20 Oct. 2016

Habitat III: A UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development

RLS–NYC Official Side Event: After Habitat III: Working Together toward a New Urban Reality
Thursday, October 20, 12:00pm-12:45pm – Urban Future Venue – Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana “Benjamin Carrion”

Co-hosts: Habitat International Coalition; Global Platform for the Right to the City; Housing and Land Rights Network

From October 17-20, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office will be in Quito, Ecuador, for the United Nations Habitat III conference on housing and sustainable urban development. This conference takes place every twenty years (on a bi-decennial cycle) and is attended by all Member States, representatives from dozens of civil society organizations, and thousands of members of the interested public. At this iteration of the gathering, the major official topic of business will be the ratification and implementation of the “New Urban Agenda,” which in turn builds on the “Habitat Agenda” approved in Istanbul in 1996.

The lead-up to this event has been beset by logistical and political difficulties. Civil society organizations and progressive actors have been frustrated with their limited ability to influence the development of the New Urban Agenda. The resulting document has been widely criticized as insufficient in its attempt to meet the enormous urban housing challenges of the twenty-first century and neglectful in its failure to mention the large portion of humanity still living in rural settings. Frustrations have extended to the conference setting itself, which for a variety of reasons has proven inaccessible to a large portion of interested civil society and movement actors.

All this said, Habitat III remains a hugely important gathering for the future of housing justice on the planet. For better or worse, the New Urban Agenda (NUA) will go a long way toward setting the legal and legislative framework within which movement groups can make appeals to national governments around housing violations. Language from the NUA will be instrumental in winning or losing housing justice struggles that will directly impact the lives of millions of people. The conference gathering itself will also provide a common space for important housing rights groups from around the world to come together around a shared vision for housing advocacy and activist strategies for years to come.

Our office is sending to Quito a small delegation that includes: Ethan Earle, project manager at RLS−NYC; Carlos Macías, an activist with the Spanish housing movement Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH); and Bandile Mdlalose, president of the Community Justice Movement and former general secretary of the South African shack-dwellers group Abahlali baseMjondolo.

During our time in Quito we will make an official intervention at the UN’s “Urban Future” space, titled “After Habitat III: Working Together toward a New Urban Reality.” During this event, which will be co-hosted with the Habitat International Coalition, the Global Platform for the Right to the City, and the Housing and Land Rights Network, we will discuss our impressions from the conference and how to best coordinate international housing justice collaborations “After Habitat.” In addition to this group event, members of our delegation will also take part in a number of official and non-official side events and look to connect with like-minded actors.

How can civil society emerge from Habitat III best prepared to work together on the enormous housing challenges the world will face in what comes of this young century? That is the central question, and while we may not come up with all the answers, we look forward to asking the right questions in our shared pursuit of justice.