Workshop and document: "World Charter of the Rights to the City": January 28

Date: 28 January
Time: 8:30 – 12:00
Place: J601

Partners and participants:
Ministry of the Cities/Brazil, UN HABITAT, HIC – Habitat International Coalition, SELVIP – Latin America Secretariat of Popular Housing, National Forum of Urban Reform – Brazil, Urban Forum – Ecuador, Observatory for the Right to the City/South Cooperation, ABONG – Brazilian Association of NGOs, COHRE – Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, UNESCO, IAH – International Alliance of Inhabitants, FCOC – Continental Coalition of Community Organizations, Convener of the Advisory Group on Forced Evictions/UN-Habitat.

Objective of the activity: To discuss the Charter on the Right to the City and to create an action or campaign plan.

Summary of the questions to be raised

The World Chart on the Right to the City is an instrument which has been drawn up from many sources ever since the First World Social Forum. It is intended to contribute to the success of urban struggle and to the process of recognition of human rights in the international human rights system. The Right to the City is defined as the equitable enjoyment of the city by all its inhabitants while respecting the need of sustainability and social justice so that the primary object of achieving an adequate standard of living for all is attained. Particular attention is dedicated in the document to the more vulnerable sectors of the population, for whom the rights of liberty of action and organization in accordance with local custom and habits are of considerable importance

Brief Description of the program

The activity is divided into two elements. The first section recalls the history of the collective effort that went into the proposed Charter on the Right to the City; outlines its principal contents and recall the participatory process by which the Charter was proposed and designed. The second part drafts out a timeline and an action plan for the concrete implantation of the objectives laid down in the Charter on the Right to the City, both by mobilizing the principal stakeholders involved and by identifying the various locations and groups where effective recognition and practical implantation may profitably be sought.

Expected Results:

Dissemination and wider acceptance of the World Charter on the Right to the City.
A discussion and proposition of an action plan to be implemented by the countries and adopted by international human right bodies.


Social Forum of the Americas – Quito – July 2004
World Urban Forum – Barcelona – September 2004
World Social Forum


As we enter this new millennium, half the world population lives in cities and predictions are that by 2005 the degree of urbanization will have reached 65%. Potentially, the cities are areas of great riches and economic, environmental, political and cultural diversity. The urban lifestyle influences the manner by which we establish ties with our fellow human beings and with the land.

However, contrary to this potential, in the development models currently implemented in the majority of third world cities we find only concentration of income and power and accelerated urbanization processes which contribute to the depredation of the environment and the privatisation of public spaces generating social and physical separation.

Most cities are far from offering equitable conditions and opportunities to their inhabitants. A considerable portion of the urban populations is deprived or limited in the satisfaction of their basic necessities because of their economic, social, cultural, or ethic characteristic or because of gender or age. This favours the emergence of urban conflict although usually fragmented and incapable of producing significant change in the current development models.

Faced with this reality, the civil society entities that have maintained contact since the First World Social Forum in 2001, having analysed and debated the problem, took up the challenge to construct a sustainable model for urban society and lifestyle, based on first principles of solidarity, liberty, equality, dignity and social justice. A fundamental aspect of this model shall be the respect for different urban cultures and the balance between the urban and rural environments.

Ever since the First World Social Forum (held in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001), a group of social movements, non-governmental organisations, professional associations, forums and country and international networks concerned with the social struggle for cities to be more democratic, just, human and sustainable, have been drafting a World Letter defining the ideal characteristics of a city reflecting the undertakings and measures which should be assumed by civil society, local and national governments, international organisations, etc., which are necessary for all to live with dignity in our cities.

The World City Rights Letter is an instrument intended as a contribution to the urban struggle and as an aid in the process of recognition of the rights to the city in the international human rights system. These rights are understood as collective rights of all city inhabitants, especially the vulnerable and disfavoured, conferring legitimacy of action and organisation in accordance with their usages and customs in the search for full exercise of the right to an adequate standard of living.

We invite each and every person, organisations of civil society, local and national governments and international organisations to participate in this project at the local, national, regional and global level, to contribute to the constitution, diffusion and implementation of the World Charter of City Rights as one of the paradigms of this millennium demonstrating that a better world is possible.

