Country: United Kingdom
Delegate Name: Abigail Huffman
As migration to urban areas increases, cities across the globe are facing the rapid growth of informal settlements. According to UN-Habitat, informal settlements are defined as “settlements whereby persons, or squatters, assert land rights or occupy for exploitation of land which is not registered in their names, or government land, or land legally owned by other individuals”. Such settlements are accompanied by a wide array of related issues, most notably the lack of access to basic, necessary services such as clean water, electricity, and technology. For instance, a case study conducted by UNICEF in Lebanon proved that one-third of people in informal settlements are forced to use water sources containing high levels of E. Coli, a measurement of the fecal contamination levels. Moreover, it is estimated that a glaring 80% of people in informal settlements go without electricity, further distancing themselves from opportunities for social and economic mobility. These circumstances prohibit societies from meeting UN Sustainable Development Goal 11, as conditions in informal settlements arise from conflicts, and are not sustainable or reliable in the ever-developing world. If informal settlements are not improved and continue to be the main housing system for many areas, those living there will unfortunately be left behind and forever impoverished—which is why change is necessary now.
The United Kingdom has established its own “Decent Homes Standard” outlined in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Standards include dwellings providing a reasonable degree of thermal comfort (heating and cooling systems), being in a reasonable state of repair, and having adequate modern facilities. The United Kingdom has made tremendous progress in achieving these standards, and subsequently meeting UN SDG 11, as the 33% of housing in Great Britain failing to meet these standards in 2008 has reduced to only 14% not meeting them in 2021. While these requirements may be unrealistic for less-developed countries to replicate, the strategies used by UK officials to improve housing quality certainly can be. The creation of the 2021-26 Affordable Homes Programme in the UK allows for the allocation of 11.5 billion pounds of grant funding over five years to lower the cost of housing. These funds are projected to support the creation of 180,000 new homes. Furthermore, the programme’s funding is to be split: 50% going to providing discounting rents, and the other 50% going towards affordable home ownership projects. The United Kingdom is of the belief that the UNDP could fashion a similar program. However, funding would come from prominent NGOs, like Habitat for Humanity or CFK Africa, or contributions from countries with low amounts of informal settlements. The amount of funding distributed to each country would be determined by the country’s ability to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 11, with countries furthest away from that goal receiving the most funding, and countries who have met or are near meeting SDG 11 providing more funding.
In conclusion, the United Kingdom would like to see increased efforts from the UK to reduce the number of informal settlements, and better conditions for those unable to move out of them. Recognizing that in order for this to occur, employment rates, wages, and government support must improve, the UK calls for the United Nations Development Programme to consider resolutions that promote increased funding and subsidies for new housing projects or systems, as well as establish a concrete standard of adequate housing.