Taking Forward the Right to the City
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
09:00 – 18:30
“For cities in the South, (the) aspirations to be ‘global’ cities or ‘world class’ cities are often behind exclusionary practices like removal of informal settlements and street traders. The focus on the Right to the City as well as the good examples of how this might be…. give substance to Jenny Robinson’s delightful call for cities to accept their ‘ordinariness’. “ Caroline Skinner, extract from the E-Debate on the Right to the City, 2009
The Right to the City (R2C)is a hotly contested concept. For activists, it represents redressing the injustices and exclusion that characterizes modern urban life. It carries an explicit message of ‘conceptual change’ demanding that all city inhabitants – not just the wealthy and the powerful – have the right to access and benefit from the opportunities that cities offer.
For others, the concept is an abomination – a threat to the established social and political order or an incitement to radical confrontation. For some, the R2C instils fear that creativity, entrepreneurship and markets will be stifled by increasing state intervention. Yet others simply dismiss the R2C as a utopian vision that cannot be realized because the concept remains vague and has limited practical value.
This Dialogue takes place against the backdrop of a global financial crisis, national debates regarding the role of migrants and immigrants, physical and social exclusion of vulnerable groups, the growing threat of urban food riots, and many other challenges to achieving inclusive cities. At the same time, there are many initiatives that are making significant strides to translating the R2C from concept to reality.
Dialogue 1 will explore the meaning of the R2C in today’s world, whether it can or should be translated into practical action and what the main challenges are to realizing an R2C. Leading thinkers, professionals and activists will present their perspectives on how best to take forward the R2C.
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About the programme
The discussions around “Taking Forward the Right to the City” are central to WUF5, and they will be organised as follows:
|1. Dialogue 1||09:00 – 11:30||Taking Forward the Right to the City |
|2. Thematic Open Debate||13:30 – 15:00||Whose City? Excluded Groups and the Right to the City|
|3. Thematic Open Debate||15:30 – 17:00||Innovative Approaches to Realizing the Right to the City|
|4. Thematic Concluding Session||17:30 – 18:30|
About the Sessions
The Dialogue will be organized in four sessions. The morning Dialogue will provide different perspectives on the meaning of the R2C. Two Thematic Open Debates (ToD) will be held in the afternoon, picking up specific threads that have emerged from the global debate. The first ToD will focus on the challenges faced by specific excluded groups, including migrant workers, refugees, the urban poor and women. The second ToD will review innovative experiences in realizing the R2C. The Conclusion will summarize the key points and identify possible ways forward. These four events are elaborated in more detail below.
|Title:||Taking Forward the Right to the City (R2C)|
|Day, Time & Venue:||Tuesday, 23 March, from 09:00 - 11:30, W4-1|
The concept of the R2C draws inspiration from three main sources: urbanization, academic debate and the experiences of communities, cities and countries around the world.
With more than half the world’s population now living in areas defined as urban, campaigners are calling for a reappraisal of human rights to specifically embrace the urban domain. Building on the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, activists call for a reappraisal of what these rights mean in the urban context – the right to safety and security, adequate shelter, safe drinking water…
In academic circles, the R2C was first articulated in the 1960s by French sociologist Henri Lefebvre who argued that the commodification and privatization of urban space posed a threat to the fundamental social and political nature of cities. He called upon citizens to actively participate in the creation of their city. Since then, his ideas have inspired others to debate the meaning of urban citizenship, the role of legislation in creating urban social and physical fragmentation or, conversely, solving problems of exclusion and tensions between markets and rights.
Finally, activists, professionals, mayors and ministers around the world have been inspired by the concept of the R2C and have sought to implement it through a variety of mechanisms, including social campaigns, legal reform, participatory budgeting, upgrading programmes, etc. What lessons do these experiences offer for taking forward the R2C?
In the Dialogue, leading thinkers, officials and activists will share their perspectives on the contemporary relevance of the R2C and if it can be of assistance in creating more sustainable urbanization and bridging the urban divide.
|Topics to be Covered:|
- What does the Right to the City mean? – Is it an individual or collective right; is the R2C a universal concept or only relevant for some countries; are there some rights that are more fundamental than others; what restrictions on rights are acceptable; what responsibilities come with the R2C?
- Who has the Right to the City – who benefits and who is excluded from the R2C, and why? Are there reasonable limits to who should be able to access the R2C?
