The right to the city and to land, mega-events and mega-projects
Aterro do Flamengo, Monday June 18, 2012 – 9am to 12pm
An event organized by the National Forum on Urban Reform (FNRU), Habitat International Coalition (HIC) and the International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI) on the right to the city and land was held on Monday June 18 in Plenary 2 of the People’s Summit, and saw the participation of over 300 people. Speakers during the event critiqued the impact of mega-events and mega-projects on communities and the environment.
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, addresses environmental issues in a distorted and incomplete perspective by only focusing on economic aspects and neglecting social dimensions. In light of this, the People’s Summit organized the coordination and convergence of various sectors from civil society to collaboratively discuss, develop and propose alternative solutions to social and environmental issues.
The self-managed event entitled "The right to the city and the impact of mega-projects” addressed socio-environmental issues taking into account territorial factors. Due to the fact that the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, the sustainability of the planet depends on policies that are implemented in these spaces.
The city should be an issue in itself, open to reflection and debate, however cities are of course not the only spaces on the planet. They interact with and depend on rural areas, and as such, it is necessary and indispensable to promote spaces where various sectors from civil society can converge while respecting their differences.
Debates on the right to the city, violations of this right, inequalities, and social exclusion address the current urban model and work towards moving beyond it. These debates also strengthen civil society struggles to promote the social function of property and to articulate a platform that addresses the major challenges and develops possible solutions for the construction of just, democratic and sustainable urban and rural spaces.
Introduction, by Nelson Saule, FNRU, Brazil
The objective of this event is to demand the inclusion of all people in the city, especially those of low-income. We are fighting for the social function of land and democracy in cities. The city model that we want to build must be one that includes social and environmental justice, defends the common goods, and fights commodification.
Isabel Blanco Pamplona, Pinheirinho favela, Brazil
The Pinheirinho favela, in the state of Sao Paolo, is a self-constructed community. On the morning of January 22, families who were on their way to church were attacked by police and violently evicted from their community. Over the following 15 days, the community was under siege with the objective of evicting the families and destroying the favela.
Emilio Rodriguez, Assembly for the Environmental Protection Crusade, IAI, Mexico
The Assembly is a network of inhabitants that disseminate information on environmental issues, especially related to the Caballo Blanco open pit mine, which is owned by a Canadian mining company. The inhabitants fight against eviction and displacement by big companies and their mega-projects, in defence of their territory, and for social and environmental justice.
Massa Koné, Union of Associations and the Coordination of Associations for the Development and Defence of the Rights of the Deprived, No-Vox, Mali
The Union fights against land grabbing practices which violate the civil and political rights of Malian citizens. In recent years, these violations have increased significantly and, as a result, have inspired many kinds of mobilizations (communications, seminars, workshops, protests, meetings, etc.). Land grabbing takes on many forms and often involves collaboration with the elite but without any consultation with local communities. Like in many African countries (which cover over 200 million hectares), pension funds are used to hand over the best land in Mali to speculators for agricultural, agro-fuel, and carbon credit projects. Other actors, like the state, remain with their arms crossed and do not intervene to regulate the market as they should. This situation is not due to a lack of production, but is rather the result of a volatile market and speculation which has inflated prices thereby impeding the most vulnerable from feeding themselves, especially in urban areas. For more information on mobilizations against land grabbing in Mali, please watch this video of a protest in Bamako that was organized by the Union on March 13, 2012:
Rabie Wahba, HIC-Housing and Land Rights Network, Egypt
Global models of urbanization cause people around the world to live in precarious and vulnerable conditions. Inhabitants of popular neighbourhoods in Egypt are organizing to fight mega-projects like the Maspero triangle, which is being developed as part of the Cairo 2050 urban master plan. The objective of this plan is to transform Cairo into a ‘world class’ city, in the meantime evicting the city’s poorest inhabitants. In order to confront human rights violations around the world, we must globalize our struggles, the defence of our human rights, and our proposals for freedom.
Borey Pen, Boeung Kak Lake, Cambodia
The Boeung Kak Lake community in the capital city of Phnom Penh has been facing violent repression from police for their resistance to eviction and destruction of 18 homes from the community. On May 22, 13 community leaders – all of whom were women – were sentenced to 2 and a half years in prison, simply for having participated in a peaceful protest in support of the 18 families who were evicted. Their trial was expedited, leaving the women no time to prepare the defence for their case. In addition, two more community members were arrested by police outside the courtroom when then trial was taking place, for having demonstrated their support for the women on trial. For more information on this case, please watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXwldFo5I2g.
Ester, Lucha por la Tierra, Via Campesina, Paraguay
Paraguay is a country that continues to suffer the consequences of the military dictatorship. With the country in severe crisis, rural social movements are facing tough struggles to recuperate land and are under attack from oppressive laws and criminalization of their movements.
This event concluded with comments from various participants from the audience, including: representatives from the Brazilian organizations the National Movement for Housing Struggles (MNLM) and the National Union for Popular Housing (UNMP), as well as people from Porto Alegre and Pinheirinho; and other participants from Paraguay, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Senegal.
Finally, closing speeches were given by Lorena Zarate (HIC President), Annie Pourre (No-Vox), Cesare Ottolini (IAI), and Donizete Fernandes (FNRU), emphasizing the political and strategic importance of improving the articulation between urban and rural struggles.