Travel the world to find out about human rights and poverty. Learn about and take action on maternal mortality, human rights abuses in slums, the need for access to justice for those whose rights have been denied. Meet people and communities, listen to their stories, tell your own.