Habitat Day 2004


This year, the United Nations’ World Habitat Day (Monday, October 4) theme will be “Cities – engines of rural development”. Though the importance of this issue, the Habitat International Coalition (HIC) focuses all its strength for the application of the Right to Housing, and calls for actions in cities, regions and countries to: – Affirm the universal Right to Housing Now – Protest global neo-liberal policies, which undermine housing and land rights, as manifested through deregulation and privatization of social housing, forced evictions and mass displacement of the poor, and the on-going plight of those without homes or land – Raise global awareness of lack of housing or “security of tenure” issues through the media – Help national and local housing rights movements advance their local and national agendas – Strengthen HIC and its member organizations The Concept. Each HIC affiliated network and organization is asked to sponsor one or more public events in their countries on or about International Housing Rights Day (first Monday in October). Each national or local organization would define the issues, demands and slogans for their country or city, emphasizing cutting edge local housing rights struggles which their organization is fighting for, and which will help advance their own issues locally. Local groups would be encouraged to organize an event that works for them within their resources and organizational culture, but with a press angle and preferably mass action or participation. Examples could include: – A march or rally at a building being converted from affordable social housing to unaffordable speculative market uses, or at a site where development threatens peoples homes – An action to highlight vacant buildings or land by people who have no homes – A press conference or action targeting the offices of land speculators, trans-national corporations, or government agencies engaged in destruction of social housing – A press conference or action targeting government cutbacks in housing programs which aid the poor – A press conference or action targeting government “privatization” of water supplies or other basic utilities tied to housing rights – Release of a Report (with or without photos) documenting local abuse of housing rights in violation of UN declarations which could be presented to the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights – A cultural activity publicizing the Right to Land and Housing Although the “official” UN date is the first Monday of October each year, HIC groups participating in International Housing Rights Day could pick a day on the first weekend of October or some other day or days in October if that works better for local participants. Slogans/Themes. It is difficult to come up with a single slogan which will work for all countries, given the different forms of struggle and political cultures around the globe. Nevertheless, the name “International Housing Rights Day” and the slogan “Right to Housing Now” probably come closest. (Right to Housing Now was the chosen slogan of the Instanbul march stopped by the Turkish police during Habitat II in 1996.) In addition, each participating country might pick a “sub-slogan” which resonates with the struggles in their area. For example, in the US, Australia, the Phillipines and other countries fighting privatization of social/affordable housing, “Save Our Homes” might be a secondary slogan uniting local groups within their borders. In the middle east, “Stop Demolitions” might be an appropriate choice. In Germany/Italy, “Stop the Sell-Out” might work. Still other groups may want to use “Right to Land and Housing Now” as a reference to the “Right to the City” movement. These slogans and themes should reflect the ways in which neo-liberalism and globalization, driven by large corporations, reverberate in different regions and localities: – in Asia, the commercialization of urban land is leading to forced evictions of a magnitude never seen before – in parts of North America and Europe, the effect is seen in the loss of various forms of social housing (through privatization, deregulation and reduced housing subsidies) – the EU countries are facing an overwhelming rush to privatize and deregulate public services, goods and infrastructure and a weakening of democratic controls. These trends stem from the fiscal crisis of the state, structural unemployment and the rapid decline of social welfare systems. Together, they undermine public capacity to meet urgent challenges such as depopulation, regional inequality, poverty and social marginalization – in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the transition from state to market economy in the housing sector is still in flux. The worst case scenario of collaboration between international capital and parts of the “nomenklatura” competes with the potential for democratic solutions in the public ownership sector in housing and land. – in Latin America, the devolution of state responsibilities in the habitat field to the private sector limits access to land and capital for social producers and the poor The main thing is to keep subsidiary slogans close to the overriding theme of affirming the Right to Housing and Security of Tenure, and opposing the loss of housing through privatization, forced evictions, and other manifestations of neo-liberal globalization policies. This year, HIC is not endorsing a particular concrete international demand (such as specific action by the UN or member states); reference to the general international theme is encouraged instead. But each participating organization can and should advance concrete national demands which fit the theme, and which help the policy campaigns within each country. What HIC can provide. HIC will post a special section in the Web Page (hic-net.org), which will list the specific actions by each participating organization, with links to the Home Page of each group where feasible for more information. As October approaches, participating groups will be able to print out a summary of actions planned across the globe for use with your local media. HIC will also provide a Local Press Kit by October 1 with background materials useful to hand out to your local press. HIC will also contact international media outlets to alert them of the Day of Action and direct attention to interesting local events. Next Steps. If your organization is interested, please respond to the attached questionnaire and send it to HIC General Coordination: general.secretary@hic-net.org with a copy to acting campaign coordinator Michael Kane: naht@erols.com and HIC President Enrique Ortiz: president@hic-net.org, stating your group’s interest; potential number of cities; the general description, demands, location, date, and time of the proposed local action (s); and a brief description of the sponsoring organization(s). Be sure to update/correct this information as appropriate. Also, please contact the regional HIC coordinators listed below. Please note on the questionnaire if you can help with outreach to the media, including international media outlets. Join us. If you are interested to be part of this initiative, please contact the following regional HIC membership representatives for more information and coordination of activities. Africa-Anglophone: Mazingira Institute, c/o Davinder Lamba: mazinst@mitsuminet.com Africa-Francophone: ENDA-RUP, c/o Malick Gaye: rup@enda.sn Asia: Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), c/o Ted Anana: ewatch@yahoo.com Europe: Unione Inquilini, Cesare Ottolini c/o pad48@padovanet.it Latin America and the Caribbean: Coalición Hábitat México, c/o Lorena Zárate: hic-al@hic-al.org Middle East and North Africa: c/o Joseph Schechla: jschechla@hic-mena.org North America: National Alliance of HUD Tenants, c/o Michael Kane: naht@erols.com Women and Shelter Network, c/o Liliana Rainero: gem@agora.com.ar Other: Habitat Net Germany, c/o Knut Unger: unger@mvwit.de Representative of social movements to HIC Board, c/o Jean Baptiste Eyraud: jbeyraud@free.fr