Let’s build together the Urban Social Forum (USF 2012)


The sixth World Urban Forum (WUF6) organized by UN-Habitat will be held in Naples, Italy in September 2012. The forum will focus on discussing the “urban future”; an unclear slogan that reflects that only one alternative future is possible, excluding debates around the urban-rural relation, and assuming that the future of humanity will be exclusively urban.

Over the last number of years, global networks and social movements and organizations that defend human rights related to habitat, denounce this position and have constructed alternative debates and proposals to condemn the roots of problems faced in cities as well as in rural areas.

Recent background of the articulation of networks, organizations and movements for rights related to habitat

Parallel to UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum (WUF) 5 held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in March 2010, international networks and Brazilian social movements organized the first Urban Social Forum (USF) , a space for civil society to debate urban problems. Above all, debates centered on the consequences of mega-events and mega-projects like the upcoming Olympic Games (2014) and FIFA World Cup (2016) which will both be held in Rio de Janeiro and which since 2010 have been causing evictions and gentrification in neighbourhoods where these events will take place. In addition, various themes that are important to facilitate the articulation of struggles around rights related to habitat were identified. Civil society recuperated “the right to the city” from UN-Habitat, and deepened its reflection around the concrete implementation of this right, including the criminalization of social movements and their activists, the need for a better articulation between urban and rural themes, and the importance of working on the impacts of climate change in the most vulnerable communities.

During the World Social Forum (WSF) held in Dakar, Senegal in February 2011, networks and movements fighting for the rights to land, the city and housing organized a Forum of Popular Neighbourhoods within the frame of the World Assembly of Inhabitants (WAI) in order to open a dialogue with communities. This event was held over two days in Guediawaye, a peripheral neighbourhood in Dakar. Themes like evictions from housing and land, the impacts of mega-events and mega-projects, land grabbing, and the criminalization of activists brought actors together from different regions around the world (Africa, North Africa, Latin America, North America, Europe, and Asia) and made it possible to make connections between common struggles and a common statement
Convergence of inhabitants for the right to habitat which denunciate the negative impacts of the neoliberal model and reinforce the articulation of networks and movements that struggle for rights.

From these meetings, an agreement was made to continue the collective work between international networks like HIC, IAI, LOCOA, No-Vox, and Witness and to carry out a global campaign with the slogan “Resistance and Alternatives for the Right to Habitat” within the frame of World Habitat Day in October 2011. This campaign was developed at the global level thanks to a blog  where information could be accessed on the events taking place on that day as well as a map  showing cases of struggles against land grabbing, the criminalization of social movements, and forced evictions, which was combined with local actions of each organization.

Let us strengthen the collective work around rights related to habitat: Towards Rio de Janeiro and Naples, 2012

Despite some difficulties inherent in the diversity of the networks – in their organization as well as in the various languages – we highlight the importance of working together while respecting the autonomy of each network’s work and organization, the need to resist the attacks of neoliberal policies, and building alternatives for the realization of the rights to housing, land and the city at global and local levels.

The articulation of our struggles will be reinforced during the Thematic Social Forum held in Porto Alegre in January 2012 and the People’s Summit Rio+20 in June 2012, where civil society movements and organizations will denounce the worsening environmental crisis and social inequalities.
With its presence, civil society should reinforce its collective strength to create a new social paradigm and to promote convergences between different actors that fight for human rights and advocate for their inclusion in public policies.

We call all networks, organizations, social movements to collectively construct the second Urban Social Forum, to be held in parallel to the official space of UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum in Naples from September 1-7, 2012. This meeting will allow us to demonstrate our capacity to propose alternatives for a habitat in its most diverse forms, strengthen our strategies and articulate efforts between urban and rural movements.
As this Forum will take place in Europe, it will also present an opportunity to debate the regional and global consequences that the systemic crises has had on inhabitants (which are drastic considering the evictions that take place for failure to pay rent and mortgages, the destruction of popular neighbourhoods and the increasing of slums, etc.).

Articulating our efforts at local as well as global levels is of utmost importance in our struggles for rights related to habitat in urban as well as rural areas, and for the good of all.

If you wish to subscribe to this call, please send us your direct contact information (email, Skype ID) so that we may together prepare the Urban Social Forum in Naples.  

Initial Signatories:
–    Habitat International Coalition (HIC)
–    No-Vox

–    Association Internationale de Techniciens Experts et Chercheurs (AITEC), France

        Asociación Al-Gea, Spain

        Coalition Nationale pour l’Habitat du Bénin , Benin

        DCAM/Bethesda, Benin

        Droit au Logement (DAL), France

        Échanges et Partenariats (E&C), France

        Observatori DESC, Spain

        Plateforme DESC, Cameroun

        Plateforme des mutuelles et coopératives d’habitat social du Cameroun

        Réseau National des Habitants du Cameroun (RNHC)

        Réseau Initiatives pour un Autre Monde (IPAM), France