Only a just city can become a safe city


Only a just city can become a safe city

UN-Habitat´s slogan for Habitat Day 2007 is A Safe City is a Just City. As governments and media hold security issues as their foremost concern, so do many UN programs.

When UN Habitat analyzes the causes that have resulted in the augmentation of insecurity in cities, they refer to increase in violence, to evictions threats and insecure tenure. In their analysis, UN-Habitat recognizes the violation of human rights and that disasters are more man made than natural. It concludes by stating that the combination of these threats to secure cities leads to a grand challenge.

From the citizen’s perspective, we consider that when building the 2007-2008 housing campaign the analysis from UN-Habitat is more of a list of effects than a real identification of the causes.

Behind the insecurity, the evictions, the human rights and land violations; behind the social and territorial impacts of the disasters rest the problems of injustice and inequity. This is how the everyday life of the poor, minorities and victims force us to see the following sorts of injustices and inequities:

o Due to a generalized tendency towards the privatization of habitat, housing, services and public space lose their use-value and become merchandise. This change leads to de-regulation that favours real estate speculation and impedes public’s interest.

o The little planning and regulation capacities that are remaining within the hands of the state that openly supports real estate and construction-related businesses and becomes an obstacle in the implementation of social housing policies. For example, the housing subsidies in Latin America are designed to stabilize the construction sector worsening social and urban segregation.

o Effects of post-disaster reconstruction processes (Katrina in New Orleans and the Tsunami in South East Asia) can lead to the denial of the dweller’s right to return to their city or place of origin. These are other forms of evictions due to real estate interests and not to disaster prevention questions.

o The large urban projects planned in favour of the quality of life of those that have resources evict the poor. You can find examples of this in the north as in the south, regarding the building of urban infrastructure and processes of beautification and gentrification.

o In cities with debt, the local governments sell the social housing stock. They sell the product of worker’s and tenant’s struggle for decades.

o Fear of a market collapse steaming from an already deflating real estate bubble , (as is now occurring in the USA) is already having a domino effect with the rest of the world that leads to the reselling of real estate debtors portfolios, creating new expressions of insecure tenure.

This is why the slogan proposed by the UN-Habitat is insufficient to us. We do not believe that the citizen’s security leads to justice, per se. Our concern that keeps us denouncing, criticizing and formulating proposals is that only a just city is able to become a safe city.