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The right and access for all to housing and the city
1. Since Habitat 2, in Istanbul, in 1996, the situation has become worse for poor urban dwellers. One is forced to admit that, despite all the enthusiastic declarations and the commitment of governments and international institutions, precariousness has increased in cities. Increasingly determined movements are fighting against this situation and are asserting the existence of solutions. But a real political will from most States and the international community opposes the implementation of these solutions.
The preparation of Habitat 2+5 is significant of a negative evolution. Certain States, including the United States, China and Iran have called into question the agreements painstakingly negotiated in Istanbul and later, particularly concerning the acknowledgement of the right to housing and the Charter of communal autonomy. Moreover, the United States violently rejected the participation of associations and local authorities in international debate.
The dominant development model takes the diagnostic and criticisms into account, but it hardens prior orientations. The structural adjustment whose effects we it was possible to measure, beneficial for the most powerful and catastrophic for the poorest, has been confirmed. It is framed by the "the fight against poverty", which creates endless poverty, and "correct government" substituted for democracy. World trade applies its logic which puts the staggering profits of pharmaceutical firms, in compliance with the world of the WTO, side by side with the lives of 13 millions people infected with AIDS and in danger of dying every year, to whom access to medicine is forbidden. International financial institutions are even more strictly subjected to the logic of the world financial market.
On the other hand, the citizen movement has affirmed its position on an international level. >From Seattle to Porto Alegre, associations of international solidarity and residentsí movements, with trade unions, peasants, small producers, ecologists and consumers are calling for a different logic founded on the respect of the rights of the human being in development and the international organisation of the world. Porto Alegre emphasised the necessity for local democracy and co-operation between government and civil society.
The summits and conferences of the United nations system follow one after
another, year after year, dealing with the big questions which trouble
the planet and its future: Vienna and human rights, Cairo and population,
Rio and the environment, Copenhagen and social development, Beijing and
women and Istanbul and cities.
3. Nonetheless, these conferences are an opportunity for exchange, debate and less official forms of encounter between the new actors on the international stage. They strengthen social movements in the reaffirmation of their claims. They contribute to the construction of a world opinion. They have progressively established the increased importance of other partners alongside States, more particularly associations and municipalities. It therefore seems important that the AIS render their positions explicit so as to play the role of interlocutor, and if necessary that of a counterbalance, in relation to the States. Moreover, these conferences have the merit of reaffirming the place of the institutions of the United Nations, founded on the universal declaration of Human Rights, in relation to those of Bretton Woods.
The first conference on habitat and human settlements took place in Vancouver
in 1976 and led to the creation of UNCHS in Nairobi. In twenty-five
years, international discourse on urbanism has undergone great change.
Debate has progressed from housing and suitable technology to the city;
from urban policy to urban management; from a clear-cut North-South opposition
(rich/poor) to the rise of social difficulties in the North, which can
be seen particularly clearly today in cities and their suburbs. Today
discourse has become more complex and technical while at the same time
losing a major part of it political content.
5. We cannot accept a world of unlimited irresponsibility. The argument of a shortage of resources to invest in accommodation and housing for non solvent sectors is not acceptable. In reality, the world is progressively more productive and richer. Since 1960, world production of goods has increased two and a half times more than population. It is not the mass of riches produced which is in regression, but their distribution and allocation which is more and more unequal. The situation of housing and habitat is all the more a matter for concern for the reason that they represent highly productive investments, from the social as much as from the economic point of view; they are one of the fundamental conditions of mankindís pursuit of activity; they integrate and socialise.
Today our societies are subjected to an economic way of thinking which
is presented as the best and the only possible way of thinking: neo-liberalism.
Admittedly, the market economy is extraordinarily successful in developing
productivity. But it takes the form of a logic of structural adjustment
imposed on all economies, both North and South. The opening of borders,
movement of capital, prioritisation of exportation, reduction of budget
deficits, and notably spending on health and education... Each society
has to submit to the laws of the world market. But as well as wealth,
this system produces poverty; there is well-being for few but uprooting
and loss of meaning for many.
Although most often working with the underprivileged and outcasts from
society, the AIS distinguish themselves clearly from residentsí associations.
The latter, more often than not form in response to well identified difficulties
arising on a daily basis (groups invading sites, associations for rubbish
collection or calling on services from the municipality...). They
are representatives of the inhabitants from a territorial or community
point of view.
8. Five principles have been defined, by AIS, during the meetings of the international community: these are the principles of freedom, equality, citizenship, solidarity, and durability. AIS reaffirm their adhesion to these principles and are of the opinion that their translation into strategies and programmes of urban development could allow to reach the two principal objectives pronounced by the United nations with a view to Habitat II: suitable housing for all, viable human settlements. These principles allow the AIS to construct their specific analysis of situations and contexts, to define their positions in relation to national policies and international institutions, to advance their criteria of evaluation so as not to allow themselves to fall into preconceived ideas, to found their proposals and their methods of intervention.
