Reported period: 1 July – 31 December 2006
I would like to follow up on my previous report (September 2005 – June 2006) with some reflections related to the international context, the relevance of current international HIC projects, and the activities I have been developing as HIC President in relation to these issues.
More intensely with each passing day, active and committed HIC members in the different regions are confronting the serious social and environmental impacts of the accelerated processes of speculation/privatization that characterize current production and management of habitat.
These impacts manifest themselves in distinct ways in the different contexts, but they inevitably end up deeply affecting the lives of those who have the least, in both the countryside and the city:
* More homeless people
* Massive evictions
* Despoilment of lands and other community resources
* Privatization of social housing
* Closure of possibilities for social producers, including
– no access to loans;
– discouragement, or in fact open aggression, against their
– cancellation of their expressions and spaces of autonomous management,
– criminalization of their demands and struggles to implement their
habitat-related human rights.
* Commercialization and subsequent rising costs of all habitat components
– social housing, and
– the process of habitat production.
These trends converge to strengthen financial and speculative capital, transforming the control of housing production and distribution processes into a paradise for investors, speculators, and even organized crime.
The result: accelerated loss of the social and cultural meanings of the processes of settling, producing, managing, and using human habitat:
* of housing as articulating element in construction of the city, and
* of the spatial and aesthetic quality of housing products and public space.
The transition from the concept of needs to that of rights – a struggle which had just begun to be won on many fronts – is being reverted, subordinating the right to housing and other habitat components to commercial rights and the interests of the large corporations.
The causes now span throughout the world, and are linked to:
* the logic itself of accumulation of financial capital (and now of the extractive-speculative capital),
* the economic and financial globalization processes driven by large multi-and transnational corporations, and
* the neoliberal policies upon which these processes are sustained.
Deregulation, privatization, and commercialization of all components of habitat; wage reductions; unemployment and job flexibility; cancellation or narrowing of subsidies and their orientation toward private sector producers and land owners, all converge to the benefit of private capital and the detriment of increasingly large population sectors excluded from dignified access to the city and to housing.
Construction of alternative proposals developed from and by the people and based on their own organizational and production processes, is now critical. Since its origin, but in particular since the profound revision of its objectives and strategies which took place here in Limuru, Kenya in 1987 – during the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless – and further stimulated through other important milestones in its later development, HIC has supported processes which converge today with the proposals of the World Social Forum to contribute to construction of Another Possible World.
In addition to the work developed in this regard by our different networks, working groups, regional entities, and in particular the consistent work developed in the human rights field, it is also important that we reflect on the role which may be fulfilled by interregional and international projects that HIC can and should promote more decidedly in the future. These HIC projects achieve multiple coalition-building objectives, by:
* Linking and building synergies among our thematic networks, working groups, and regional support entities;
* Involving our members and contacts in concrete activities;
* Reinforcing our coalition and our relations with other networks and social processes;
* Facilitating joint and solidary work in strategic topics and teaching us
to work together among distinct cultures;
* Strengthening our presence and impact as a collective vis- -vis international and multilateral entities;
* Contributing to construction of common strategies and steering of complex programs and processes; and
* Contributing to finance our activities and mobilize intellectual, material, labor, and monetary resources of our members.
Historically, HIC has carried out several international projects which have been able to
integrate contributions from its different organizational entities and from some of its members. These have primarily been research-action projects based on case studies, including our projects on:
– Evictions and the right to housing (in 5 countries, 1992)
– Technologies in water and sanitation management (50 experiences, 1995)
– Participative management of the city (GONGO project; 34 cases, 1997)
– Living in historic city centers (45 experiences in 26 countries, 1998)
And more recently:
– The project: “From exclusion to citizenship,” (75 cases compiled in 30 countries, 2004).
All of these projects are documented and the results of some are published in English and/or Spanish. Implementation of all of these projects benefited from financial and other support from HIC members.
Social Production of Habitat
There is also another model of an international project not limited to case studies and integrating the different HIC regions and networks: the HIC-InWent Project on Social Production of Habitat (SPH), which was oriented to
– come to common grounds and advance in conceptualization of the theme,
– exchange experiences, and
– explore strategies through which to influence proposals and policies promoted by multilateral entities and governments.
To conclude this project, Africa, Asia and Latin America each held regional meetings with governmental authorities and some international entities. The HIC Secretariat prepared a text on slum improvement and SPH.
