Networks of local governments and civil society launch a joint declaration about World Urban Forum


Joint Declaration of
Habitat International Coalition (HIC),
the Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and 
Rights of UCLG 
[1], the Forum of Peripheral Local Authorities 
(FALP) and Mercociudades
regarding the 7
th World Urban Forum

4 April 2014

From 5 to 11 April
2014 will take place in Medellin (Colombia) the seventh edition of the World
Urban Forum (WUF), the biennial meeting convened by UN-HABITAT in order to
discuss the most pressing problems of urban reality. This year, the central
theme will be the “Equity Urban in
the Development – Cities for Life

The social
movements, civil society organizations, professionals and activists that formed
the Habitat International Coalition (HIC), along with the local authorities that
make up the Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights
of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the Forum of Peripheral Local
Authorities (FALP) and Mercociudades, express through this joint Declaration their
political position with respect to the conceptual
approach of WUF 7

No doubt, today’s
urban world is deeply unequal and
the inhabitants of cities and towns are suffering the effects of this reality
in its multiple dimensions: poverty and difficult access to adequate food; lack
of access to employment and job insecurity; scarcity of land and adequate housing;
territorial segregation; poor provision of basic services; multimodal transportation
systems and public spaces of quality; construction of megaprojects that end up with
the eviction and forced displacement of local population; educational and
health care deficits; unequal and discriminatory treatment towards women,
different sexual orientations or minority ethno-cultural groups; lack of
personal autonomy by reason of age, illness or disability; vulnerable situation
of migrants; absence of equal opportunities for young people with special
attention for those in a situation of social risk; lack of attention to
children and the elderly; criminalization of social protest… In other words, urban inequality derives from the
systematic deprivation of essential rights of citizenship
for much of the

For all these
reasons, we do not share the argument exposed in the concept note of
the VII WUF that argues that the greater the growth, the greater the equity
This synthetic formula represents a very impoverishing vision the variety of
urban problems without even relate them to more structural issues. The growing
gap between rich and poor shows that the benefits of growth are not distributed
in an equitable manner; on the contrary, they tend to concentrate in the hands
of those who have more. Without transversal policies of redistribution of
wealth at place at local, national, regional and global levels, the growth =
equity equation is a very dangerous fallacy that encourages the destruction of
the planet and does not question the current model of production, accumulation
and irresponsible consumption.

Therefore, in our
view, working for more-equitable cities indeed relies on claiming a greater spatial and social justice through the respect,
protection and full realization of civil,
political, economic, social and cultural
for present and future generations. It also implies institutionalizing
participatory democracy as a
backbone of the guarantee of rights, and sustainability and effectiveness of
public policies. At the same time, it requires acknowledging the efforts that
communities, peoples, social movements and local governments are developing
every day to improve life in the cities. This must be the conceptual framework
for the development of long-term policies for the defense of the equity in our

Considering the
primacy given in the theoretical foundation of the concept paper of the WUF to
the objectives of economic growth and development, we put forward criteria of spatial
and social justice, and dignified life
for all. We reject the predominantly developmental logic and propose cultural,
social, economic and political changes more respectful with nature and the humanity
as a whole, present and future.

In this sense, we defend the concept of the Right to the City,
which we understand as the equitable enjoyment of the benefits and
opportunities that must offer the urban environment (work, health, education,
housing, symbolic resources, political participation, etc.) and as a tool to
imagine and build another possible city: democratic, sustainable, equitable,
solidary and respectful with rural realities. In short, we claim the need to
reverse the urban dynamics, putting people and not to the market at the center
of the urban policy agenda.

Therefore, we do not subscribe to the definition of
“Equity in Development”
proposed by UN-Habitat and make a call so
that the debates of the WUF are developed instead from the principles that
emanate from the concept of “Cities for Life” (also mentioned in the
concept note), which collects more than two decades of experiences and
proposals of civil society and better reflects the city that we want, and we
can build.

With this vision,
we, representatives of urban social movements, civil society and local
authorities members of the UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy
and Human Rights, the Forum of Peripheral Local Authorities (FALP) and
Mercociudades make this public declaration to show our commitment to work
together in the process leading to the Habitat III UN Summit. Our goal is that it don’t miss each
and every one of the human rights recognized at the international level; that
the discussions are not carried out with their backs to the rural areas; and that the Right to the City is recognized in
new Habitat Agenda, together
with measures, indicators and instruments for its implementation at global,
regional and local level.

Finally, we urge the United Nations as a whole to
democratize decision-making spaces, and the UN-Habitat to ensure effective
participation of civil society and local authorities in the preparation,
organization and realization of the
III Conference
. We also challenge UN-Habitat to transform the WUF into a
real space for debate and collective construction, to develop an approach to
urban issues based on a human rights perspective in collaboration with the UN
Human Rights Council, and to strengthen the role of the UN Advisory Committee of
Local Authorities (UNACLA) as a mechanism to develop
human rights-framed dialogue between local and national governments.

This statement is
open to those groups, networks or organizations of civil society and local
governments who share its principles. Therefore, we launched an appeal to sign
it and disseminate it among its members.

[1] This declaration does not reflect the position of
UCLG, but only the one of the Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory
Democracy and Human Rights (through its Collegiate presidency).

Habitat International Coalition (HIC):;;
Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy
and Human Rights of UCLG:;
Forum of Peripheral Local
Authorities (FALP):;;

* To download the declaration, click here.