9. Often in the history of societies the city upheld freedom; the freedoms of cities and freedom in the cities. Freedom of expression and association and the initiatives of associations are preludes for the participation of inhabitants and democracy. The conquest of individualsí freedom of movement, in a world which recognises all other forms of movement, remains to be accomplished. The guarantee of freedom cannot be reduced to market regulations, even if, in some cases, market economies could have been considered as alternatives to totalitarian regimes. For AIS it follows logically that freedom of initiative is the associationís expression of freedom to take action.
There can be no freedom without equality, freedom to exercise rights without
the organisation of equal access to this right.
11. Equality in the city requires the transformation of socio-cultural relations between the sexes. The objective of equality between men and women becomes the priority focus in giving a renewed dynamic to working and governing methods and is giving rise to a debate on new choices in the planning and management of cities. Although women represent 50 % of the population, they have been very noticeably absent from decisions concerning the development and management of cities. The analysis of living conditions from the experience and viewpoint of women will have the advantage of dealing qualitatively with essential preoccupations for all citizens, with a view to encouraging in-depth change aiming at equality and quality of life for all.
12. Beyond the assertion of rights, citizenship is the acknowledgement and the implementation of each personís responsibility in the present and future life of the city. Each person has to be able to act upon the decisions which concern him or her. Thus, popular participation is at the centre of the urban development process in all sectors of social and economic life. It is what allows those who have been excluded, the urban poor and women, to be recognised as actors in their own development. For AIS, asserting the principle of citizenship goes hand in hand with the democratisation of decision making bodies and the participation of all inhabitants in the development process of the city. They are calling for new relations between representative democracy and participatory democracy. Neighbourhood organisations and associations are places of effective participation in urban life and for this reason have to be supported. In the case where citizenship is inaccessible because of conditions of nationality, the status of city dweller Ė the participation of the city dweller in the administration of the city Ė has to be guaranteed in its daily effectiveness.
The principle of solidarity refers to the awareness of a bond of common
interest which implies the moral obligation of not doing harm to others
and of helping them when they are in need. For AIS, the principle
of solidarity is expressed in partnership, which is both an objective and
a means of intervention.
Durable development, understood as the right of future generations, applies
to the urban problematic with particular acuteness, all the more so given
that economic temporality is considerably contracted whereas normally the
city is seen in the long term. It means that the management of cities
has to take the duration and the needs of present generations into account,
while preserving the possibilities of future generations. Urbanisation
entails environmental problems: expansion which threatens sites and natural
resources, emissions and waste, etc. These are all the more difficult
to manage when the city is densely populated and covers a large area and
when the level of economic development is low. They require integrated
urban policies (housing, transport, hygiene, production) and the regulation
of industrial and energy policies to be considered in relation with the
regional and planetary environment.
15. The inventory drawn up by AIS is the result of the observations made in the field on a local level and in compliance their principles. Their daily work in neighbourhoods alongside residents has given them a unique point of view on the world and the changes it is going through. Today an inventory on housing and urbanism can be broken down to four levels: local, national, regional and global.
On a local level
In the North as in the South, we can witness the difficulty of living in
the city on a daily basis: lack of basic infrastructure, un- or underemployment,
increased delinquency and crime, homelessness, pollution, the meagre local
resources... In this way, several "cities" co-exist within one, with
contrasting levels of amenities and social integration.
17. Since Habitat 2, in-depth transformation has been perceptible on a local level. It is based on a new balance of power which places greater value on the local. This evolution, which is not without danger, emphasises a democracy of proximity and local development. The AIS can only be pleased with this new attention to participatory democracy as illustrated by the emergence of local authorities and initiatives such as the participatory budget of Porto Alegre, the 21 local programmes and the local coalitions of the Programme of Urban Management, and the boosting of local economies of the Municipal Development Programme.
Faced with these realities, the position taken by AIS is:
On a national level
19. AIS are observing the progressive withdrawal of the State which sees itself called on to relinquish its productive functions, but also to do away with its function as a provider of services, including public services, in favour of the private sector. However, the city cannot do without public intervention, lack of which generates external problems which the market cannot regulate (pollution, land and property speculation...). Moreover, there can be no consensus on the "best city" possible: the city most desirable for companies is not necessarily the city most desirable for its inhabitants ... The city reflects the political, economic and social choices of governments. Today we can see a certain number of deficiencies which are contributing to developing marginalisation and exclusion: a lack of co-ordination between institutions; legal mechanisms which are inefficient in having the right to housing recognised and implemented; the impact of regulations on the housing market, and particularly on social housing; policies of transferring public resources (between the State and local authorities, between local authorities, etc.).
