What is Housing and Land Rights Network?
Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) is an independent international nonprofit and tax-exempt association established in the Canton de Genève (Switzerland) since 2003. HLRN works in collaboration with organizations and individuals sharing common purpose, principles, aims and objectives, expressed as a network dedicated to:
A. The recognition, defense and full implementation of the right of everyone in all countries to a secure place in which to live in peace and dignity.
B. Enhancing capacity, knowledge and action toward practical realization of human dignity for those suffering deprivation by advancing respect, promotion, protection and fulfillment of universal human rights, especially economic, social and cultural rights, and particularly the human rights to adequate housing, water, environment and land. Activities include development practical skills, methods and tools for data collection, indicators on land and housing governance, and quantification of impacts from violations, as well as loss and damage associated with climate change.
C. Advocating everyone’s human right to adequate housing and land in international forums on behalf of especially for those subject to deprivation and violations. Advocacy is directed mainly toward both the UN Human Rights and Sustainable Development Systems.
Accordingly, HLRN pursues its mission comprised of three mission goals:
Mission Goal 1: Networking and Coalition Building
Mission Goal 2: Capacity Development and Knowledge Creation
Mission Goal 3: Advocacy
How did HLRN come about?
HLRN began as an initiative of Habitat International Coalition (HIC) Members in 1991 based on the HIC Constitution and aligned with HIC Organizational Structure, Philosophy, Principles and Objectives to support the Coalition’s general efforts from the specialization of human rights related to habitat, in particular, the human right to adequate housing. The initiative from within HIC, originally called the Housing Rights Committee, sought to develop and monitor the human right to adequate housing as a norm of international law. Among its first objectives was to realize a human rights law-based definition of “adequate housing,” which resulted in the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) adopting its first General Comment interpreting a specific human right enshrined in the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). That breakthrough in 1991 grounded further advocacy outcomes such as the Habitat II Agenda’s repeated commitment to “the progressive realization of the human right to adequate housing” and CESCR’s 1997 General Comment on forced eviction. These instruments remain enduring standards of both binding treaty obligations and voluntary development commitments of states.
Subsequent HLRN efforts have focused on developing and delivering training and participatory learning, research, publication and application of human rights criteria with civil society partners in policy formulation, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and analysis. HLRN shares with HIC the role of upholding and further developing the serial Habitat Agendas in the global sphere, and serves as the HIC Structure specialized in the human rights dimension of habitat as it relates to the other competences of HIC: gender, environment and production (social production of habitat).
 Representatives of HIC Members: Center on Housing Rights and Eviction (COHRE): Scott Leckie; Indian Housing Rights Movement: Miloon Kothari; HIC Latin America: Enrique Ortiz; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EFORD): Joseph Schechla; Mazingira Institute (Kenya): Davinder Lamba; and Youth for Voluntary Action: Minar Pimple.
How does HLRN operate?
HLRN maintains offices in Geneva (operating as a UN liaison bureau) and in Cairo (coordinating a Middle East and Africa Program, as well as supporting HIC in the Middle East/North Africa region).
HLRN serves civil society organizations globally and through regional programs, including through cooperation with Habitat International Coalition. HLRN has a governing board of three members, expandable to seven persons. The roles and responsibilities of HLRN Board members are set out in the Network`s Articles of Incorporation. The members serve for four year terms, and are eligible for renewal for a maximum of two consecutive terms.
HLRN’s governing Board functions consist of:
- Proposing and supporting programs, projects and policy to advance the global discourse on housing and land rights;
- Producing or reviewing reports concerning the Network’s administration, programs, projects and policy, the Network’s human, financial and material resource management;
- Supervising the Network Secretariat and Branch Office operations;
- Admitting new Network Members and Board Members;
- Ensuring the most-effective possible financial management of the Network.
The Executive Committee (Board) meets at least once a year and operates in a democratic manner and through parliamentary procedure, making decisions in the spirit of consensus. In the case that a consensus is not possible, a vote determines the decision based on the principle of majority rule. In the case of a tie vote, the discretion of the Board’s chair casts the deciding vote.
Who makes HLRN work?
The current HLRN Board members are:
Ana Sugranyes Bickel ♀ (chair/president): Is a Chilean-Catalan specialist in urban housing in Latin America. She was trained as an architect practitioner in her native Switzerland and in Barcelona, and holds a PhD from Delft University (Netherlands). Her work in the field began in 1976 in El Salvador with the Salvadoran Foundation for Development and Minimum Housing (FUNDASAL). From 1976 to 1991, she worked in Guatemala with Institute for the Economic and Social Development of Central America (IDESAC) on post-earthquake reconstruction, social housing and community development. Subsequently, she served at the urban think tank Ediciones SUR (Santiago, Chile) and served as Secretary General of Habitat International Coalition (2003–2013). She is co-author of and co-editor of and Los con techo. Un desafío para la política de vivienda social (2005) and Cities for All: Proposals and Experiences Towards the Right to the City (2011).
