30 years of HIC


Mexico City, April 19th 2006

To all HIC Members

Dear friends and colleagues:

Thirty years ago, during the preparatory process toward the Habitat Forum developed parallel to the First United Nations Conference on Human Settlements held in Vancouver, Canada, the initiative emerged to build the Habitat International Council (HIC) as an independent alliance of civil society organizations committed to the field of housing and human habitat.

This coming June, the Third World Urban Forum will be held in Vancouver organized by the United Nations Habitat Program. This event will offer a prime opportunity to celebrate our anniversary and reflect together and in interaction with other actors on the fulfillment of the principles and guidelines signed by the governments in the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements of 1976; on the effects of neoliberal policies and economic globalization processes on the contents of the Declaration, and on our own responses, strategies and social impacts.

Already in 1987, International Year of the Homeless, HIC undertook a thorough internal review, resulting in key amendments to its Constitution, the relocation of HIC headquarters to the southern hemisphere, and the broad expansion of its membership to include not only NGOs but also social organizations and movements, human rights activists, and academics committed through their ideas and technologies to social causes. HIC converted itself from a Council linked to UN Habitat Center processes to an autonomous and critical Coalition strategically aligned with the homeless, the displaced, and those living in precarious conditions throughout the world.

The profound changes we are currently facing, the global domination exercised by large transnational corporations, the subjection of governments to corporate interests, and the expropriation of the skills and knowledge of our peoples, profoundly modify the context and conditions in which we now carry out our work.

Those of us who participated in the 1976 Vancouver Forum are now handing over the work to a new generation of colleagues deeply concerned about the new conditions in which they must struggle for a world focused on people and on nature.

All of these factors, barely outlined here, obligate us to open a profound and permanent strategic dialogue. Our HIC Secretariat in Chile invites us to join this debate in conjunction with the World Urban Forum III, through any or all of the following options:

1. Debate open to all HIC members

Considering that relatively few HIC members will be able to travel to Vancouver, all are invited to participate in a preparatory debate to take place during the month of May. This debate will be stimulated by four personalities with long histories in HIC and in the habitat field, who were also important participants at Habitat II in 1976: Han van Putten, John Turner, Tabitha Siwale and Joss van der Rest.

Based around the four themes which structure HIC’s work (human rights, gender, sustainable habitat, and social management processes), a critical review will be undertaken of the 30 years since the 1976 Habitat Forum, along with reflection on the application of the international agreements and the challenges faced by HIC and other social actors.

The Secretariat will circulate the invitation and debate participation methodology shortly.

2. Contributions to HIC memoirs and reflections on HIC today

Testimonies and material contributions (photos, documents, etc.) from HIC members 30 years after its creation will be gathered in a CD to be made available in Vancouver (see annex). Contributions must be received by the Secretariat in Chile no later than 29 April.

3. Invitation to organize national and local debates

In several countries, HIC members and friends are organizing events to reflect and debate on the evolution of the habitat situation, housing policies, and the role of organized civil society, over the past 30 years and future perspectives. We invite others to develop contributions to this collective reflection effort from their cities and countries, and to circulate and share information and results of their reflection through the electronic list (hic-members@ilpostino.jpberlin.de) and the General Secretariat (gs@hic-net.org).

4. HIC activities in Vancouver

Attached you will find the program of HIC activities within and parallel to the Forum.

We are very interested to know which of our HIC members will be in Vancouver for the Forum and their possibilities and interest to participate in the various HIC activities. Please contact the Secretariat.

Be it through one or all of the options outline here, we hope that all of our members will participate in some way in these initiatives which — in addition to commemorating a long process of solidarity struggle — will help us to steer our future work with improved clarity, commitment and strength.

Fraternally yours,

Enrique Ortiz
HIC President