This year, Habitat for Humanity is taking a close look at how the European Union prioritizes issues of land and housing in its development agendas with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. In September 2018, the European Union began its negotiations for a new international partnership agreement with 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, which will solidify the partnerships between these regions for another 20 years. Habitat for Humanity, driven by a vision that everyone deserves a decent place to live, is urging European, African, Caribbean and Pacific decision makers to prioritize housing and secure tenure.

The partnership between the European Union (EU) and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries dates back to 1975 and is currently framed by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA). The CPA, which will come to an end in 2020, is the most comprehensive agreement between the EU and low and middle-income countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. This agreement is the foundation of relationships between these countries and the EU, establishing the values and morals that have been a priority within and between these countries. The fundamental principles of the Cotonou Agreement includes equality of partners, global participation by states and non-state actors, open dialogue and regionalization. According to the most recent Annual Report from 2017, the European Commission gave over EUR 10.3 billion through development assistance aid with “aim of reducing poverty in the world, ensuring sustainable development, social and economic development, and promoting democracy, the rule of law, good governance and respect of human rights.” This unique partnership resulted in successes including 84,000 teachers trained, 165,000,000 malaria-resistant bed nets distributed, and 314,000 people benefiting from post-conflict peace building programs.

Although there were many successes, the Cotonou agreement wasn’t perfect. Now, as EU and ACP states begin to renegotiate their next multilateral agreement, they need to refocus on the issues that will drive positive development outcomes for all countries involved.

Habitat for Humanity calls on national governments of the EU and participating states in the ACP regions to develop innovative responses to the complex development needs of urban settings and refocus on the importance of housing, secure tenure, and community-led development in achieving positive development gains globally.

In October, Habitat for Humanity shared its hopes for the final Agreement between the EU and ACP countries. Included, Habitat for Humanity called on participating countries to prioritize adequate, affordable and well-located housing throughout the EU-ACP Agreements. Housing is essential in achieving outcomes in health, education, water and sanitation, and livelihood development – it would be a detriment to communities through Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific to leave it out! Importantly, Habitat for Humanity shared the message that creating accessible housing finance products are essential if we want to see people investing in their homes. If families can’t improve their homes incrementally, by adding a bathroom, putting in water or drainage solutions, or repairing a roof, how can they ensure their families are comfortable, safe and ready to take on the work or school day?

Often overlooked, yet equally transformational, security of tenure is essential in addressing developmental objectives globally. Rights to land are not just a source of economic or agricultural production, but also a basis of social relationships and cultural values, and a source of power. The most common purpose for taking out a bank loan is home improvement, but without collateral—like proof of ownership or residence—it can be challenging for families to access formal financial markets. Tenure security creates enabling environments, which encourage private and public investment, leading governments to build the tax base and advance land-value-capture mechanisms. When families perceive their tenure to be secure they are more likely to invest in home and environmental improvements. These improvements can serve as a springboard to even greater community-led development.

Community-led development is central to achieving sustainable and accessible housing, and security of tenure for all. Communities know their unique needs and should play a critical role in defining their future. The Agreement must be inclusive and involve citizens’ and grassroots groups’ direct input and participation in decision making processes at national, subnational and local levels. This process should be inclusive and involve a variety of voices; balancing women and men, indigenous communities, as well as those with varying income levels and physical abilities.

By prioritizing housing, security of tenure and community-led development in the EU-ACP Agreement between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific states, this future partnership has the potential to achieve sustainable development outcomes and impact the lives of millions of families. Habitat for Humanity urges policymakers within the European Commission, Parliament and Council, and within African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, to prioritize a world in which everyone has a decent place to live.

To read the full recommendations, read Habitat for Humanity's Recommendations for the new EU-ACP Partnership Agreement.