EADI: “Urban Policies and the Right to the City: Focus on the Right to Adequate Housing in India”

The World Charter for the Right to the City is the product of years of discussions and struggles, by various social movements and organizations, to promote a rights-based approach to the challenges of urbanization. The Charter’s idea was conceived in 2001 at the first World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil; it was then elaborated and promoted at various international forums such as the Social Forum of the Americas (Quito, 2004), the World Urban Forum (Barcelona, 2004) and the 2005 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. It received the support of several local governments, which took up the task of elaborating city charters, and of international organizations, such as the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which launched a series of actions on the question of urban citizenship and the right to the city (RTTC), including a project entitled “Urban Policies and the Right to the City: Rights, Responsibilities and Citizenship” (Brown and Kristianson, 2009; Zérah, Dupont, Tawa Lama-Rewal, 2011). The 2010 UN-HABITAT report on the state of the world’s cities further articulated the importance of taking forward the RTTC as a vehicle for social inclusion (UN-HABITAT, 2010).

In its original and radical interpretation, the concept of the RTTC is a critique of the capitalist model of accumulation, which calls for a right to change the city through mobilisation “from below” (Lefebvre 1968; Harvey, 2008). In a more reformist interpretation, it is defined as a collection of rights in the city. Thus, the RTTC refers simultaneously to entitlements and claims, to formal and substantive rights, to individual and collective rights, because it can refer to the city-of-today, or to the city-that-should-be (Zérah & al., 2011).

In line with research conducted by the Chance2Sustain team on sub-standard settlements, this Policy Brief restricts the discussion on the RTTC to the right to adequate housing, defined as “the right of every woman, man, youth and child to gain and sustain a safe and secure home and community in which to live in peace and dignity” (Kothari, 2003: 2), with a focus on the challenge of slums and forced evictions in Indian cities. Read the full publication

Policy Brief No 6 – October 2012

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