Habitat International Coalition
Global network for the right to habitat and social justice
Towards World Habitat Day 2011 - Cochabamba Declaration
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The men and women of the Americas who sign this declaration – professionals and activists in the field – have been working for some time in the area of habitat and social housing. We have been a part of many achievements, experienced the frustrations, and witnessed successes and setbacks throughout the years. For this reason, we feel the need to make this reflection public in order to contribute to the collective search for better alternatives.

While humankind has achieved great technological feats that were unthinkable just a few years ago, these also encourage the consumption of disposable products for the unlimited enrichment of a few, while the great majority of people continue to suffer greatly. Nature, broken and threatened, retaliates and further affects those who are already the most vulnerable.

In habitat-related matters, this situation is evident in the region, beyond local specificities, if we consider the segregation and fragmentation that characterizes the current development of our cities. All the while, indigenous populations and farmers are evicted from their territories, and the mega-projects of local and transnational capitalism are violently imposed.

While our governments emit declarations and are signatories to treaties that recognize the right to housing for all, the restricted access or the outright lack of access to land for housing, to potable water, energy, sewage, cities and territories for all, rather than for a few, is obvious. This socially-unjust consequence is noticeable everywhere in Latin America, from Chihuahua to Ushuaia, since it is the product of an economic system that exploits the commons and human beings without any hesitation or any type of limitation.

In all of these areas, people are joining in the struggle to improve living conditions: they organize, demand, propose, and above all, spring into action; they are making the city that they are able to, an area where the state – whose obligation is to guarantee this right – and the market – since it exceeds the scope for business – cannot, do not know how or are not interested in participating.

The Social Production of Habitat is very powerful, even when it takes place without the support of public policies, technical assistance, funding, and faces all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles. To think of what it could achieve if it could count on all of these elements! Self-producers and organized movements have already proved this fact across the region.

The support that the state does not grant inhabitants is given to business often linked to those in government, always betting that the solution will be found in the market rather than within society. Public policies established by multilateral institutions advise – when they do not force – states to take on few commitments and assume the role of facilitator, which in the end means to guarantee profits.

The arrival of ‘progressive’ parties into the governments of many countries has not changed this situation: the discourse has changed, while the policies have not. The right to the city, like many other economic, social and cultural rights, is to this date not fully enjoyed and has in some sense been displaced by the market; it is sometimes even being replaced by the private production of shameful settlements that are grossly expensive and that cannot be referred as habitat or housing, but rather ‘habitational solutions’. Rights on paper continue to accumulate, while their effective enjoyment is still deprived of plans and measures for implementation.

The settlement improvement programs show how hard and socially-expensive it is to better what is already present without any sort of planning. It is impossible to ignore the large portions of cities that are built by residents, therefore, which need to be improved, integrated and included based on their own aspirations and proposals.

It has been shown that that the market does not redress social ills, and that the best bet is to support the organizational potential of the people and that their possibilities are much higher when the processes are collective, participative, self-managed and democratic. If the capacities of people can be developed within a framework that guarantees a certain institutionality and set of tools, results will undoubtedly be better than the already good ones that are achieved today. It is important, then, to encourage the strengthening of social movements and to appeal to various procedures and solutions, particularly in matters of production, technology, funding and tenure.

We demand that the governments of countries in our region end the criminalization of inhabitant efforts to enforce the human right to housing, and instead recognize and support the processes of social production and management of habitat through state policies that consider the creation of long-lasting and public funding mechanisms (accessible credit and diverse subsidy options); that the savings and labor contributions of inhabitants are recognized and built into a collective financing system; that programs not only include the production process, but also those of home maintenance and improvement; the recovery of the public role naturally held by the state in the area of planning; the creation of public banks that will allow for increased access to land with services and housing in popular sectors; that they put an end to displacement, forced evictions and urban fragmentation; and respect for the environment.

At the same time, we ask that universities and academia train professionals and technicians to work with people, favoring participative methods, research in social habitat and the diffusion of this knowledge in the broader population.

Those of us who subscribe this document continue to work in these areas and renew our commitment with social movements in their struggle.

Enrique Ortiz (Mexico), Claudia Blanco (El Salvador), Graciela Landaeta (Bolivia),

Selma Díaz (Cuba), Guillermo Bazoberry (Bolivia), Martha Arébalo (Bolivia), Lorena Zárate (México),

Ramiro García (Peru), Alejandro Florián (Colombia), Cristina Vila (Paraguay),

Leonardo Pessina (Brasil), Fabián Farfán (Bolivia), Benjamín Nahoum (Uruguay),

Gustavo González (Uruguay), Ana Sugranyes (Chile)

Cochabamba, September 13, 2011.

• Housing and Land Rights / Right to Adequate Housing   • Housing and Land Rights Violations   

Habitat International Coalition
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