Electoral Campaign for HIC President Election 2011 – 2015 : Candidate Lorena Zárate’s Campaign Statement


Electoral Process for HIC President (2011-2015)

Motivations and Proposals (excerpt)[1]

In less than a century, the world
around us has changed more than in its entire history. When my grandparents
were young, they lived in the country-side, in the heart of the misty Argentinean
pampa. My parents were born in areas
closer to the capital, but they still know how to grow basic staples. Myself, I
was born in a city and would die if I had to live off of what I planted in a
plot of land.

Thirty-five years ago, when what is
now HIC was beginning to take shape, we had a small television set in our house.
Programming was interrupted several times a day leaving us discouraged in the
wake of black and white communiqués (both in their forms and substance) from
the military government that controlled the country during one of the most
disastrous and criminal periods of its history . I cannot say today that it was
a conscious act of rebellion but I distinctly recall resisting attending the
indoctrination of the local kindergarten.

In those times -with the ever-present
echoes of Nazism and World War II atrocities that still haunt us just as the
recent massacre in Norway does today-, global civil society networks could
easily be counted on your hand (today, as we know, there are thousands). The
Coalition emerged during a decade where the environmentalist discourse was
gaining ground vis-à-vis the imposition of the irrational myth of perpetual
growth in a finite planet to raise awareness of the territorial dimensions of
these processes and to highlight the need to understand the characteristics and
challenges specific to popular habitat.

HIC was never an international NGO
(homogenous, centralized, vertical, hierarchic and bureaucratic) as others that
we know. In fact, over the last couple of decades, it has made considerable and
explicit efforts to promote values that are closer to those of a federated
entity: diversity, flexibility, decentralization, participation, solidarity,
and autonomy – all values that entail great challenges to make them a reality,
and that require delicate and changing balances to ensure collaborative work
around them.

The Coalition is also not a “boys’
club”, in the negative sense; an exclusive, selfish and closed-minded group.
But surely, as is the case with most organizations, it is constituted by people
who share principles and objectives, whether they know each other or not, for
decades or simply met once; human beings that, in order to feel united and work
together, must build mutual trust with a shared language and a history that
identifies and links them.

Many agree today that there is a
need to build and encourage new leadership within the Coalition, a task that
cannot be postponed – in its regional and thematic offices, in member
organizations, as well as in the communities and collectives with whom we work
– if we want to strengthen the processes that we have championed. For this
purpose, as pointed out in the various comments that have been made since the
beginning of this electoral process, we will have to continue to nurture the
balance and alternation of gender and regions, while improving how the potential
of an inter-generational dimension is
incorporated. Of course, we will also have to create a broader space for
participation and political relevance for the social movements that are
integrated in the Coalition.

Strengthen social actors and

The struggle for the promotion, defense and realization
of everyone’s right to housing, land, and to a decent and productive habitat,
in equitable and peaceful conditions, in rural or urban areas, continues to be
as necessary and relevant today as it was four decades ago. In this sense, we
must continue to deepen, in theory and in practice, the close relationship
between a human rights perspective and the various alternatives for their full
achievement (perhaps through a private business or a social process that
strengthens the collective, public and communal?). On another note, integrating
and complex visions represent a huge challenge, yet are also indispensable to
overcome thematic and sectarian fragmentation – present in both academic and
government structures – and to strengthen articulations with other social movements.

For some time now we have talked about the
urgent need for urban reform, in solidarity with agrarian reform. After more
than half a century of struggles and proposal, the right to the city is now
present – explicitly or implicitly – in legal and theoretical frameworks as a
platform for action in several regions of the world.[2]

That being said, the
right to live with dignity in cities will not be a reality without the right to
live with dignity in the countryside. Just as we have proposed, we believe that
the principles and proposals for the right to the city present several
commonalities with the millenary indigenous worldviews of well-being (buen vivir or sumak kawsay in Quechua; and
vivir bien or suma qamaña in Aymara) that have become particularly politically and
programmatically relevant in the last decade. Among other elements, it is worth
mentioning that both concepts place human beings and the relationships they
have with nature – people understood as being part of it, something sacred – at
the center of actions and reflection; they consider land, housing, habitat and
the city as rights, not as goods; they deepen the understanding and exercise of
democracy (not only the repetitive kind but also, and especially, the
distributive, participatory and community-driven one); they promote collective
and not just individual rights; they conceive and nourish an economy for life
and for the community; they exercise complementarity and not just competence;
they respect, foster and guarantee multiculturalism and diversity.

It is evident that
today, more than ever, when nature’s warnings are appropriated a fashionable
discourse and new excuses to profit, a radical cultural change is necessary
with respect to our modes of production, distribution and consumption. But
change is also important as far as our symbolic references are concerned, along
with the values that regulate our society, if we truly want to achieve
well-being for all. One of the biggest challenges ahead is to find the words
and places that will allow us to bridge the gaps between these visions, deepen
the debate and articulate diverse experiences that, in the countryside and in
cities, are resisting and building those other possible worlds that are so
necessary and urgent.

Public policy advocacy

As the organizations and individuals that form
HIC know from their daily work, public policy advocacy and effecting meaningful
and long-lasting change requires a great effort considering the different
dimensions. It is necessary to face even bigger challenges and responsibilities
to achieve legal reform, new programs and budgets that support popular housing
and habitat: we must be able to modify ideas, prejudice and fear – in other
words, (re)building a type of common-sense around these issues and their
possible solutions.

The trend towards population concentration is
not only unquestioned, but is also presented as irreversible (our “urban
future”). Extreme visions that fail to explain the reality that surrounds us: aphorisms
as apologies for life in cities and their role (“engines of development”,
“magnets of hope”) in relation to rural areas, the apocalyptic denunciation
that we are headed towards “a planet of slums”. In both cases, very little is
said about the different responsibility of various social actors, of the
relation between the urban and rural worlds, or about the hues and
possibilities to transform this process.