Part 1 – General Dispositions


1. Everyone has a right to the city without discrimination of gender, age, race, ethnicity, political and religious orientation and preserving cultural memory and identity, in accordance with the principles and norms established herein.

2. The city is a culturally rich and diversified cultural space that belongs to all the inhabitants.

3. The cities in co-responsibility with the National State, commit themselves to adopt measures to maximum extent possible with the resources available, and take all appropriate steps, in particularly by legislative measures, to progressively make more fully effective the enjoyment of universal economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, without in any way altering the essential minimum content of these rights.

4. For the purpose of this Charter, the denomination of City is given to any town, village, city, capital, locality, suburb, settlement or similar which is institutionally organised as a local unit of Government of Municipal or Metropolitan character independently of whether it is urban, rural or semi-rural.

5. For the purpose of the Charter, citizens are all persons who live in the city either permanently or in transit.


1. DEMOCRATIC MANAGEMENT OF THE CITY All citizens have the right to participate by direct representation in the control, planning and government of the cities, principally with a view to the strengthening, and increasing transparency, efficiency and autonomy of the local public administrations and popular organisations. All citizens have the right to participate in the planning, layout, control, maintenance, rehabilitation and improvement of the urban habitat, for the purpose of achieving spaces and equipments adequate for the specific functions they execute, for their particular living conditions and their personal aspirations.

2. THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF THE CITY The cities attend the social function if to guarantee to all person the full usufruct of the economy and of the culture of the city, as well when the resources are used, projects realised and capital invested for the benefit of the citizen and observing the basic criteria of equitable distribution, economic complementation, and respect for the culture and the ecological sustainability; the well being to all citizens in state of harmony with nature, today and for future generations.

a. The public and private spaces and properties belonging to the city and the citizens should be used in such a way as to prioritise the social, cultural and environmental interest. All citizens have a right to participate in the ownership of urban territory as long as the democratic parameters, the ideals of social justice and sustainable environmental conditions are respected.
b. In the formulation and implementation of urban policies the social and cultural interest must take priority over the individual right of property and over the security of tenure, as well the socially just and environmentally balanced use of the urban space and land must be promoted.
c. All citizens have the right to join of the extraordinary income generate by the public investment that is received by the owner without any action in your propriety.

4. FULL EXERCISE OF CITIZENSHIP Cities should be locations for the realization of all human rights and fundamental liberties assuring the dignity and collective well being of all the people, in equality and justice as well as full respect for the social production of habitat. Everyone has the right to find in the city the necessary conditions for his/her political, economic, social and environmental development while assuming the duty of solidarity.

5. EQUALITY AND NON-DISCRIMINATION The rights set out in this charter shall be guaranteed to all persons who live permanently or part-time in the cities without any form of discrimination based on age, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, opinion, racial or ethnic origin, income level, citizenship or migratory situation. The Cities commit themselves to implement public policies to provide equality of opportunities to women in the cities according the next international documents of the Global Conferences of the United Nations: CEDAW, Environment (Rio 92), Women (Beijing 95), Habitat II (Istanbul 96). The Cities commit themselves to apply resources of the government budget to implement these policies and to establish instruments as indicators to monitoring the accomplish of the compromises.

6. SPECIAL PROTECTION FOR VULNERABLE PERSONS AND GROUPS The more vulnerable groups and individuals have a right to special measures for protection and integration, to have provided the basic services and to combat the discriminations.
For the purposes of this letter vulnerable are the following: persons and groups in situation of the poverty, in health and environmental risk, victims of violence with disability, migrants, refugees and other group which, in the reality of each city, is in a situation of inferiority with respect to the rest of the inhabitants. In these vulnerable groups must be more attention the senior citizens, women and children.
The cities through affirmative action policies in favour of vulnerable groups, the cities shall remove economic and social obstacles that in fact limit the liberty and equality of the citizens, impede people’s full development and effective participation in the political, economic, cultural and social organisation of the city.

