Informal Consultations
Committee of the Whole
Thematic Committee
Parallel Events
Parallel Event

Peace for Homes, Homes for Peace:
Strategies for Promoting and Realizing Women's Right to Land and Property
Parallel event organized by
Friday, 8 June 2001


A. Introduction

1. Friday, 8 June 2001, 13.15- 15.15, Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium
2. Organized by UNIFEM/UNDP and UNCHS (Habitat)
3. The Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat) Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, in her opening statement, emphasized the importance of women's property rights particularly in situations of post-conflict reconstruction. She acknowledged the contributions of partners, including NGO networks, and called for an action strategy on the issue. She praised the collaborative work of UNIFEM with UNCHS (Habitat) on the question and proposed it be treated as one of great importance to the world community, on a par with efforts to date on violence against women.
4. 65 participants attended the event.

The heads of the two United Nations organizations involved in promoting the event - both women-have indicated their intention to highlight this question as one of great importance to the world community, on a par with efforts to date on violence against women.

B. Discussion

Co-Chair Flavia Pansieri, Deputy Executive Director of UNIFEM, stated that the objective of the discussion is to chart the way forward in promoting and realizing women's rights to land and property. This question came into high focus during the negotiations on the Declaration on Cities and other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, which came up with new language that goes beyond the commitments of Beijing and Istanbul.

The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Miloon Kothari, outlined the scope of his work programme in which women's property rights are central. He also mentioned the recent resolution 2001/34 of the UN Commission on Human Rights on Women's equal ownership of, access to and control over, land and the equal right to own property and to adequate housing.

Sylvie Lacroux of UNCHS (Habitat) then briefly summarized Habitat's activities for implementing it, through the Campaign for Secure Tenure. Professor Carmen Diana Deere of the University of Massachusetts presented the results of research on women's land and property rights in Latin America, which appear in a book already published, in Spanish and available in English in September 2001 from University of Pittsburgh Press.
Mirella Handan
of the Women for Peace Network and Norwegian People's Aid described her work in Bosnia Herzegovina, part of the global activities of the network, which earned a Habitat Scroll of Honour in 2000. What has proved effective is the work of women and women's organizations on the ground who bring about change through exchange and mutual learning Rose Makonkomeje, Vice-President of the Rwandan Commission on Unity and Reconciliation, described the severe problems of women in relation to proerty following the 1994 genocide and measures taken to alleviate the situation. These include legal and administrative actions, including villageization for security and structures such as gender desks to scrutinize development initiatives.
Dr. Erika Riemer-Noltenius described the Beginenhof initiative in Bremen, Germany, which creates community for single women of all ages, including single mothers, cutting across boundaries of age and wealth, so that women have access to community and a secure life, including secure tenure.
Prema Gopalan of SPARC, India and the Aasia Women and Shelter Network, described the findings of the recently concluded parallel event on engendering post-disaster reconstruction. It was found that grassroots women need recognition as key actors, to institutionalise their activities. These make great contribution, but need to be linked in to local government so that they inform policy, standard setting and help bring about positive social change.

There were five other observations or questions from the floor, which also contributed to the collective learning. In particular, questions of regional issues and campaigns were addressed. The African regional representative of UNDP committed to support for the Secure Tenure Campaign, specifically concerning women's land rights, and emphasized the importance of alliance building on this between UNIFEM, UNCHS (Habitat), and UNDP, as well as alliance building between researchers, grassroots groups and the state.

C. Conclusion

In their summary at the end, co-chairs Flavia Pansieri of UNIFEM and Diana Lee-Smith of UNCHS (Habitat) highlighted the following key strategies for moving forward:

1. Women's property rights must be recognised as a major issue of importance in the fight to alleviate poverty.

2. Legislation to bring about equality.

3. Legal literacy, and means of achieving it, such as paralegal networks and capacity building.

4. Affirmative action policies, including compulsory joint titling and support to women headed households such as have been found successful in Latin America.

5. Partnerships, especially among UN bodies. (UNCHS/UNIFEM/UNDP), women's networks, researchers, grassroots groups and the state.

6. Support and promotion of grassroots women's groups and their involvement in official decision-making bodies.

7. Support and involvement in the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure, particularly by UNIFEM and UNDP as well as UNCHS (Habitat).


2001 UNCHS