While security of tenure is often perceived primarily as a housing or human settlements issue, interestingly, both the international human settlements community and the global human rights community have devoted increasing attention to the question of security of tenure in recent years. It is true that many housing and urban researchers, as well as local and national government officials, do not initially view tenure concerns necessarily as an issue of human rights. Yet, the human rights movement – judges, United Nations bodies, lawyers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs) and others – have increasingly embraced and considered tenure security. This, coupled with the growing treatment of security of tenure as a self-standing right by a range of international and national legal and other standards, has led to a unique convergence of effort and approach by the global housing community, on the one hand, and the human rights community, on the other. Although the formal links between security of tenure and human rights comprise a reasonably recent policy development, the link between human rights and tenure issues stretches back to the first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat) in Vancouver (Canada) in 1976.5
Thus, it appears that the difficulties faced by many within the human rights field to fully appreciate the human rights dimensions of poverty, slum life and displacement – as well as the sometimes naive and biased views on the appropriate role of law in human settlements – seem increasingly to be issues of the past. This emerging convergence between fields traditionally separated by artificial distinctions has generated a series of truly historical developments in recent years which, if continued and expanded, could arguably
ever to universal fruition. If a balance can be struck between those favouring free market, freehold title-based solutions to insecure tenure and those who view security of tenure both as an individual and group right, as well as a key component in any effective system of land administration and land registration and regularization, it may be possible to envisage a future of much improved tenure security for the urban poor.