7. THE PRIVATE SECTOR´S SOCIAL UNDERTAKING The cities shall ensure that the economic agents participate in social programs and economic enterprises for the purpose of developing solidarity and equality amongst the inhabitants.

8. ECONOMIC SOLIDARITY AND PROGRESSIVE POLICIES The Cities shall to promote and guarantee solidarity economic policy and programs.

Part II – Rights relating to the Management of Cities


1. The cities commit themselves to develop with the participation of all the citizens urban-environmental planning, regulation and management capable of guaranteeing the balance between urban development and the protection of the environment, the cultural, historical, architectural and artistic heritage, as well as preventing segregation and territorial exclusion. The cities shall to prioritise the social production of habitat and the observance of the social function of the city and of the property. To this end, the cities shall undertake to adapt measures of urban development, in especially the recuperation of degraded or marginalized areas in order to create an integrated and equitable city.

2. The planning, and the sector programs and projects in the cities shall take in account the urban security.

3. The cities shall undertake to guarantee that the public services reflect the requirements of the administrative level nearest to the population and that the citizens shall participate in the management and control of the execution of the public services. These must be given the legal status of a public asset and protected from privatisation.

4. The cities shall establish social control system related the services provide by public or private enterprises in especially with regard the quality of the services and the charges of the rates.


1.The Cities shall take in account the promotion of the right to the city according your definition in this chapter to dispend public resources.
2. The Cities commit themselves to guarantee direct participation in the definitions of the policies, and the municipal budgets, in institutional spheres, opening to all citizens and communities organizations, al well by sector or territorial councils and commissions.


1. To safeguard the principle of administrative transparency the cities undertake to organise the administrative structure in such a way that the responsibility of the public servants and governments is effectively open to inspection by citizens. In the same way municipal governments should be transparent to higher organs of government so as to complete the chain of democratic management.
2. In accordance with the fundamental principles of their individual judicial status, the cities shall formulate and apply coordinated and efficient policies against corruption that promote the participation of society and reflect the principle of the rule of Law, the proper management of public affairs and assets, public integrity, transparency and the obligation to render accounts.


1. Everyone has the right to request and receive complete, correct, adequate and timely information, from any organ of the city administration, or from the Legislative or Judicial authority, in respect of their own administrative or financial activities or those of the companies and private or mixed–economy societies contracted to provide public service.
2. The employee of the City Government or the private sector receiving a request for information from a citizen has an obligation to create and produce such information as refers to his or her area of competence and which is available at the time. The only limit for access to public information is that imposed by respect for the intimacy of the persons involved.
3. The cities undertake to guarantee to make available procedures or mechanisms so that everyone may have access to effective and transparent public information. For this purpose they shall provide access for all sectors of the population and facilitate instruction in the use of information technology and how to access the data with periodic updates.

Part III. Civil and Political Rights of the City


Everyone has the right to liberty and physical and spiritual integrity. The cities guarantee to provide protection so that individuals or institutions of any nature do not violate these rights.

1. In conformity with the laws that regulate the exercise of citizenship, all citizens have the right to participate in the local political life by means of democratic election of the local representatives and in all decisions which affect the local policies regarding the city, including services of design, development, management, renovation and improvement of neighbourhoods.
2. Cities shall guarantee the right to free and democratic elections of the local representatives, the realisation of plebiscites and popular legislative initiatives and the free and equal access to debates and public audiences. Also the right to equal participation and deliberation in the definition of the municipal policies and budgets, in institutional channels open to all citizens and sector l and territorial councils and commissions.
3. Cities shall implement affirmative action policies of quotas for the representation and political participation of women and minorities in all local elective instances and in the definition of their public policies.

Everyone has the right to association, assembly, and expression. Cities undertake to make public areas available for open meetings and informal gatherings.

1. Signatory cities undertake to take steps to improve the access of all persons to the right to justice.
2. Signatory cities support the resolution of civil, criminal, administrative, and labour conflicts by implementing procedures of public conciliation, mediation and adjustment.
3. The cities undertake to guarantee access to justice by establishing special policies of favourable treatment for poorer population groups and by strengthening the systems of free public legal defence.

