Today, October 31st, we celebrate the World Day for the Right to the City. As member of the “Global Platform for the Right to the City“, we highlight our daily commitment to making cities a common good and implement new ways to guarantee human rights with the vision of the right to the city and participatory democracy.
We social movements, civil society and local governments organizations are committed to social change through the promotion, defense and fulfillment of all human rights related to habitat including the right to housing, land and the right to the city in every region of the world.
Every October, starting on World Habitat Day (October 7) and ending on World Cities Day (October 31st), the United Nations and its partners organize a month of activities related to cities and urban settlements.
Building on that momentum, various movements and organizations that defend and promote habitat related human rights around the world are making themselves heard to strongly claim that national, regional and local governments respect, protect and fulfill these rights.
On October 31st, we celebrate the World Day for the Right to the City, reinterpreting the United Nations designation of World Cities Day. We understand the Right to the City as the right of all inhabitants, present and future, permanent and temporary, to inhabit, use, occupy, produce, transform, govern and enjoy cities, towns and human settlements that are just, inclusive, safe, sustainable and democratic, defined as common goods for enjoying life with dignity and peace. We take this opportunity to redouble individual and collective efforts to realize social justice, land and housing rights, and the right to the city for all.
Human rights to adequate housing, land and the right to the city are still beyond the reach of more than one billion people in rural and urban areas around the world, including at least 100 million living on the streets. Women and men, girls and boys, persons with disabilities, older persons, visible minorities, marginalized groups and entire communities fall outside current public policies. Even worse, many suffer every day from violence of all kinds from both public and private actors.
Because of this injustice, all those who stand in defense of the human rights to housing, land and the right to the city have adopted these dates to remind fellow citizens of the millions who do not have decent housing or opportunities to access land in most countries.
In recent years, the struggle for habitat related human rights has been the cause of persecution and criminalization by powerful forces that treat land, housing and the city as commodities. This global pushback against human rights has made itself felt with particular violence against human rights defenders and social movements which are at the forefront of habitat related human rights struggles.
Figures for 2018 indicate that at least 164 persons defending their habitat and environmental rights were murdered, with Latin America being the most afflicted region with a total of 83 deaths. These figures are constantly increasing. This aligns with a shocking global trend that saw land defender killings triple from 2015 to 2016.
As stated in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, authorities in all spheres of government bear the obligation to take all the necessary measures to ensure an enabling environment for human rights defenders legitimate work, to bring an end to these murders, incarcerations and threats, to provide adequate justice and to protect those who defend the rights of people and the territories they inhabit. In this regard, we acknowledge the existence of numerous transnational local government led initiatives which seek to protect human rights defenders across the world and, by doing so, contribute to build a stronger human rights culture at the local level. However, the rise of authoritarian regimes across the World represents a major threat to human rights defenders that makes them vulnerable to abuse even by the public authorities.
We have launched a campaign to promote and protect habitat defenders in their fight for our human rights to adequate housing, land and the right to the city.
We join forces in order to bring global attention to the violence suffered by those that stand up for everyone’s rights to housing, land and right to the city, and invite international and local movements, organizations and governments to support this call.
We invite all social and grassroots movements, civil society organizations and local governments to share cases of defenders, especially women, who are under threat so that we can raise awareness and solidarity around the world.
”For the right of all people to a safe place where they can live in peace, dignity and harmony with nature, both current generations and the next ones”.
See the complete statement here.