Statement of the Brazilian Civil Society of the New Urban Agenda


civil society organizations, gathered in São Paulo on May 31 of 2016, 
come through the present Statement to express
themselves about the content of the New Urban Agenda (NUA)
, to be adopted at the Third UN Conference on
Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – Habitat III. Firstly, we recognize
that the proposal of the Zero Draft advances towards the understanding of the
city and the housing policy in an integrated manner, whether on the network of
cities and connected on other scales of government, or articulated to other
policies and to the urban development process as a whole.

However, we believe that for the construction of
a NUA effectively consistent with the reality of cities today, 
an in-depth analysis regarding to
what extent have we advanced or not
, in relation to the commitments made at Habitat
II Conference in Istanbul in 1996, is missing – as a way to explicit the basis
that served as a reference for the construction of the Agenda with its
structuring principles, agenda means of implementation and monitoring.

The proposed Agenda released thus far presents a
language that tries to incorporate an alleged neutrality of the urban
development process, which 
does not reflect
the reality of exclusion, regression and violations of rights 
daily by the population. It does not
recognize or emphasize the various conflicts 
permeate this process, as the land and
social-environmental conflicts and political struggle for public
space present in different parts of the world.

Our assessment is, in the aspect of
vulnerabilities, that the document does not deepen the issues related to
inequality and exclusion experienced by marginalized groups. In the document,
the analysis revolves around urban poverty and the treatment of vulnerable
citizens only through the income component, failing to advance on the
social-territorial inequalities perspective (access to services, goods and
opportunities). Women, youth, black population, elderly, ethnic minorities
(such as indigenous, Roma, etc.) and LGBTI’s are the most vulnerable groups not
only with regard to urban segregation and social exclusion, but also urban
violence and public security, underexplored aspects in the NUA. Only through
the acknowledgment of these inequalities, is it possible to develop solutions
that treat with greater attention the difficulties faced in urban and rural
life by these groups.

Among the principles, consolidated in the
definition of “Our View”, should be explicitly present: the search for 
equity, the fair
distribution of the costs and benefits 
urbanization, the social
function of land tenure and property
, among others. In an Agenda that intends on
effectively changing the paradigm of urban development, what is noticeable,
however, is an attempt to include different and, often, conflicting views.

The document points out, on one hand, to the necessity of building inclusive urban economies; on the other, in contradiction, to
competitiveness as a goal that should be pursued by cities. We believe that
this last view should be eliminated from the agenda, being vital the establishment of solidarity and cooperation
among cities 
and among different agents for a
global movement of transformation of the urban development. Notwithstanding, we
understand that the vision of productivity in the cities should be replaced by
the notion of sustainability.

Although the document mentions the Right to the City (R2C), it incorrectly assumes the concept to be
equivalent to the idea of a “city for all”. While the concept of “city for all”
emerged only recently and relates foremost to the dimension of equality and of
non-discrimination in cities; the concept of
R2C has been built through decades, from base movements, and reaffirms the
sense of city as commons
. It is,
thus, a much broader
than the first, by articulating the
varied dimension of cities and urban life (public spaces, land, housing, etc.),
as exemplified by the final document presented by Policy Unit 01. We believe,
therefore, that the NUA
should recognize the R2C as a human rights approach for cities and as a
platform of action for government, civil society and private sector
, with sights to achieve just, inclusive and
sustainable cities.

In this sense, it is important for the NUA to define more clearly the role of the private
in the process of urban development
beyond the public-private partnerships. It is important to provide mechanisms
of participation, social control, management and transparency for its
performance and in the relationships established with the public sector and
society. It is thus necessary, to have national
policies regulating large companies acting in the sector and also in the real
estate market
. There
should be foreseen policies too, which manage to succeed in reversing the
current excluding pattern of urban development, de-concentrating private property and
redistributing of richness and benefits 
from the process of making cities, also through the creation of progressive
taxation and inversion of priorities in investments.

The NUA, from the land perspective, practically does not approach the issues of informal
settlement, land and property concentration 
does not present concrete proposals for the regulation of the real estate
market, essential points for the democratization of the access to urban land.
For that, it would be important to have the
recognition of the social function of tenure and property 
the Agenda, as well as the establishment of mechanisms for the prevention and mediation of land conflicts and
guarantees of secure land tenure.

The current proposal of the NUA is still silent when it comes to some key
aspects of the housing policy today
, such as: the debate about the financing of the
habitat production and its current process of financialization; the ongoing
process of weakening different land tenure forms, not making the necessary
critic to the hegemonic speech of individual private property as the
one-size-fits-all model; the necessity to prioritize integrated,
multidimensional and participative interventions in informal settlements, as
well as measures of rights recognition. Hence, in order to advance in the
realization of the right to adequate housing and tenure security, it is essential that the NUA reinforces the
importance of offering public policies with a diversity of programs, housing
solutions and ways of securing tenure
, elucidating that the habitation situation
cannot be solved with only one model. It is necessary, for instance, to
highlight the importance of governmental support to social production of
habitat processes, enabling an offer of quality, with good location and
strengthening of social bonds.

The conception of public spaces that are
accessible, safe, culturally diverse, broadly open to social interaction,
political participation and sociocultural manifestations, already included in
the NUA, is positive and should be better specified between the commitments and
forms of execution of it. It is important, mainly, to 
overcome the notion that confuses public spaces
with property owned and managed by the State
,  advancing to the idea of public spaces as common goods, also with the possibility of social and
collective management. Another aspect, which should be present in the Agenda is
the role that could be played by public spaces, in the promotion
of popular and solidary economies
, with commitments of non-discrimination of
informal workers, whether they are nationals or immigrants. In the same sense,
there should be a bigger deepening in the
political and cultural dimension of the use of public spaces
, making sure there is no repression or
criminalization of the multiple expressions of citizenship. Another element
absent in the text is the allocation of public spaces in urban areas and of
urban-rural transition, which should be destined to environmental preservation
and sustainable and urban agriculture.

Lastly, as a reinforcing measure of the
importance of the document, as well as an incentive for it to be put in
practice, we believe to be crucial the 
creation of
a monitoring panel of implementation of the Agenda
, articulating both, multiple UN agencies and
programs and other relevant actors of different segments of society. We strongly believe that all the above
mentioned claims and suggestions are fundamental in order to achieve
sustainable, inclusive and just cities in the next 20 years.