1. The cities commit themselves to create conditions for the public security, peaceful coexistence, collective development and the practice of solidarity. To this end full usufruct of the city is guaranteed while respecting the diversity, and preserving the memory and the cultural identity of all citizens without discrimination.
2. The principles of the mission the security forces shall include the respect and protection of the rights of the citizens. The Cities guarantee that the security forces under their command shall use force strictly in accordance with the legal provisions and democratic control.
3. Cities guarantee the participation of all citizens in the control and evaluation of the security forces.

Part IV. Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights of the Cities.


1. The Cities shall guarantee to all citizens the right to permanent supplies of drinking water, electric power and light and heating, health hospitals, schools, garbage removal, sanitation facilities, telecommunication, in joint responsibility with other public or private organs in accordance with the legal framework of each country.
2. The cities shall undertake to guarantee that the public services, even if privatised before the signature of this letter, are charged at rates socially accessible and services adequate to the low-income families or unemployed persons.

1. The cities guarantee the right of city mobility and movement by means of transport systems adequate for the necessities and within the payment capabilities of the citizens.
2. The cities shall promote the establishment of public transport accessible to everyone in accordance with a suitable urban and interurban traffic plan. They shall also stimulate the use of non-polluting vehicles and provide permanent or occasional pedestrian only areas for certain times during the day.
3. Cities shall promote the removal of structural barriers and the installation of equipments necessary to facilitate movement and traffic as well as the adaptation of all public buildings (or those used by the public), workplaces and evacuation areas for easier use by disabled persons.

1. In so far as they are competent to do so, the cities shall undertake to ensure that all citizens are guaranteed the right that the cost of adequate housing is compatible with their incomes, that the housing is habitable, is constructed in suitable locations and is adapted to the cultural characteristics of the residents.
2. The cities undertake to facilitate adequate offers of housing and the associated equipments and services for all citizens and to guarantee to the poorer families home acquisition financing plans as well as service structures for the assistance of infants and older people.
3. Cities shall guarantee to those groups chronically badly housed, and to those who need special living conditions and/or have difficulty in acquiring an adequate home, priority in law and in the housing policies. They shall also establish subsidization and loan programs for the purchase of home building land or houses and attend to the regularization of land tenancy and to the improvement of precarious suburbs or districts, and informal housing settlements and occupations. By “groups chronically badly housed” is understood disabled persons, the elderly, low income earners, women heads of households, people with medical problems, refugees, displaced persons and other groups in accordance with the reality of each city.
4. Cities shall undertake to include in their own names independently of their civil status all women beneficiaries in documents of possession or ownership of land or goods issued or registered in all public policies of distribution or titling of lands.
5. All homeless citizens whether individually, in partnership, or in family groups are entitled to the immediate provision by the city public authorities of an adequate, sufficient, and independent living space. Hostels, refuges and bed-and-breakfast lodgings may be used as temporary expedients but do not absolve the authority of the obligation to provide a permanent solution.
6. Everyone has the right to security of tenure of his or her home by means of legal instruments that guarantee the right of protection against evictions, expropriations and forced or arbitrary displacement.
7. The cities shall impede real estate speculation by creating urban norms and regulations for the equitable distribution of the expenses and benefits generated by the urbanization process in addition to the adjustment of economic, tributary and financial public instruments to compensate the public investment and objectives of urban development.
8. Cities shall promote adequate legislation and establish mechanisms and sanctions designed to take full advantage of the use of public land and of public and private buildings which are unused, under-used or unoccupied and ensure fulfilment of the social function of these assets.
9. The cities shall protect the occupants from usury and arbitrary evictions regulating the rental of living accommodation in accordance with General Comment Number 7 of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
10. This present Article shall be applicable to all persons, including but not limited to, families, groups, occupants without title documents, the roofless, and those whose living conditions vary, such as nomads, travellers and Roma.
11. The cities shall provide shelter and housing to women victims of the domestic violence

1. Everyone has the right to education. The cities and the National States, share the responsibility of guaranteeing access to elementary education for all boys and girls and young people of school age, and of promoting adult education. Together with other levels of government they shall also implement affirmative policies for superior education for the vulnerable groups.
2. The cities shall place at the disposition of all people’s educational and cultural places and school centres, in a multicultural context and with social cohesion.
3. Cities shall promote the improvement of the quality of citizenship by pedagogy and education especially in reference to the struggle against sexism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination and by implanting principles of mutual neighbourly living, respect for the environment, participation and the cultivation culture of peace.

