Address to the HIC General Assembly by Davinder Lamba, HIC President


Barcelona, 12th Feb. 2008

HIC members present, HIC President emeritus – Han Van Putten, former HIC President Enrique Ortiz, HIC Vice-president Anelise Melendez, Board members, representatives of HIC Focal Points and Structures, HIC General Secretary, Ana Sugranyes and staff, and colleagues. I extend a very warm welcome to you all. This is the first assembly that I am addressing as the HIC president.

The general assembly is convened once a year as required by the HIC constitution. Convening general assemblies for transnational federate coalitions like HIC is very challenging as the resources to do so are not easy to mobilize. The practice evolving in HIC is to combine the general assembly and the Board meeting, with a strategic workshop and a major substantive event, like Women and Habitat Seminar to be held over the next two days. The last general assembly was held in Nairobi in January 2007, on the occasion of the World Social Forum.

HIC triple worlds leadership challenge
I think of HIC leadership challenge in terms of a map consisting of ‘triple worlds’. I refer to them as HIC inner world, outer world and another world. All the worlds are interrelated. The leadership challenge is to focus both on the issues of every world and how they interrelate and interact, in a globalized world.

The challenge is that: HIC in its inner world becomes more responsive to its constituents, innovative and results-oriented within its organs or structures and it is sustained as a transnational habitat coalition; and it matches its strengths with opportunities. HIC in its outer world becomes more people-centred, activist and a reflective participant and collaborator in the local and global social process. HIC in its another world strives for a social and international order that is conducive to the full realization of human dignity and human rights of everyone, rather than the few; and the sustainability of the environment.

HIC Inner world
The inner world of HIC consists of organs or structures that constitute HIC as an organization, stipulated in its constitution. The constituents of HIC are its members, both groups and individuals — referred to as friends of HIC. Besides the general assembly, the organs or structures include: the Board, Secretariat, Thematic Committees – HLRN, WAS and HSEN, Working Groups and Regional Focal Points and Reference Centres. The Board also includes an executive committee. It consists of the president, representatives of HIC regions, representatives of thematic committees, invited members of social movements and an associate member named by the Board.

The issue-areas of concern to HIC so far include: habitat and rights, habitat and gender, habitat and environment, habitat and production, and habitat and privatization. The organs associated with them are: HLRN, WAS, HSEN, Working Group on Social Production of Habitat, Working Group on Privatization and Habitat. Another issue-area of concern is habitat and war, conflict and occupation for which there is a task force. Also, there are commissions. The working groups referred to are very vital and the working group on social production of habitat has evolved substantively and it does merit consideration for becoming a thematic organ.

The collective substantive and operational action within HIC, demands complex coordination by the HIC Secretariat, besides maintaining the organization itself, in terms of membership, administration, communication, mobilization of resources, reporting and ensuring cooperation at all levels and so on.

Leadership in HIC is organ or structure centred but the collective leadership of the organization is the responsibility of the Board, including the president and secretariat.

The issue-area of habitat and gender and its associated organ or structure, WAS thematic committee, the coordination and network, require revitalization. In this regard, the HIC Women and Housing Rights Seminar is an opportune moment to initiate the effort toward this end. Effort is also required to invigorate the issue-area of habitat and environment and its associated thematic committee, the coordination and network, that is, HSEN. We do have the know-how in HIC to do it. We can learn from the success shown by HLRN, associated with the issue-area habitat and rights.

HIC’s regions and associated Focal Points do require basic strengthening. Some regions are thin on membership and this matter requires action toward mobilization of more members. Again, there are lessons to be learnt from the membership accomplishment of Latin American and the Caribbean Region, which has at least a hundred members. This allows the region to have two Board members, as stipulated in the constitution.

In this regard, effort is underway to strengthen the HIC Africa Region and broaden membership, both Francophone and Anglophone, with the support from ACCD, Government of Catalonia. The project titled, “Implementing Habitat Agenda in Sub-Saharan African Region”, commenced this January. It was formulated jointly by HIC Secretariat, Rooftops Canada and HIC African members and includes: Mazingira Institute (Kenya), COFEPE (Mali), ENDA-RUP (Senegal), WAT (Tanzania), IHA-UDP (Ethiopia), PLANACT
(S. Africa) and CONGEH (Cameroon).

The strengthening of our inner world is important to face up to the threats and the opportunities that manifest in the HIC outer world.

