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International networks and organizations of inhabitants for urban reform and habitat rights will participate in the People’s Summit against the commodification of life and nature, and in defense of the common goods in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from June 15-23, 2012, to be held before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).
We are launching this call so that this space becomes a milestone in the consolidation of dialogue and alliances to reach a consensus on a platform and program for common action between urban and rural inhabitant movements and all those organizations that fight for just, democratic and sustainable territories.
We are building this dialogue to further our efforts in upcoming spaces like the World Urban Forum 6 – and the Urban Social Forum 2– (Naples, September 2012) and the World Social Forum –World Assembly of Inhabitants – (Tunisia, March or April 2013).
Cities and the right to resist the neoliberal model that provoked the crisis
We began this new millennium with half of the world’s population living in cities and an ever-growing rate of urbanization. Cities are territories with the potential for great economic, environmental, political and cultural wealth and diversity. However, the neoliberal model, implemented in nearly the entire world, concentrates income and power in the hands of the elite; accelerated urbanization contributes to environmental degradation and the privatization of public spaces, which in turn increases poverty, exclusion and social and spatial segregation. This is the model that triggered the global financial crisis which is exacerbating housing issues, in rural and urban areas alike.
The vast majority of urban inhabitants suffer the brunt of this model and its repeated crises. These inhabitants are deprived or limited in meeting their basic needs and as such, they hold the right and legitimacy to resist violations of their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.
Since the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (ECO ’92), popular movements, social organizations, professional associations, and national and international civil society forums and networks have taken up the challenge of building a model for sustainable urban society and way of life, based on principles of solidarity, freedom, equality, dignity and social justice.
The World Charter for the Right to the City, common platform to demand our rights and defend common goods
One result produced from the international mobilization of sectors from civil society in the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2001 was the elaboration and dissemination of the World Charter for the Right to the City, which proposes a platform for just, democratic, humane and sustainable cities.
The construction of just and egalitarian cities is inseparable from struggles for the social, equitable and sustainable enjoyment of common goods such as water, flora and fauna. This construction is also closely linked to struggles for the democratization of urban and rural land access, urban and agrarian reform, territorial management, food sovereignty, environmentally-responsible agricultural practices, the livelihoods of agricultural farmers and their families, and of traditional and indigenous populations around the world. Now in 2012, armed with our struggles and our capacities and facing governments, the G20, and international financial institutions, we reassert our demands for the necessary conditions – in particular through public policies – to live in harmony, peace and happiness in just, democratic and sustainable territories.
According to the following definition endorsed by UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum in 2010, "the Right to the City is the collective right of present and future generations to a sustainable city free from discrimination based on sex, age, race, health status, income, nationality, ethnic origin, migration, political orientation, religious or sexual violence, as well as to preserve their identity and cultural memory”. In light of this statement, it is time for states and civil society, together, to assume their obligations and responsibilities towards the creation of new social-territorial pacts that are rooted in alternative paradigms to the neoliberal model, and to make the following commitments:
1. The full exercise of citizenship. A city in which all people (children, youth, adults, seniors, women and men, who live permanently or temporarily in cities) realize and enjoy all of their fundamental human rights and freedoms, by constructing the conditions for a collective well-being based on dignity, equality and social justice. To this end, the rights of cities, or civitas – their inhabitants, social actors and institutions –, to exercise their autonomy to resist the aggressiveness of neoliberal globalization, without being criminalized for their civic expressions.
2. The social function of the city, land and property. A city in which inhabitants participate in the distribution of territories and the regulation of their use to ensure the equal usufruct of the goods, services and opportunities that the city has to offer. A city which prioritizes the collectively-defined public interest, guaranteeing a socially just and environmentally balanced territory. Therefore, it is essential to generate and implement public policies and specific instruments to halt speculation, urban segregation, exclusion, evictions and displacement, and urban and rural land grabbing.
3. The democratic management of the city. A city in which inhabitants participate in decision-making at all levels, for the formulation and implementation of public policies, planning, public budgeting and control over urban processes. This is in relation to strengthened institutional spaces where decision-making occurs – not only in public consultations – with possibilities for participation in managing, monitoring, and evaluating public policies.
4. The democratic production of the city and in the city. A city which rescues and strengthens the productive capacity of its inhabitants, particularly in popular sectors, encouraging and supporting the social production of habitat and the development of supportive economic activities, including urban agriculture that supports food sovereignty. The right to produce the city and a productive habitat, including the right to energy, which generate income for all, and strengthen the people’s economy, not only the quasi-monopoly gains of a few. A city that is open and alert to the needs of the most vulnerable groups, people living in poverty and environmental risk (threatened by and/or victims of human-induced environmental disasters), those threatened by and/or victims of violence, differently-abled people, immigrants and refugees, and all those who live in marginalized or disadvantaged situations.
5. The sustainable and responsible management of common natural, patrimonial and energy goods in the city and its surrounding areas. A city where inhabitants and authorities implement public policies which ensure a responsible relation of common goods like water and the environment – without privatization –, so as to ensure a life with dignity for people, from communities and towns, in equal living conditions and without affecting natural ecological reserves, for present and future generations.
6. The democratic and equal enjoyment of the city. A city that recognizes, throughout the entire urban area, the right to accessibility and to equal opportunities which favour social cohesion and promote gender equality, and which respect all people regardless of their ethnic origin, age, abilities, sexual orientation or religion. A city that facilitates the mobility of all inhabitants, with clean and sustainable technology and incentives for public transportation and alternative means of transport, such as bicycles. A city that includes the right to a sustainable city – as well as the right to horizontal communication and information – in all levels of educational training and for public authorities who are responsible for local public policies.
Habitat International Coalition (HIC)
International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI)
National Forum for Urban Reform (FNRU), Brazil