As HIC President, I made a presentation at the MINURVI meeting (of Latin American ministers and high-level authorities in urbanism and housing) in October 2006 to question common biases and promote inclusion of SPH as strategic component of State policies in housing and urban development. (the Spanish version is available at http://www.hic-gs.org/content/files/SPH/Ponencia%20EOF%20ante%20MINURVI%20final1.pdf)
Together with Alejandro Florián, negotiations were carried out within CEPAL to validate the methodology designed with support from ROLAC to measure macro- and microeconomic impacts of Social Production of Housing and the results of the first study carried out for the Mexican case. An initial opinion formulated by Ricardo Jordán of CEPAL was distributed to the Ministers along with an example of the Mexican study, published for dissemination by HIC-AL.
Evaluation of the results of this interregional HIC project are still pending, and I feel it is fundamental to promote continuity of this effort.
Social production of habitat – as strategy for resistance, popular-economy strengthening, construction of active and responsible citizenship, and productive and concrete realization of the human right to housing and other habitat components – should be maintained as an international HIC project.
This, regardless of what one sole source of finance decides. In fact, the theme of SPH has allowed us to integrate other resources at the international, regional, and national levels (i.e. the HIC-AL-Novib project on influencing public policies).
Dating back to Vancouver in June 2006, the proposal was formulated at our Board meeting, and in particular at the liaison meeting on SPH, regarding the need to break stereotypes and generate SPH support instruments and tools.
In this regard, at that occasion I presented a video which synthesized various videos produced by Latin American HIC members on the vigorous and firm vision of inhabitants themselves regarding their active participation in SPH projects in several Latin American countries.
In late 2006 I completed a conceptual text on the importance of generating – in interaction with States – a system of SPH support instruments. This work, which will be available in Spanish and English through our web page, may serve as a contribution to the international debate on SPH and a reference for work to influence public policy which is carried out by our members in the different regions.
Another area in which HIC has been working in alliance with other international and national networks is the
World Charter for the Right to the City
This theme profoundly links us to the social struggles and their movements, and leads us to promote recognition of a new collective human right.
The World Urban Forum held in Vancouver provided an opportunity during this period to open dialogue with new actors interested in the theme and with UNESCO, which in coordination with UN HABITAT organized a workshop and maintains a working group on the Right to the City.
UNESCO allotted us a space in this gathering to present the Charter process, and later asked me to submit a text on the Charter process and its proposals, to be included in the workshop memoirs (the Spanish version is available at http://www.hic-al.org/proyectos/derechoalavivienda/desc/debatedocvinculados.html – please ask for the English version sending an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
We maintain communication and exchange with FIAN and Vía Campesina to link the Charter process with that being developed to define and advance peasants’ rights.
Much remains to be done in this process. In this regard, the HIC Board at its Vancouver meeting recommended that an international project be formulated and that subsequently necessary resources and alliances be sought. Development of this proposal remains pending.
Another area of focus which has emerged in recent years in HIC is that of:
The impact of economic and financial globalization, neoliberal policies, and macroprojects on the poorest sectors
The HIC working group based in the northern countries which has promoted HIC’s
involvement in this theme which affects us all, has also proposed the formulation and execution of an international project. The reaches of this project and its funding possibilities remain to be defined.
These three international projects could provide innovative sustenance and very powerful convergence points for all of our thematic networks and regional processes, within our active participation in the WSF and other spaces, considering that these projects bring together the perspectives of root causes, human rights, and active insertion of inhabitants in the participative and autonomous production and management of their habitat.
I have therefore focused my activities as HIC president in this global and integrating perspective:
* encouraging initiatives that contribute to fulfillment of our three strategic objectives:
– to strengthen popular processes,
– to influence public policies, and
– to strengthen our coalition and increase our alliances.
* linking local, (national) and regional processes that we carry out in Latin America and in Mexico to the global HIC process, considering that we need to act and think at the local as well as the global level.
It was in this perspective that I formulated my presentation made in HIC’s name at the inaugural plenary of the WUF in Vancouver (Spanish and English version available at: hic-net.org) and the critical declaration by HIC on the official focus of Habitat Day 2006 (Spanish and English version available at http://hic-al.org/eventoshic/diamundialdelhabitat2006.html )
In the first of these, I questioned the reductionist tendencies that imposition of “market solutions” has impregnated in national and international habitat-related commitments, from the integral vision of Vancouver 1976, to the extremely limited – and apparently unreachable – millennium goals.
In the second, I question the vision of cities as “magnets of hope,” when the massive migrations now overflowing our national borders in fact express a desperate process of rural peoples who have been dispossessed of all they have, to stay alive.
In both cases, I propose that we move beyond denouncement and protest, and focus on recognizing and supporting the initiatives and the autonomous and self-managed organization of the excluded, and their struggle to broaden and fulfill their rights and their productive insertion in society.
 Torres, Rino. 2006. “La Producción Social de Vivienda en México: Su importancia nacional y su impacto en la economía de los hogares pobres,”