Topic: 2023-Informal Settlements
Delegate Name: Helen Engbers
With the growth of cities and the rise in the cost of living, informal settlements have become more prevalent around the world. In Spain, the people this primarily impacts are migrant farmworkers in many rural cities, along with people who were evicted during the pandemic despite the moratorium being extended. They are often the result of little to no affordable housing in bigger cities that have higher economic growth, as well as natural disasters and politics forcing families to relocate from their original homes. Spain attempted to combat people living in poverty by publishing a pushback policy to limit migrants from entering the country, but this ended up backfiring. Their food and energy prices rose with inflation as their cheap labor was denied entry into the country and their policy contributed to deaths at land and sea borders. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. To achieve this Spain should find a more proactive approach to relocating the population living in informal settlements into sustainable housing for everyone currently living in informal settlements.
Almería, a city of farming that started to take off 20 years ago is located in Spain and is an example of an informal settlement. Approximately 20% of the population are migrant workers and the majority of them are Moroccan, they work on farms and grow produce for Europe. The result of Almería’s harsh climate is that they need to cover the crops with plastic sheets to protect the plants. The workers are paid as little as $40 a day so they use the leftover plastic to make homes because they don’t have enough money for actual housing. There are now close to 100 encampments in the area of the makeshift homes. The local government has attempted to relocate the farmhands to shelters that are far from the farms but they keep re-building. A different approach I think would be effective is to first increase the pay of the farmhands to a more livable wage and then build apartments close to where they work.
Another group of people living in informal settlements is the homeless population in Spain. Around 20% of Spain’s population is below the poverty level and as of May 2023, 37,000 people are homeless living in Spain. But in this case, Spain is moving in the right direction, the overall goal of the 2023 Housing Act passed in April is to solve inequality. One outcome they are looking for is to promote public housing stock, only 2.5% of Spain’s housing is public and the EU average is 9.3%. Unfortunately, the housing law doesn’t offer solutions that could help prevent homelessness in the future. Because of this, I would recommend having more government-funded or public housing and lowering the prices of rent for those under the poverty line.
Living in informal settlements is not only dehumanizing but dangerous and there are many settlements like this in Spain. People living in informal settlements do not have the resources necessary to survive. Spain is moving in the right direction to abolish some of these informal settlements but I believe it could use some work to achieve the best overall outcome. Some things that could help is to offer more resources and support to people with lower incomes that could help provide them with better living situations. If Spain stays on track with the efforts that they’re making to eliminate informal settlements they can reach the UN sustainable development goal 11 by their target goal 2030.