HIC outer world
HIC as an established transnational habitat coalition is very aware that there are diverse actors to interact or contend with in the local and global social process, in different situations – habitat, market, political arena and so on. The actors include: states and the inter-governmental organizations or IGOs of states; political parties; pressure groups; networks; coalitions and movements; NGOs; corporations and private associations; cultural and faith groups; individuals and so on. The actors have perspectives, that is, their identity – in terms of beliefs, and their demands and expectations that are agreeable, indifferent or contentious.

HIC as an actor is a federate coalition. It operates within and across borders. HIC is local and global. HIC members constitute the local and collectively they form the global.

HIC would require better understanding of managing its transnational relations, as there are different forms of transnational governance that appear and are evolving in the outer world. HIC and similar organizations need to learn more about dealing with the complexity of these forms and their influence on authoritative decision-making at different levels.

We have now to interact or contend not only with the governance structures of the state-centric world – such as the UN or WTO and so on, but also with the formal, informal, or mixed governance structures of an emerging multi-centric world, with authority flows in single or multiple directions. They involve several types of collectivities that crowd the global stage: public national and national governments; for profit TNCs; IGOs; NGOs; INGOs; elite groups; and mass publics – that form and disband around issues (J. Rosenau, The Study of World Politics, Vo. 2, 2006, Routledge).

The state-centric world is also changing in itself. A part of the state-centric world is now a supranational polity operating with multilevel governance structures, that is, the dispersion of authoritative decision-making across multiple, territorial levels. It is the European Union. Similar changes are happening elsewhere through regionalization. In the last few decades, transnational governmental regimes have evolved in the issue-areas of human rights, environment and trade. HIC is very conversant with these regimes, particularly the human rights one. It is accredited through HLRN to the Human Rights Council which is the global political and legal body concerned with human dignity.

HIC as a federate coalition interacts with networks, coalitions and movements. It is important to make a distinction between them. Networks happen to be loose structures with flexible entry and exit. Coalitions are defined as “collaborative, means-oriented arrangements that permit distinct organizational entities to pool resources in order to effect change”. Coalitions constitute social movements, but not all coalitions produce social movements. Movements are “sustained interactions between challengers and authorities on matters of policy and/or culture.” (S. Tarrow, The New Transnational Activism, 2005, Cambridge).

HIC is accumulating knowledge and experience in cooperation with networks, other coalitions and movements. A recent example in HIC on building an event coalition was, “Act Together – Housing for All” Campaign. The Campaign operated from October last year to 26th January this year, the Global Day of Action of the World Social Forum. Another example of cooperation is to do with the World Social Forum, particularly around ‘Urban Spot’ and ‘Human Dignity and Human Rights Caucus’. Concerning building coalition with social movements, it is important to recall that HIC is committed to it, as two positions are allocated to them on its Board.

HIC another world
HIC in its another world, I believe strives for a social order that shapes and shares local and global policy outcomes with participation on the widest possible scale, to ensure a place to live in peace and dignity for everyone and everywhere, and the ecological balance of the earth-space environment. It does so through collective action, both local and global on its issue-areas of habitat and rights, gender, environment, production, privatization and so on.

A strategic question for HIC as a federate coalition is: What are the mechanisms for global framing of local or domestic struggles and contentions around these issue-areas? We can take a cue from the World Social Forum’s stress on unity in diversity as proclaimed in the document of WSF 2002: “We are diverse – women and men, adults and youth, indigenous peoples, rural and urban, workers and the unemployed, homeless, the elderly, the students, migrants, professionals, peoples of every creed, color and sexual orientation” (S. Tarrow, The New Transnational Activism, 2005, Cambridge).

The another world is also the space for clarifying and articulating such mechanisms and ideas, ideologies or world views that drive or ought to drive the issue-areas, their associated organs and HIC as a federate coalition. Regarding human rights, it is clear that the norms serve the ideology of human dignity and they are institutionalized. What about the other issue areas? For example, what about the environment and the brand of environmentalism – light green, deep green, or red green? What about gender and the brand of feminism – passive or power feminism?

In conclusion, HIC triple world leadership challenge that I have elaborated implies building coherence in HIC’s collective action and ensuring effective performance at all levels in order to serve our declared causes, commitments and communities.

Finally, I thank each and everyone of you for making HIC events in Barcelona a success.