The Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and the alternative forums held by social organisations ended in the Ecuadorean capital with opposing visions regarding the future of cities and the fulfillment of rights in urban areas.
Experts and activists greeted with a mixture of hope and skepticism the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), which opened Monday Oct. 17 in the capital of Ecuador, and which seeks to produce a new urban agenda for cities and their inhabitants.
People living in neighborhoods affected by the expansion of urban construction suffer a “double displacement”, with changes in their habitat and the driving up of prices in the area, in a process in which “we are not taken into account,” said Natalia Lara, a member of an assembly of local residents in the south of Mexico City.
“In San Lorenzo they cut down the jungle to plant African oil palms. The only reason they didn’t expand more was that indigenous people managed to curb the spread,” Ecuadorean activist Santiago Levy said during the World Conservation Congress.
When the communities living in the Tatamá y Serranía de los Paraguas Natural National Park in the west of Colombia organised in 1996 to defend their land and preserve the ecosystem, they were fighting deforestation, soil degradation and poaching.
“You don't convert your own house in a tourist site,” said Oussou Lio Appolinaire, an activist from Benin, wearing a traditional outfit in vivid yellows and greens. He was referring to opening up to tourists places that are sacred to indigenous people.
With more and more governments narrowing space for dissent and activism, the UN has emerged as a key platform to air concerns about acute rights violations and develop protections for civil society and other vulnerable groups.
The declaration that will be presented for approval at the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in October has again sparked conflict between the opposing positions taken by the industrial North and the developing South.
Though the High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS ended with the adoption of bold and life saving targets, many organisations have expressed their disappointment in its outcomes.
For the inhabitants of “Bajo Autopista” (Under the Freeway), a slum built under an expressway in the Argentine capital, “they” are the people who live in areas with everything that is denied to “us” – a simple definition of social inclusion and a metaphor for urban inequality.
When heads of government and foreign ministers make their annual pilgrimage to the United Nations in September, it is rare to hear hard-hitting, headline-grabbing political statements from the podium.
For the millions of people whose lives have been uprooted by conflict and natural disasters the average amount of time before they can return home is now 17 years.
As the Global South works to overcome a history of weak institutions, armed conflict and poverty-driven forced exodus, key causes of its humanitarian crises, developing countries now have to also fight to keep global warming from compounding their problems.
“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, referring to the generalised violence in Mexico and in Honduras and other countries of Central America, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and is a product of transnational crime, but is invisible to the international community.
“If you’re going to talk about Colombia and the peace process, do it somewhere else,” was heard at a regional preparatory meeting for the World Humanitarian Summit, according to Ramón Rodríguez, with the Colombian government’s Unit for Attention and Integral Reparation for Victims (UARIV).