World Charter for the Right to the City

(Liberated into HTML from one of the many PDFs of this document, this text in particular was found at UrbanReinventors.net on October 2, 2011. See wikipedia for more on the idea of the Right to the City. I posted this after mulling over the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City posted by the blessed unrest that is the General Assembly at @OccupyWallStNYC. -danlatorre)

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Social Forum of the Americas – Quito – July 2004
World Urban Forum – Barcelona – October 2004
World Social Forum – Porto Alegre – January 2005
Revision in preparation for Barcelona – September 2005

PREAMBLE

The new millennium dawned with half of the world’s population living in cities, and experts forecast that by 2050 the world’s urbanization rate will reach 65%. Cities are potentially territories with vast economic, environmental, political and cultural wealth and diversity. The urban way of life influences the way in which we link with our fellow human beings and with the territory.

However, contrary to these potentials, the development models implemented in the majority of impoverished countries are characterized by the tendency to concentrate income and power, generating poverty and exclusion, contributing to environmental degradation, and accelerating migration and urbanization processes, social and spatial segregation, and privatization of common goods and public spaces. These processes favor proliferation of vast urban areas marked by poverty, precarious conditions, and vulnerability to natural disasters.

Today’s cities are far from offering equitable conditions and opportunities to their inhabitants. The majority of the urban population is deprived or limited – in virtue of their economic, social, cultural, ethnic, gender or age characteristics – in the satisfaction of their most elemental needs and rights. Public policies that contribute to this by ignoring the contributions of the popular inhabiting processes to the construction of the city and citizenship, are only detrimental to urban life. The grave consequences of this situation include massive evictions, segregation, and resulting deterioration of social coexistence.

This context favors the emergence of urban struggles that remain fragmented and incapable of producing transcendental changes in the current development model, despite their social and political importance.

In the face of this reality, and the need to counter its trends, urban organizations and movements linking together since the First World Social Forum (2001) have discussed and assumed the challenge to build a sustainable model of society and urban life, based on the principles of solidarity, freedom, equity, dignity, and social justice, and founded in respect for different urban cultures and balance between the urban and the rural. Since then, an integrated group of popular movements, nongovernmental organizations, professional associations, forums, and national and international civil society networks, committed to the social struggles for just, democratic, humane and sustainable cities, has worked to build a World Charter for the Right to the City. The Charter aims to gather the commitments and measures that must be assumed by civil society, local and national governments, members of parliament, and international organizations, so that all people may live with dignity in our cities.

The Right to the City broadens the traditional focus on improvement of peoples’ quality of life based on housing and the neighborhood, to encompass quality of life at the scale of the city and its rural surroundings, as a mechanism of protection of the population that lives in cities or regions with rapid urbanization processes. This implies initiating a new way of promotion, respect, defense and fulfillment of the civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights guaranteed in regional and international human rights instruments.

In the city and its rural surroundings, the correlation between these rights and their necessary counterpart of duties can be demanded in accordance with the different responsibilities and socio-economic conditions of its inhabitants, as a form of promotion of: just distribution of the benefits and responsibilities resulting from the urbanization process; fulfillment of the social functions of the city and of property; distribution of urban income; and democratization of access to land and public services for all citizens, especially those with less economic resources and in situations of vulnerability.

For its origin and social meaning, the World Charter for the Right to the City is, above all, an instrument oriented to strengthen urban processes, vindications, and struggles. We call on the Charter to be constituted as a platform capable of linking the efforts of all those actors – public, social and private – interested in allocating full validity and effectiveness to this new human right through its promotion, legal recognition, implementation, regulation, and placement in practice.
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John Dewey 2.0 – We the P2P Public, Reassembling, Eclipsed No More

John Dewey wrote 2.5 human generations ago (in 1927) about what we now find so valuable in digital peer to peer systems of communication that enable better freedom of Expression, Transparency, and Collaboration. Dewey’s writing was in response to Walter Lippmann who wrote cynically about the “Phantom Public” and in that era of broadcast-top-down-one-way-media on the rise it’s no wonder Dewey offered that the public was just temporarily “eclipsed.”

Today, not only are we the Public able to return, but we now have technology systems for constant rewriting of social code, laws, relations, power dynamics.  Jay Rosen’s aphorism hits on this, that the publics are “the people formerly known as the audience.” The struggles that lead to Lippmann’s cynicism are far from behind us, the concentration of power has also increased in our digital networked era, and we the Public will need all the smarts and collaboration we can muster to remove the constant obstructions and restrictions continually put in our paths.

“There can be no public without full publicity in respect to all consequences which concern it. Whatever obstructs and restricts publicity, limits and distorts public opinion and checks and distorts thinking on social affairs. Without freedom of expression, not even methods of social inquiry can be developed. For tools can be evolved and perfected only in operation; in application to observing, reporting and organizing actual subject-matter; and this application cannot occur save through free and systematic communication.”

– John Dewey, The Public & its Problems, 1927


(Image: RHoK Nairobi, Kenya, photo by whiteafrican)

Civic Social Media – Fixcity.org PARK(ing) Day Video

“We now have all these powerful social technologies that instead of using them for entertainment purposes we can use them for civic purposes.”

Been thinking about my product design work on mass collaboration and ongoing sustainability of peoples’ participation. The short video below on PARK(ing) Day includes nice shots of the fixcity.org site which I conceived and was the Senior Product Manager. Fixcity.org began as my volunteer project with Transportation Alternatives’ Brooklyn Committee and came to life in collaboration and consulting work with The Open Planning Project, it’s one recent project that’s helped clarify the variables at play in civic involvement and also at play in the cultural assumptions of those working on civic collaboration tools.

In many ways change is needed in the cultural understandings of human nature, the social animals we are, on all sides involved in civic social media from the makers and the participants of this media. More to come on this theme…

For now check the video, the America.gov team quoted me and one of my favorite mantras these days, “we now have all these powerful social technologies that instead of using them for entertainment purposes we can use them for civic purposes.” Looking forward to more peers of mine joining in and switching their energy towards these challenges of renewing what democracy & civil-participation means in our networked globe.