Towards World Habitat Day 2011 – Cochabamba Declaration


The men and women of the Americas who sign this
declaration – professionals and activists in the field – have been working for
some time in the area of habitat and social housing. We have been a part of
many achievements, experienced the frustrations, and witnessed successes and
setbacks throughout the years. For this reason, we feel the need to make this
reflection public in order to contribute to the collective search for better alternatives.

While humankind has achieved great technological feats
that were unthinkable just a few years ago, these also encourage the
consumption of disposable products for the unlimited enrichment of a few, while
the great majority of people continue to suffer greatly. Nature, broken and threatened,
retaliates and further affects those who are already the most vulnerable.

In habitat-related matters, this situation is evident
in the region, beyond local specificities, if we consider the segregation and
fragmentation that characterizes the current development of our cities. All the
while, indigenous populations and farmers are evicted from their territories, and
the mega-projects of local and transnational capitalism are violently imposed.

While our governments emit declarations and are
signatories to treaties that recognize the right to housing for all, the
restricted access or the outright lack of access to land for housing, to
potable water, energy, sewage, cities and territories for all, rather than for a
few, is obvious. This socially-unjust consequence is noticeable everywhere in
Latin America, from Chihuahua to Ushuaia, since it is the product of an
economic system that exploits the commons and human beings without any
hesitation or any type of limitation.

In all of these areas, people are joining in the struggle
to improve living conditions: they organize, demand, propose, and above all,
spring into action; they are making the city that they are able to, an area
where the state – whose obligation is to guarantee this right – and the market
– since it exceeds the scope for business – cannot, do not know how or are not
interested in participating.

The Social Production of Habitat is very powerful,
even when it takes place without the support of public policies, technical assistance,
funding, and faces all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles. To think of what it
could achieve if it could count on all of these elements! Self-producers and
organized movements have already proved this fact across the region.

The support that the state does not grant inhabitants
is given to business often linked to those in government, always betting that
the solution will be found in the market rather than within society. Public
policies established by multilateral institutions advise – when they do not
force – states to take on few commitments and assume the role of facilitator,
which in the end means to guarantee profits.

The arrival of ‘progressive’ parties into the
governments of many countries has not changed this situation: the discourse has
changed, while the policies have not. The right to the city, like many other economic,
social and cultural rights, is to this date not fully enjoyed and has in some
sense been displaced by the market; it is sometimes even being replaced by the
private production of shameful settlements that are grossly expensive and that
cannot be referred as habitat or housing, but rather ‘habitational solutions’.
Rights on paper continue to accumulate, while their effective enjoyment is
still deprived of plans and measures for implementation.

The settlement improvement programs show how hard and
socially-expensive it is to better what is already present without any sort of
planning. It is impossible to ignore the large portions of cities that are
built by residents, therefore, which need to be improved, integrated and
included based on their own aspirations and proposals.

It has been shown that that the market does not
redress social ills, and that the best bet is to support the organizational
potential of the people and that their possibilities are much higher when the
processes are collective, participative, self-managed and democratic. If the
capacities of people can be developed within a framework that guarantees a
certain institutionality and set of tools, results will undoubtedly be better
than the already good ones that are achieved today. It is important, then, to
encourage the strengthening of social movements and to appeal to various
procedures and solutions, particularly in matters of production, technology,
funding and tenure.

We demand that the governments of countries in our
region end the criminalization of inhabitant efforts to enforce the human right
to housing, and instead recognize and support the processes of social
production and management of habitat through state policies that consider the
creation of long-lasting and public funding mechanisms (accessible credit and
diverse subsidy options); that the savings and labor contributions of
inhabitants are recognized and built into a collective financing system; that
programs not only include the production process, but also those of home maintenance
and improvement; the recovery of the public role naturally held by the state in
the area of planning; the creation of public banks that will allow for
increased access to land with services and housing in popular sectors; that
they put an end to displacement, forced evictions and urban fragmentation; and respect
for the environment.

At the same time, we ask that universities and
academia train professionals and technicians to work with people, favoring
participative methods, research in social habitat and the diffusion of this
knowledge in the broader population.

Those of us who subscribe this document continue to
work in these areas and renew our commitment with social movements in their

Ortiz (Me
xico), Claudia
Blanco (El Salvador), Graciela Landaeta (Bolivia),

Selma Díaz (Cuba), Guillermo
Bazoberry (Bolivia), Martha Arébalo (Bolivia),
Lorena Zárate (México),

Ramiro García (Peru), Alejandro
n (Colombia), Cristina
Vila (Paraguay)

Leonardo Pessina
(Brasil), Fabián Farfán (Bolivia), Benjamín Nahoum (Uruguay),

Gustavo González (Uruguay), Ana Sugranyes

September 13, 2011.