Since Habitat 2, decentralisation has imposed itself generally. This
movement is contradictory: it results from the calling into question of
States, from above by globalisation, and from below by a call for local
democracy. There were more reforms in decentralisation generated
from external influences (the IFI notably) than from a local level.
Decentralisation is only the excuse for the centreís ungovernability.
For AIS, the State draws it legitimacy from its function as guarantor of
the collective well-being. It is up to the State to define the mode
and the scope of the redistribution of wealth and put in place the institutional
and regulatory framework of a city policy which is both more just and more
On a regional geopolitical level
22. At the same time as the development in the globalisation of exchanges, we can see the emergence of more or less structured regional blocks (the European Union, ALENA, Mercosur, ANASE, the Asian " growth triangles"...). The primary aim of most of these regional organisations is the lowering of commercial barriers and a greater fluidity in the exchange and movement of capital. These are, in a contradictory movement, both vectors of neo-liberal globalisation and counter-trends to this evolution. Although few of them have given themselves political and social functions in their mandates, they could be places where States learn to co-operate among each other and thereby contribute to consolidating peace. It is on the scale of such blocks that a concerted policy for land planning can be defined, to the extent that they are committed to favouring viable, responsible and equitable development for all on a long term basis.
23. Since Habitat 2, discussion of geo-cultural regions has continued. Unfortunately it has mostly taken the form of promoting zones of free exchange within the framework of WTO agreements. Similarly, the basis of proposals for the greater autonomy of regional banks remains to be discussed.
24. AIS see interesting possibilities in this progression of regionalisation. AIS have already adopted this regional dimension, first of all by developing networks for the exchange of experiences and mutual training, furthermore by drawing up common proposals which they defend before the competent bodies (for example, the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights which fights against evictions, or the European Charter for the right to housing and the fight against exclusion). The networks of cities developing on an international scale, in parallel to State intervention, are working for the greater autonomy of local authorities and the better representation of civil society.
On a planetary level
25. The 20th century will no doubt remain in History as the century which initiated globalisation: the globalisation of wars, of the economy and of communication. It is also the century of rapid and massive urbanisation, with notably the apparition of megalopolises with multimillion populations. Expansion of a single economic logic on a planet-wide scale generates, North and South, the same types of responses, of which cities and their malfunctioning send back an exacerbated image. The time has come to rethink international migration, whose importance is linked to economic disparities, minoritiesí rights and the respect of the rights if the human being. It also becoming necessary to rethink citiesí functions and their forms of organisation.
26. Since Habitat 2, the disparities in the distribution of wealth on a world level has become even more accentuated. The logic of the WTO, the merchandisation of the world, has taken over. The logic of the world market has established itself firmly in international financial institutions. The model of development combines structural adjustment with poverty and government.
27. AIS observe that the mastering of urbanisation requires renewed reflection on city/countryside relationships, demography and international migration. We acknowledge that cities now act as driving forces in economic development. But mastering urbanisation is attained through the adoption and implementation of policies allowing to correct negatives external factors created by urban concentration. We are working to create universal awareness and a planetary vision.
Our proposals as AIS are organised around nine themes:
The principles set out have consequences for all of these themes. They require us to be explicit about the demands we are making on current institutional facilities and to specify the nature of our commitment.
see all relationships of co-operation as necessarily having to be founded
on the acknowledgement of equality between the actors forming them.
They have to be established on the basis of mutual interest. Finally,
they have to be put in a long term perspective. Understood as a relationship
founded on these principles, partnership has to constitute the basis and
the method of constructing relationships of renewed co-operation between
local associations on the one hand (residentsí associations, citizens or
producers and their regroupings), and between the latter and the AIS on
the other. With this in mind, we ask that the associative movement
be recognised as a representation of the direct interest of the inhabitants,
complementing representation by delegation resulting from elections.
30. The nature of the development that we wish to defend is founded on respect and the consolidation of the rights of the human being. This is our conception of durable development. We defend the complementarity of political and civic rights and economic, social and cultural rights. We support the efforts of the international community, reaffirmed at the Vienna Conference, for an additional protocol for economic, social and cultural rights. Particularly, the legal status of these rights, which is a form of guaranteeing their respect and the possibility of recourse to legal authority, open to citizens, to judge the responsibility of those who violate their rights.
