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Habitat III and the Right to the City

Promoting the inclusion of the Right to the City in the New Urban Agenda was the key pillar of the advocacy strategy led by member-local governments of our Committee, as well as that of UCLG and civil society gathered around the Global Platform for the Right to the City. This strategy was closely linked to the promotion of other policy notions notions and transformatory approaches to urban policy, such as the "social function of the city", "human rights in the city", the Right to Housing or Urban Rights.


 

A transformative approach for our urban world

In 2050, a 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. In the next 30 years, more than 2 billion people will settle in urban areas, especially in the world's largest metropolis. In a world where 1% of the population owns 50% of the world’s wealth, urban areas would concentrate unsustainable inequalities.

This reality raises many questions that will shape the future of our urban planet: How to build cities for all, without banishing millions of the world’s poorest to the social and spatial margins of the city? How to turn cities into places where people can live a decent life and where opportunities to thrive are effectively accessible for all inhabitants? How can local governments take advantage of their responsibilities in order to implement human rights related to education, health, an enjoyable environment, employment, participation, culture, or even to security? How to ensure access to public services and improve urban mobility? How to promote intercultural and intergenerational cities without discrimination within which each and all inhabitants can find their place?

Member local governments of the UCLG CSIPDHR have mobilized since 2004 in order to collectively promote inclusive, democratic and sustainable cities, where the human rights of all are guaranteed. By the time of the Habitat III, aware of the new phase of global urbanization, those governments wanted to propose the Right to the City as a possible and concrete alternative, with a focus on collective well-being, rather than an urban development model focused exclusively on economic growth.

 

Proposed Guidelines of the Right to the City

The Right to the City is a collective right of each and every inhabitant, where the territory of the cities and their surroundings (in an equitable relationship with the rural world) are considered areas of exercise and guarantee of human rights. This helps to ensure an equitable, universal, just, democratic and sustainable distribution and enjoyment of the available resources, wealth, services, assets and opportunities offered by cities. Thus, a possible approach to the Right to the City would propose:

  • Cities where the full exercise of human rights for all habitants is ensured;
  • Democratic, transparent and participatory cities, based on citizen empowerment;
  • ​Cities as common property of all habitants, where human rights take precedence over the process of privatization and speculation, which conducts to the exclusion of the majority. Also, where degraded historical centers and degraded neighborhoods are regenerated avoiding gentrification;
  • Sustainable cities, maintaining a balanced and respectful relationship with the countryside around them and with their natural resources;
  • Cities where the economy looks after the welfare of its people, based on an endogenous and sustainable local economic development, which draws on local resources and not seek primarily the investments of international capital;
  • Multi-cultural and welcoming cities, who value the richness of migration;
  • Cities where public space belongs to all inhabitants, and where the importance of these spaces for the freedom of expression and for multiple uses of the city is recognized;
  • Cities where cultural rights are guaranteed for social inclusion;