What can be done to realize the Right to the City – what are the roles and responsibilities of different actors – individual, community, private sector, State? What is the role of participatory governance? What initiatives have made cities more inclusive?
|Thematic Open Debate|
|Title:||Whose City? Excluded Groups and the Right to the City|
|Day, Time & Venue:||Tuesday, 23 March, from 13:30 - 15:00, W4-1|
|Overview of the Thematic Open Debate:||Cities are seen by many as beacons of hope and opportunity, offering a wide range of jobs and livelihoods; benefiting from the best roads, houses, schools and clinics; and serving as centres of culture, learning and tolerance.|
Yet, in cities throughout the world, many people are excluded from the full benefits of urban life. Slum dwellers often live without access to adequate housing and basic services and at times under threat of eviction. Migrants may lack formal papers, but they form an important part of the urban workforce, while ethnic minorities often face discrimination in housing or access to formal livelihoods. Conflict and climate change are creating a new group of eco-migrants. Women may suffer violence at home, discrimination at work, or access to low-paid jobs only. The handicapped and elderly have limited opportunities to access urban space.
The first Thematic Open Debate looks at the struggle for the R2C. In particular, it looks at who is excluded from the benefits of urban life, how that exclusion takes place and why it is perpetuated.
|Topics to be Covered:|
The Thematic Open Debate will discuss:
- The experience of migrants and immigrants – including people displaced by conflict, natural disaster or the impacts of climate change – their role in the formal and informal economy and their ability to access the benefits of urban life;
- The experience of social groups to demand the right to participate and have a voice in their cities;
- The physical, social and economic opportunities and constraints faced by women in realizing their R2C; and
- The experience of specific groups who are often excluded from the R2C, including indigenous groups, youth, the elderly and the handicapped
|Thematic Open Debate|
|Title:||Innovative Approaches to Realizing the Right to the City|
Day, Time & Venue:
|Tuesday, 23 March, from 15:30 - 17:00, W4-1|
Overview of the Thematic Open Debate:
In the face of critics who argue that the R2C is ‘vague’ or ‘utopian,’ activists, mayors and ministers around the world are taking bold initiatives to translate the R2C from concept to action.
From Montréal to Dakar, Novosibirsk or New Delhi, city charters are strengthening transparent and efficient government. In Latin America, exciting national experiments in innovative legislation like the City Statute in Brazil, land value capture and participatory planning and budgeting promote poverty reduction. Human rights have been strengthened in Victoria, Australia, and in Mexico City, while many cities promote participation in urban decision-making as, for example in Locassa, Niamey and Montevideo.
This Thematic Open Debate will invite leading practitioners and professionals to present innovative approaches to realizing the R2C.
Topics to be Covered:
This Thematic Open Debate will discuss:
- What can be learned from innovative attempts to translate the R2C from concept to reality?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in realizing theR2C – Government, international organisations, civil society, professional groups, etc.
- What is the way forward for the R2C?
|Thematic Concluding Session|
Day, Time & Venue:
|Tuesday, 23 March, from 17:30 - 18:30, W4-1|
|The moderators of the three preceding segments will summarize the key points and explore possible ways forward. The floor will be open for final comments from participants.|
Moderators and speakers in the main dialogue and related thematic open debates:
The provisional lists of moderators and speakers include the following:
- Neal Peirce, journalist, the Washington Post, USA
- Alison Brown, University of Cardiff, U.K.
- Mr. Edesio Fernandes, Brazil
- Mr. David Harvey, City University of New York, USA
- Ms. Beatrice Corredor, Minister of Housing, Spain
- Ms. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organisation Affairs, USA
- Ms. Rose Molokoane, Chair of South African Urban Poor, South Africa
- Mr. Michel Destot, Mayor of Grenoble, France
- Mr. Marcello Balbo, Universita IUAV di Venezia, Italy
- Ms. Margareta Wahlstrom, ASG for DRR, ISDR, Austria
- Mr. Enrique Ortiz, Habitat International Coalition (LAC), Brazil
- Mr. Miguel Baldez, Universidade Candido Mendes, Brazil
- Ms. Zoubida Allaoua, World Bank, USA
- Mr. Shi Nan, Secretary General of Urban Planning Society of China, China
- Mr. Augusto Barrera, Mayor of Quito, Ecuador
- Ms. Elizabeth Longworth, UNESCO, France
Main Language of the Presentations:
|English, Spanish and Portuguese, with simultaneous translation.|
Contact Person at UN-HABITAT:
|Szilard Fricska, |
Coordinator, Human Settlements in Crisis Programme, UN-HABITAT