Right to the City in Asia

The Global Platform for the Right to
the City (GPR2C) is an international collective working to promote a paradigm
of more inclusive and sustainable development around the world.

The Global Platform for the Right to
the City held its first Asia regional meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia on 20
December 2015. This meeting was an attempt to introduce the GPR2C to the Asian
region and discuss the potential for its expansion and adaptation to issues
related to the Right to the City in Asia.

The GPR2C meeting followed the Third
Indonesian Urban Social Forum that was held on 19 December 2015. Organized by Kota
Kita, the urban social forum brought together a wide array of actors, including
students, academics, NGOs, and social movements working on issues related to
housing, livelihood/work, health, transport, energy, and the environment in
urban areas. Since it was held in Surabaya, the meeting of the GPR2C was mostly
attended by Indonesians. The other Asian participants were from India, Cambodia,
Vietnam, and Thailand.

The meeting commenced with an
overview of the evolution of the concept of the Right to the City and the
development of the global platform. The conceptual overview required great
clarity, as many of the participants were new to the issue and were not aware
of the notion of the Right to the City. The first half of the meeting looked at
the issue of the Right to the City and its understanding and implications in
Asia. There was an intervention on the need for a broader understanding and
adaptation of the Right to the City concept to include rural and indigenous
communities and peoples.In the Asian context, this is especially
important given that the majority of the population is still rural. The
promotion of the GPR2C should not alienate constituencies and create divides
but enable social movements and groups to come together to promote a more human
rights-based habitat.

The second half of the meeting
focused on the upcoming United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable
Urban Development (Habitat III) that will be held in October 2016 in Ecuador.
Some of the participants at the meeting had never heard of Habitat II or
Habitat III while a few were actively involved in the process. The presenters
largely focused on the ‘New Urban Agenda’ that is proposed as the outcome
document of Habitat III. Some groups, including Habitat International
Coalition, however have been challenging the regressive move from the Habitat
Agenda (of 1996) to the Urban Agenda (in 2016). The participants were
interested inbeing involved inPrepComm III (for Habitat III) that will be held
inSurabaya in July 2016. The local universities and NGOs seemed keen to work
for that, and also to organize a larger Asia meeting of the GPR2C a day
before.Surabayahas a progressive mayor who has made some positive
changes in the city and is keen to do more work in this regard. The potential
of highlighting the developments in Surabaya, as a best practice, was also

A representative from the Indonesian
Ministry of Housing attended the entire GPR2C meeting and promised to involve
civil society more in the official Habitat III process in Indonesia, which was
encouraging. The meeting also provided a great opportunity for him to hear
about international processes and to voices of concern from Indonesian civil

Though participation from across Asia
was limited, the meeting was a good initiative to begin the discussion in the
region, to get more people interested in working together on these issues, and
to build more platforms for collaboration and solidarity across Asia.

By: Shivani Chaudhry, HIC-SA