Quick Guide 04: Eviction: Alternatives to the destruction of urban poor communities

Despite decades of work by housing and human rights organizations, NGOs, multilateral insti- tutions and community organizations, the eviction of poor households and poor communities is increasing in African cities, causing displacement, misery and impoverishment for millions of urban citizens. The causes of these evictions are varied, but the underlying theme which links them is the increasing role market forces are playing in determining how urban land is used.

The vast majority of these evictions are unnecessary. This guide looks at the various causes of evictions, and their effects on the lives, livelihoods and housing choices of the urban poor. The distinction between different types of evictions is discussed and the legal context of eviction within the key international human rights covenants is examined.

The guide explores how communities facing eviction have organized themselves, and drawn on the support of community-based networks and institutions in Africa and globally to find alterna- tives to the destruction of their settlements. As the case studies in the guide show, poor com- munities are central, creative partners in the search for lasting solutions to their city’s problems of affordable land and housing – solutions which do not require that they be pushed out.

Finally, the guide presents guidelines to help governments and policy makers to develop better formal procedures to minimize evictions.

In Africa urbanization is happening faster than in any other region of the world. The combined forces of urbanization, globalization and commercialization of urban land are increasingly forc- ing the poor out of their houses and off their land. There are cases where evictions cannot be avoided, but even when evictions are “justified” by being carried out in the public interest, they usually do not conform to the rules of international law.

In sub-Saharan Africa an estimated 72% of the urban population live in slums, while in North Africa the figure is 28%. At the same time, across Africa hundreds of thousands of people each year are forcibly evicted, in many cases being left homeless, losing their possessions without compensation and/or being forcibly displaced far from sources of employment, livelihood or education, all in violation of international law, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.1

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