31. The institutional and legal framework has to guarantee the associative movementsí existence and forms of operating, and notably their freedom of expression and right to create associations. On local and national levels, administrations have to accept the autonomy and independence of these associations. They notably have to recognise their right and power to foster relations with the individuals and institutions of their choice. Finally, they have to accept to work with associative movements.
We request that freedom of expression and the right to create associations be introduced into international law. In a general way, we call on institutions on all levels to take the point of view of associative movements into account and to associate them with projects being implemented and debates on programmes and policies.
For their part, AIS are committed to considering the national and territorial coherence of their actions, in terms of policies of economic, social and spatial development. Nonetheless, it is necessary for there to be negotiated co-operation with local authorities with a view to constructing a public space. Acknowledging the importance of local authorities does not necessarily mean accepting municipal or national orientations and would not lead to a priori control over their actions. It is within the framework of their partnership with the associative movement of the South that they intend to define their position in relation to these orientations.
32. We demand equality of access for all to housing and the city. To constitute this in reference to action today requires making a particular effort for the most disadvantaged, for women and children (particularly those living in the street). The actions developed on all levels must be set in a long term perspective and be defined and implemented in accordance with democratic methods.
It is up to the States and local authorities to ensure the application of these principles. It is by acknowledging, accompanying and pooling local initiatives that innovative programmes can and must be conceived and alternative policies forged.
In the area of access to land, we request that land security be guaranteed, policies of regularisation carried out and land made available. Alternative programmes and financing policies are possible. We can refer, for example, to the mutualisation of public an private resources by mobilising popular savings or systems of banks of materials facilitating self-promotion and the expression of know-how and popular solidarity.
In order for each person to be able to participate in the decisions which
concern him or her (principle of citizenship), for the interest of all
to be taken into account (principles of equality, and solidarity) and for
the actions undertaken to integrate the long term perspective of eco-development
(principle of durability), we ask that policies on national housing, habitat
and the city are publicly debated, notably on the level of programmes for
structural adjustment. We are prepared, under these conditions, to
intervene in support of policies which respect the principles that guide
34. We grant a strategic place to action on a project basis. Projects are a particularly good way of testing, evaluating and validating innovative methods and plans of action for intervention. They offer the opportunity of developing the pooling of resources between actors in practice. Finally, they allow to feed debate on general orientation, as much from the point of view of urban projects as from that of the forms and methods of co-operation. In this sense, AIS ask to be recognised as fully fledged actors in the urban development process and to be associated, in respect of their autonomy and guiding principles, with action and collective reflection in this domain. They are committed, on this level, to defining and implementing their projects in the framework of partnership with local associations in the South and taking national and territorial coherence into account in these projects.
35. It is up to national institutions to define strategies and interventions founded on these same principles. Respecting the principle of citizenship notably requires integrating popular participation into the elaboration and implementation of interventions; respecting that of equality notably requires the development of adjustment systems, allowing all access to housing and the city. In the different domains of intervention, and principally in the domains of housing and urban services, we request that economic services of general interest be defined and guaranteed. These services are not, from our point of view, social safety nets for the poor. They are mechanisms allowing to guarantee equality of access for all to basic services; which implies specific measures and programmes for those who are excluded due to the logic of the market.
36. We ask that international institutions are made respect international agreements signed by their members, and particularly the protocols for rights which are one of the foundations of international law. We ask that an instance of international appeal be empowered to judge the action of these institutions and that citizensí movements can have access to them if they believe that international law is not being respected. We ask that the evaluation of interventions of international financial institutions and the WTO be entrusted to an independent body situated in the system of the United nations.
We ask that international institutions define orientations which take into account principles of freedom, equality, citizenship, solidarity, and durability. We expect these same institutions to recognise the autonomy of associations and not to subordinate them to their projects. We ask that the conditions of application of the principle of the right to housing be defined, notably on a financial level, and that housing programmes for the homeless be put into action. We are committed to participating in projects coherent with and faithful to these principles.
We intend to forge alliances with these different actors in a general framework
of the respect of the interests of each and everyone and on the following
are willing to contribute to organising dialogue and co-operation between
all of these actors, through two principal modalities: the implementation
of common projects on the one hand, debate on programmes and policies on
Following organisations signed the declaration :
ACAD (Associatiuon de Coopération entre Acteurs du développement), Acroterre, Aitec, Architecture et Développement, CARI (Centre d'actions et de réalisations internationales), CEDAL (Centre de recherche et d'information pour l'Amérique latine), Cedetim, CRID (Centre de recherche et d'information sur le développement), Cedidelp, EAST (Eau, Agriculture et Santé en milieu Tropical), Femmes & Changements, Forum de Delphe, Gret (Groupe de recherche et d'échanges technologiques), Solagral, Ritimo, Villes en Tansition...
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