Habitat International Coalition
Global network for the right to habitat and social justice
Right to the City in Asia
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Source: Shivani Chaudhry, HIC-SA

GPR2C Asia Regional Meeting Report

The Global Platform for the Right to the City (GPR2C) is an international collective working to promote a paradigm of more inclusive and sustainable development around the world.

The Global Platform for the Right to the City held its first Asia regional meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia on 20 December 2015. This meeting was an attempt to introduce the GPR2C to the Asian region and discuss the potential for its expansion and adaptation to issues related to the Right to the City in Asia.

The GPR2C meeting followed the Third Indonesian Urban Social Forum that was held on 19 December 2015. Organized by Kota Kita, the urban social forum brought together a wide array of actors, including students, academics, NGOs, and social movements working on issues related to housing, livelihood/work, health, transport, energy, and the environment in urban areas. Since it was held in Surabaya, the meeting of the GPR2C was mostly attended by Indonesians. The other Asian participants were from India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand.

The meeting commenced with an overview of the evolution of the concept of the Right to the City and the development of the global platform. The conceptual overview required great clarity, as many of the participants were new to the issue and were not aware of the notion of the Right to the City. The first half of the meeting looked at the issue of the Right to the City and its understanding and implications in Asia. There was an intervention on the need for a broader understanding and adaptation of the Right to the City concept to include rural and indigenous communities and peoples.In the Asian context, this is especially important given that the majority of the population is still rural. The promotion of the GPR2C should not alienate constituencies and create divides but enable social movements and groups to come together to promote a more human rights-based habitat.

The second half of the meeting focused on the upcoming United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) that will be held in October 2016 in Ecuador. Some of the participants at the meeting had never heard of Habitat II or Habitat III while a few were actively involved in the process. The presenters largely focused on the ‘New Urban Agenda’ that is proposed as the outcome document of Habitat III. Some groups, including Habitat International Coalition, however have been challenging the regressive move from the Habitat Agenda (of 1996) to the Urban Agenda (in 2016). The participants were interested inbeing involved inPrepComm III (for Habitat III) that will be held inSurabaya in July 2016. The local universities and NGOs seemed keen to work for that, and also to organize a larger Asia meeting of the GPR2C a day before.Surabayahas a progressive mayor who has made some positive changes in the city and is keen to do more work in this regard. The potential of highlighting the developments in Surabaya, as a best practice, was also discussed.

A representative from the Indonesian Ministry of Housing attended the entire GPR2C meeting and promised to involve civil society more in the official Habitat III process in Indonesia, which was encouraging. The meeting also provided a great opportunity for him to hear about international processes and to voices of concern from Indonesian civil society.

Though participation from across Asia was limited, the meeting was a good initiative to begin the discussion in the region, to get more people interested in working together on these issues, and to build more platforms for collaboration and solidarity across Asia.

By: Shivani Chaudhry, HIC-SA

• Right to the City   

Habitat International Coalition
General Secretariat