Growing up in my native India the right of women and girls to land and property were unfortunately not a given. In spite of the existence of the legal framework often the customary law and lack of implementation left many women and girls without land rights. Decades later – as a mother of two girls – the situation is only marginally better in India and many, many developing countries.

This is where Habitat for Humanity’s global campaign Solid Ground comes in.

The Solid Ground campaign’s aims to improve access to land for shelter for women and men through secure tenure, gender equality, disaster resilience and slum upgrading.

Now, the European Union (EU) – the world’s largest donor – has pre-selected* a Solid Ground focused project to build critical understanding and active engagement of European citizens of these very issues.

Enshrined in global commitments of governments especially Sustainable Development Goal 11 – known as the SDGs – and the New Urban Agenda, this project aims at promoting global housing, land rights, resilient and sustainable cities in the global south.

This past October at Habitat III, the third United Nations conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development that takes place every 20 years, the New Urban Agenda was adopted. Habitat III was not merely a conference; it was a pivotal moment in history that will determine how governments, civil society, academic institutions and private actors responded to the challenges of urbanization in the decades ahead. The New Urban Agenda is a global strategy that will help define urban priorities and shape implementation of sustainable urban development for the next 20 years. Through the Solid Ground campaign, Habitat for Humanity worked tirelessly to ensure that adequate and affordable housing, secure land tenure, and community-led development remained as focal points of the agenda and played a leading role at every juncture of the Habitat III process.

With the New Urban Agenda in place, the conversation now shifts toward its implementation and the implementation of relevant SDGs, mainly SDG11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. We must hold governments accountable to commitments made, and, in many ways, Habitat for Humanity’s role in the Habitat III process has just begun. During the Habitat III conference, Habitat for Humanity was one of only a handful of organizations afforded the opportunity to officially announce major commitments to achieving the goals for sustainable urban development laid out in the New Urban Agenda. These commitments included improving access to land for shelter for 10 million people through the Solid Ground campaign.

The EU’s generous matching contribution (1:10) will facilitate awareness, education and active engagement of Europeans in support of global housing, land, urban issues and the commitments to achieving SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda. The Development Education and Awareness Raising Solid Ground project will take place in 12 EU countries and spread over 36 months, launching this fall. Increasing understanding of and support for global housing, land rights, and resilient and sustainable cities, the project will yield increased public awareness of EU citizens, target groups motivated with a stronger and more critical understanding and select citizens with enhanced competency and opportunities to become active players. More than 5 million European citizens will have enhanced understanding of and capacity to support global sustainable development. The Solid Ground campaign messages of the global need for land access for shelter will go public in Europe.

*contract yet to be signed