The Right to the City, recognized in the Habitat III Agenda–now it’s time to make sure that there are means for its implementation

On 10 September, the Secretariat of Habitat III released the final draft of the so-called “New Urban Agenda”, which was agreed in the intergovernmental informal meeting that took place in New York on September 7-9. After a long advocacy and negotiation process, the Right to the City will be mentioned for the very first time in an UN agreement. However, the way it will be implemented it is not clear yet.


An unprecedented mention of the Right to the City in a UN document

The determination of some Latin American States (Brazil, Ecuador, Chili and Mexico), supported by the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments and Global Platform for the Right to the City’s collective advocacy work, have greatly contributed to the introduction of the concept of the Right to the City in the Agenda resulting from Habitat III –specifically in paragraph 11 of the section “Our shared vision”:

“We share a vision of cities for all, referring to the equal use and enjoyment of cities and human settlements, seeking to promote inclusivity and ensure that all inhabitants, of present and future generations, without discrimination of any kind, are able to inhabit and produce just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient, and sustainable cities and human settlements, to foster prosperity and quality of life for all. We note the efforts of some national and local governments to enshrine this vision, referred to as right to the city, in their legislations, political declarations and charters.”

It is to be noted that this definition is based on the proposal that was made by the Global Platform for the Right to the City but with an important absence:  the reference to cities as common good has disappeared from the final wording.

But, beyond that, the Right to the City’s core principles, guidelines, and contents shaped several other sections, leaving a meaningful footprint in the so-called “New Urban Agenda”:  the protection and fulfilment of all indivisible human rights at local level without discrimination of any kind (art.12, 20, 28), the social and ecologic function of land (art.13-a) , the need to fight socio-spatial segregation and to achieve inclusive cities (art.25, 27, 95-97), the participation of the inhabitants (art.13-c, 86),  the enshrining of the right to adequate housing  and the recognition of the social production of habitat (art. 31- 33, 105-112), the achievement of sustainable and inclusive local economies based on the change of patterns of production and consumption and on decent work (art. 10, 13- d, 43-62). Now, it is time to make sure that there are implementation and follow-up mechanisms at local level, with global articulations.


A notion that calls for multi-stakeholders follow-up and review, from the local level

This outcome is another of many necessary steps towards the full acknowledgment of the Right to the City at the international stage, and it follows a long process marked by local governments and civil society’s involvement in the advocacy work for the acknowledgement of the right to the ctiy all along the Habitat III process.

A major challenge that the right to the city –and, more generally, the whole “New Urban Agenda”- is facing is the concretization of the means and resources available for its implementation. This issue will be at the center of the debates in Quito’s Conference and in the aftermath of the Habitat III process. It will also be a strategic element for the Platform.

Now, stronger than before thanks to the alliances consolidated during the Habitat III process, it is up to the global movement for the right to the city to continue the struggle for the recognition of our long-term expertise in the implementation of the Right to the City and to be part, as local government organization, together with our civil society partners, in the implementation and follow-up and review process.