INFORMATIVE LETTER FROM HIC PRESIDENT TO MEMBERS
As HIC President and participant in several of our international projects and activities, I write this letter to all our Coalition members to recognize and thank you for your contribution to the progress we made together in the recently-ended year in the consolidation of our structure and the strengthening of the linkages and tasks necessary to fulfill our strategic objectives.
Our Coalition now benefits from an active and consistent Secretariat and a mostly renewed Board committed to HIC’s regional, international and thematic activities. We are also proud to report growing membership (more than 450 member organizations) and, in some regions and programs, increasingly involved and committed participation in our activities and projects.
Progress has been made in fine-tuning our strategies and consolidating alliances with other networks, international organizations and social movements, through concrete processes related to the World Social Forum, regional and thematic social forums, promotion of the World Charter for the Right to the City, Habitat Day, and the struggles against privatization of social housing in the developed countries and the exclusionary policies and those opposed to organized social participation being imposed in the poor countries.
An important milestone in this process was the HIC meetings and activities held between 7 – 17 September 2004 in Barcelona. In my previous letter (June 2004) I informed you in detail on the preparatory activities we were undertaking for those events. Below I would like to update you on some of the most important results.
1. HIC internal meetings in Barcelona
During the week of 7 – 11 September, a very consequential HIC Board meeting took place attended by the head Board members as well as the majority of substitute members elected from the regions and committees. We also had the participation of the focal points, the Secretariat team, and some special guests such as our former President, Kirtee Shah.
Progress was made in the review of our operative and directive structures and the relations among them; in the proposal of criteria for formulation of necessary internal regulations for optimal functioning as a Coalition; the establishment of differential fees, and the solution of some pending issues related to regional representation within the Board. One session was dedicated to hear from the regions with problems or with weaker presence in HIC activities, and decisions were made to strengthen those regions and aspects. The reports presented by the presidency, secretariat, and operative structures were vigorously debated, and it was agreed that at the beginning of every calendar year all HIC bodies should present their annual work plan for the coming year, and an annual written progress report should be presented to the Board. This will facilitate more effective interaction, greater transparency and mutual trust, and improved progress toward firmer integration of our Coalition. Substantial time was dedicated to debating our objectives, with special attention to creation of a global HIC communication platform and to our projects and activities with inter-regional and international reach.
The HIC General Assembly was held with the same emphasis on strategy. It was attended by close to 80 members and supporters, including HIC members from the different regions and members of the Housing and Land Rights Network.
A number of meetings on specific themes were also held:
i. Open meeting with Miloon Kothari, Special UN Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, with whom we discussed HIC’s role in the international arena since 1988 and strategies for continued progress in the promotion, defense and implementation of the right to housing.
ii. Workshop to review the contents of the World Charter for the Right to the City on which HIC together with other networks has been working, with the objective to hold its world launch at the upcoming World Social Forum to be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in January 2005.
iii. Working meeting with the regional coordinators of the Social Production of Habitat project and functionaries from InWent to review progress and plan the project’s final phase, which should be completed in late 2005 with an international meeting to which governmental and IFI representatives will be invited.
iv. We should also highlight the participation of various HIC and HIC Board members in an informative meeting on the organization of Vancouver 2006, where progress and achievements derived from the Habitat Agenda will be reviewed and the next World Urban Forum will be held.
2. Public HIC presence in the World Urban Forum
The following activities outlined in my previous letter were successfully completed:
i. Preparation of a dossier which includes 38 cases of social production and management of habitat from Francophone Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Latin America, whose translation and publication in English and Spanish were committed to by the Barcelona Forum 2004. We are still pending fulfillment of this commitment by the Forum. Meanwhile, HIC-AL is placing a digital version of the texts in their original languages in the section on Social Production of Habitat of its web page (www.hic-al.org)
ii. Elaboration of the dossier, which is a selection from 75 cases received from our members, provided graphic material for the exposition on “Urban rights: human rights” and the selection of nine relevant cases presented within the dialogues on “From marginalization to citizenship.” These dialogues brought to Barcelona the strong presence of the social organizations and their advisors linked to the nine exemplary experiences from the Philippines, Mali, Palestine, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, and Spain (with one Barcelona case neighboring the Forum site.)
iii. In a joint effort with Architects without Borders, two parallel dialogues were held at the College of Architects in Cataluña with the participation of social organizations, professionals, and academics from Spain and Latin America. HIC members also participated in a meeting on the Right to the City organized by the DESC Observatory, and a number of other events and activities. All of these participations gave HIC and its diverse sectors a strong and consistent public presence, strengthening our internal linkages and helping establish new relations and joint actions.
3. International Meeting on Neighborhood Improvement
Following our return form Barcelona, I actively participated together with HIC-AL and the Housing Office of the Ibero-American University of Mexico in the organization of this meeting that brought together speakers from Germany, Spain and Brazil along with social and nongovernmental actors, professional guilds, and public functionaries from 12 Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela) who debated on eight recent neighborhood improvement programs or projects.
This very successful meeting, held on 29 November – 1 December in Mexico, brought together more than 250 participants, constituting a first approximation to the inter-actor meeting we propose to convoke in late 2005 as the culmination of the inter-regional project on social production of habitat (HIC – InWent).
4. New year, new challenges
Having largely completed our 2004 objectives focused on HIC’s internal consolidation and public presence and the development and expansion of our activities, the year 2005 presents the challenge to substantially advance in achievement of our strategic proposals. Aspects to be defined include: criteria for establishment of alliances with other actors, networks, organizations, and social movements; the broadening of our work’s global impact, and the deepening of our actions in the fields of the right to housing, social production of habitat, and influencing public policies.
Soon I will be sending a specific letter on these 2005 objectives, with the idea to open debate to which we hope all of our members will contribute.
In order for all of you to be more thoroughly familiar with the basic guidelines within which we operate and their historic origins and implications in our organization and daily work, I am attaching here a text I prepared for the Barcelona meetings titled “What is HIC.” I hope you will find it useful to begin out reflection.
Finally, I am grateful for this opportunity to wish all of our HIC members and those who share their lives and struggles for a more just and solidary world, the best of health and well being for the coming year.