Alive and kicking: Celebrating 45 years in the life of HIC!
In 2021 we celebrated 45 years in the life of HIC! We took the opportunity to reflect and think about what comes next as a Coalition. We did so at a crucial moment in history. The struggles that inspired the creation of HIC 45 years ago are still highly relevant, while we face new challenges: COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, the resurgence and persistence of patriarchy and racism under new guises, and the hyper-financialisation of housing and land. HIC’s mission and vision are more relevant today than ever, urging us to be united, strategic, and bold in our fight for a better world.
2021 has also been a very sad year, as we lost and mourned four dear and valuable comrades: Malick Gaye, Executive Director of ENDA RUP (Senegal); Paul Maquet Makedonski, Founder and Director of CENCA (Peru); Katharine Coit, Association Internationale de Techniciens, Experts et Chercheurs (AITEC) and Urbanisme et Démocratie (UDÉ) (France), and Abu Rayhan Al Beeroonee (Bangladesh), Chairperson of Shelter for the Poor. They all leave behind a massive legacy, valuable teachings and a history of deep solidarity and commitment to the most disadvantaged. You can see HIC’s tribute here.
Throughout the year, ten new Members joined HIC from Ecuador, Argentina, DRC, Kenya, India, Palestine, and the United Kingdom. A warm welcome to all!
Internally, we have initiated HIC’s first Institutional Review to grow together from our differences, to honour our legacy while making room for renewal, to strengthen our Coalition across all regions, and to sharpen the focus of our work and its impact across HIC’s four thematic pillars. At our General Assembly in February 2021, one of the main requests from HIC Members was to strengthen our cross-regional interaction, through collective spaces for political reflection, learning, mobilization and advocacy. Since then, HIC-GS, HIC-AL and HLRN joined forces on a global project with Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality (KNOW) and other funders to launch three co-learning spaces on Feminist Approaches to Habitat, Land Rights and Multi-level Advocacy. See the President and GS reports for more.
We continued working tirelessly to challenge mainstream business-as-usual discourses that perpetuate injustices. While most UN organisations continued to advocate for recovery measures to ‘bounce back’ from the pandemic, our message has been clear: the challenge confronting us is not just about ‘building back better’ but to take this historical juncture as a critical turning point to address the long-overdue structural challenges that have been made evident throughout this health crisis. In doing so, we continued working across HIC’s four thematic pillars:
With regards to housing and land rights, we engaged in dialogue with several UN Special Rapporteurs, fostering an exchange across mandates most relevant to the defence of human rights related to habitat, and continued to work closely with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing on recognising housing as a key component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination.
We continued to work with urban and rural communities to prevent evictions and propose moratoriums; to document and systematise ongoing violations against habitat-related human rights; to concretise the right to housing through the social production of habitat and to bring cases of housing rights violations before the courts. We also supported Members’ initiatives in their own countries, pushing for the recognition of the right to adequate housing in Peru’s Constitution, and for legal and policy progressive changes in Spain and Zimbabwe, among others.
In relation to the social production of habitat, HIC continued to champion multiple initiatives to forge State recognition of and legal and financial support to popular processes. We did so through regional campaigns for human settlements upgrading and consolidation and the development of key capacities in participatory habitat design processes to support women and men’s protagonism in claiming their rights through autogestion.
In relation to habitat and environment, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a landmark resolution (HRC resolution 48/13) in October 2021, recognizing, for the first time, the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. As the climate emergency’s devastating consequences continue to play out globally, our advocacy underscored the centrality of habitat-related human rights to climate change adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage policies and funding mechanisms. In 2021 we advocated for climate justice to be treated and recognised as a human right related to habitat, through a series of actions: a manifesto, contributions from Members and an online event to articulate and reinforce a reading of what happened after COP26.
Our focus on habitat and gender equality remained core across our advocacy work, as we continued to advocate for a feminist perspective and the centrality of care to support all habitat-related rights. Milestones included the publication of Feminism in Loud Voice situating gender equality at the core of housing justice, and calling for equality in diversity through our Habitat Voices Manifesto, in particular dismantling systemic racism and racial discrimination.
Our work and achievements were possible thanks to the support of MISEREOR and the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD), who beyond their role as funders, are HIC partners in collective analysis and reflection.
As expressed in the introduction to HIC 2020 Annual Report, the work you all do as part of our Coalition and in your own contexts and regions is critical to build a more equitable, inclusive, sustainable, and loving world for all. On behalf of the HIC Board, the General Secretariat and HIC’s regional and thematic reference centres, I thank you for being an active part of HIC and for your endless energy, commitment, passion, and strategic thinking in defence of habitat-related human rights and the right to the city. The following pages are a testimony of our collective force and achievements as a Coalition throughout 2021.
In unity and solidarity,
Habitat International Coalition (HIC) President