The right to housing is about much more than the
right to one’s own house. In fact, as it is clearly shown by Chilean policies
(characterized as exemplary and promoted internationally by the World Bank
since the 1990s) and its scandalous counterparts in Mexico and Spain, individual
property titles can be important in the least and perhaps the most dangerous (a
mortgage that is impossible to repay in return for a place that is not
habitable) if all other elements are ignored: availability of services and
utilities, materials, facilities and infrastructure, charges that are adequate
to incomes, habitability, accessibility for all social groups without
discrimination, an adequate place and cultural adequacy.

It is crucial, then, to promote with all of our
forces a discourse and a series of proposals that prioritize security of
tenure, with alternatives for ownership and usage, rethinking the importance of
rental housing and consolidating cooperatives and other forms of collective
ownership. It will also be necessary to be precise and delineate the
substantive differences between the social production of habitat (processes generated
by habitable spaces controlled by self-producers, spontaneous or organized, who
operate in a not-for-profit manner) and the production of social housing (controlled
by public bodies – almost non-existent these days- and/or the private sector,
the cheapest that can be built while still remaining a business).

Within our critical and autonomous relationship
with several United Nations bodies, it is crucial to dedicate considerable
efforts to influence the official discourse and policies of the Habitat Program
and other organisms that deal with these topics, as well as to denounce the
inconsistencies and contradictory actions (UNDP, World Bank, Division for
Sustainable Development, etc.). At the same time, we must study further and
promote debates with those involved actors on the changes that arise in
international agencies’ and foundations’ cooperation policies. Thematic,
sectorial and regional visions, fragmented as their options evidence, require
us to reflect, denounce and present proposals that emerge from movements,
networks and platforms that may be far superior. Programs of relative
permanence that deal with urban and housing-related elements appear to have
been sacrificed in the name of “humanitarian aid for natural disasters”,
minimizing support for longer-term, transformative processes and prioritizing
philanthropic assistance, ignoring the role of the state and of organized civil
society; in fact favoring private ventures, in many cases only those of large
transnational corporations. There are plenty of recent examples that illustrate
how to utilize destruction and emergencies as an excuse for the dispossession
of resources and tradition, as well as for the forced evictions of entire
communities, magnifying their vulnerability and impoverishment.

Finally, though not less relevant, we will have
to consider a more systematic rapprochement with popular communication networks
and explore the possibilities to influence commercial and mass media. Yet, not
only by means of interviews and isolated press bulletins, but rather through a
process of sensitization (workshops and seminars) and the establishment of
permanent contacts so that the Coalition is clearly recognized for its day to
day work.

Building a strong Coalition

It is clear that it is not
possible to collectively address the challenges and efforts involved in
achieving the two strategic objectives mentioned above without counting on a
strengthened and dynamic Coalition. In this sense, working on the
institutional, financial and community sustainability of the processes that we
drive is of course a permanent and shared obligation.

Among other things, we must
create the conditions necessary for a global intergenerational dialogue process
which, by taking advantage of face-to-face opportunities as well as those from
a distance, will allow us to strengthen our identity while incorporating the
visions, concerns and creative proposals of the youth. For this process to be
rich and productive, it must not only be an introspective exercise but also,
and above all, a reflection and building-process made together with other
social organizations, networks and movements including indigenous, peasants,
feminists, students and trade unions. That is to say, together, with the voices
of all the indignant of the world.

This is how, thanks to the
guidance and support of all the wise women and men who surround us, we can
recover, discuss and disseminate the values, characteristics, experiences and
proposals that make the Coalition a unique network at the global level.
Collectively rewriting and recreating its history, with its great achievements
and many frustrations, and also the little anecdotes that its members have yet
to tell. In other words, deconstructing and reconstructing our own myths and
realities, in the vital sense, articulating and mobilizing them from the
origins they’ve had and still have in all cultures.

We must find the best ways to
support and make visible the work HIC members undertake at local and national
levels. In particular, we must make great efforts to establish greater
horizontal ties directly among members, within and between regions,
facilitating concrete opportunities for their joint initiatives and

Access to financing is,
without a doubt, crucial but we know that it is not the only – and often not
the best – solution to all problems. We must continue to promote and practice a
broader, more diversified and creative vision, one that is coherent with our
principles and that values both the monetary and non-monetary resources that
are at our disposal that would strengthen self-management, mutual collaboration
and solidarity. We must also stimulate the implementation of global programs
and projects capable of mobilizing members in various regions with management
schemes that will favor decentralized, yet articulated instances of, local

As we are aware, we will only be able to
implement recent collective agreements and advance in our action plans by
eliciting a commitment from structures and members towards a true mainstreaming
of gender dimensions and environmental sustainability in all of our practices
and proposals.

In the short and medium-term, the Coalition has
years of important change and transition ahead (including the selection of a
new site and General Secretary), which will require the strengthening of
integration and the full functions of the Board and Executive Committee. As the
visible leadership during delicate times, the Presidency will have to actively
and permanently exercise its motivating and evaluating duties, as well as those
of substantive collaboration in administrative and management tasks.

I trust that the ideas expressed above may
contribute, in the next stage of the campaign, to deepen a fraternal exchange
on the challenges, opportunities and responsibilities that lie ahead for HIC.

M. Lorena Zárate

Mexico City, July 26th 2011

[1] Translation of original summarized Spanish version.

[2] For a recent compilation of struggles and challenges at the local
and global levels, see Ana Sugranyes and Charlotte Mathivet (editors), Cities for All: Proposals and Experiences
towards the Right to the City.
HIC, Santiago de Chile, 2010. Electronic
version available at hic-net.org.