Hemsing Hurrynag ♂ (vice-chair/vice-president), is a pan-African environmentalist based in Mauritius and director of Development Indian Ocean Network (DION). Hemsing is also a member of Mauritius Council of Social Service (MACOSS) and an officer of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and the International Network on Children`s Health, Environment and Safety (INCHES). Hemsing joined the HLRN Board in 2022.
Rania Al Madi ♀ (treasurer): Rania Madi is the United Nations Legal Advocacy Representative of Badil, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, at Geneva, Switzerland. Born in Ramallah, Palestine, Rania has studied in Zurich and Geneva, holding a Masters in International Law from the University of Geneva and a Masters in Human Rights Law from University of Strasbourg (France). She worked for 18 years as a legal advisor with the Geneva cantonal government.
Since 2008, as Badil’s senior legal advocacy consultant in the UN and EU, Ms. Madi has advocated the rights of refugees at the EU, UN agencies (UNHCR and UNRWA) and the UN Human Rights Council. Rania has submitted investigative reports to the International Criminal Court and has been a regular participant in UN international conferences and specialized forums on migration and refugees. Rania has served on the HLRN Board since 2018.
Joseph Schechla ♂ HLRN Coordinator: Joseph is a founder of HLRN and has served as MENA regional coordinator (2000–2002) and then general coordinator based in Cairo. Joseph came to HLRN with a background in anti-racist and anti-colonial education and an academic concentration in foreign policy and international law, with an M.A. in International Relations (Georgetown University). He has worked as an editor and publisher (e.g., Journal of Palestine Studies, Without Prejudice) and has nearly 30 years’ experience managing and delivering human rights and democratic-development training and educational programs (America-Middle East Education and Training Services—AMIDEAST, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights—OHCHR and HLRN). As a UN official, he has represented OHCHR in Palestine and Tunisia, and served as consultant to ILO and UNSMIL. Born in the USA and having studied in the US and Germany, Joseph specializes in the Middle East/North Africa region, where he has lived for 25 years. At HLRN, Joseph is responsible for general project management, coordination and implementation of activities.
Yasser Abdelkader ♂ HLRN System Manager: Working for HLRN since 2003, based in Cairo, Yasser holds a Master`s degree in Business Administration from the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (Cairo), and is currently enrolled in the Doctorate program in Business Administration: Management at Cairo University. Yasser directs the day-to-day operations, administrative functions and program activities relating to HLRN online tools, finance and implementing resources to ensure that the operations meet contract obligations and budgets. Yasser is responsible for creating and maintaining the series of online HLRN infrastructure and features, including the Housing and Land Rights Toolkit, Violation Database, Urgent Action System, Landpedia, Land Times/أحوال الأرضand HLRN’s digital functions and tools. Yasser works under the supervision of HLRN coordinator and in coordination with other HIC’ bodies.
Ahmed Mansour Ismail ♂ HLRN Legal Researcher and MENA Program Officer: Ahmed’s experience as legal researcher and policy advisor in various political forums globally and regionally spans ten years. With an academic background in international law, including the international law of refugees and asylum seekers (Cairo University), he has specialized in the legal framework supporting housing, land and property rights and restitution. He has worked as legal aid provider for refugees to prepare their cases before UNHCR in Egypt and advocated the human rights-based approach to political commitments on SDGs, Land Tenure Guidelines, and the New Urban Agenda. At HLRN, Ahmed also provides support for Members in preparing reports on countries under review before the UN Human Rights System, its Treaty Bodies and related procedures.
Hala Subhi Murad ♀ HLRN Learning Officer: Hala is an environmental and human rights activist, sociologist, social and climate change projects consultant, and co-founder of Dibeen Association for Environmental Development (Jordan). She has worked as a gender consultant at GIZ and as a consultant for governance of water resources management and has served as secretary general of Alliance of Associations for Forest (Community Defense to save Forest) since 2017. She holds a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in sociology from University of Jordan.
How are HLRN and its activities resourced?
As a non-profit and non-governmental organization, HLRN relies on project financing for its activities and operations. Over the life of HLRN, supporting organizations have includes MISERIOR, ICCO, Ford Foundation, United States Institute of Peace, Brot für die Welt, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation, Inter-Church Organisation for Development Cooperation, Swiss Development Corporation, UN-Habitat/Global Land Tool Network, Global Fund for Human Rights and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, among other cooperative agreements with like-minded partners.