1. The cities and the National States are responsible to contribute as far as possible for the maintenance of full employment in the city. To this end they shall promote the upgrading and qualification of the workers by permanent education and training the costs of which should be accessible to all unemployed persons.
2. The cities shall promote conditions for children to enjoy their infancy by combating child labour.
3. In collaboration with other public administrations and the companies, the cities shall develop mechanisms to ensure equal opportunity for everyone in access to work without discrimination.
4. Cities shall promote equal access for women to work by creating day care centres and other means, and of disabled persons by the installation of suitable equipment. To improve work conditions the cities shall establish programs for the improvement of urban housing used by women and vulnerable persons as work places.
5. The cities shall undertake to promote the progressive integration of the informal commerce run by low-income or unemployed persons, avoiding its elimination and providing adequate areas and policies for the workers until such time as it can be incorporated into the formal urban economy.

1. Everyone has the right to culture in all its expressions, manifestations and modalities.
2. In cooperation with the cultural associations and the private sector, the cities shall promote the development of urban cultural life while respecting its diversity.
3. Cities shall undertake to make adequate public areas available for games and cultural activities under equal conditions for everyone.
4. In collaboration with other their national states, the cities shall be responsible for facilitating the active practice of sports and for providing the necessary sports stadiums and installations for the all the population.

1. The cities shall collaborate with their National States to promote the bodily and mental health of all their inhabitants, by means of suitable economic, cultural, social and urbanisation actions.
2. The cities and their National States shall be jointly responsible to guarantee the right of access to the installations and public services for the prevention of disease and of medical attention for everyone.
3. Cities shall adopt special measures to facilitate access by vulnerable or marginalized groups to the public services for the prevention of illness and medical attention.
4. Cities shall collaborate with their National States in providing essential medication in accordance with the definitions issued under the Action Program of Essential Medication issued periodically by the WHO, and for immunization against the principal infectious illnesses that afflict the community.

1. The Cities commit themselves to adopt measures against the disordered occupation of land and/or the protection and contamination areas, (including acoustic contamination), or the lands used for energy saving, the management and re-utilization of waste, recycling and the recuperation of watersheds or to amplify and protect the green areas.
2. The cities commit themselves to respect their natural, architectonic, cultural and artistic heritages and to promote the recuperation and revitalization of degraded urban areas and equipment.

Part V - Final dispositions


1 The cities signing this document, will adequately and immediately take all necessary measures to ensure these Rights to the City for everyone as laid out in this document. The cities guarantee the participation of all citizens and of the civil society organisations in this process of legislative revision. The Cities are obliged to fulfil the legal obligations here in assumed to the maximum extent their resources permit.
2. The cities shall educate and qualify in Human Rights all their employees involved in the implantation of the Right to the City and the corresponding obligations. The training shall be given in special to those public employees of public organisations whose policies influence in any way the full realization of the Rights to the City
3. The cities shall promote the teaching of the principles of the Rights to the City in schools and universities and in the popular means of communications.
4. The citizens shall regularly supervise and evaluate the degree to which these rights are being observed overall.
5. The cities shall establish systems to monitor and supervise the execution of the policies of urban development and social inclusion according. An efficient system of indication of the state of the rights of the city shall be established in manner applicable to all cities so as to verify the fulfilment of the terms of this chapter.

1. The violation of the Rights of the City are constituted by all acts and omissions, by legislative, administrative and judicial measures and/or social practices which result in obstruction or refusal, or which introduce difficulties or make impossible:
• The realization of the rights including in this chapter;
• The political participation of inhabitants or social groups and citizens in management, or the participation in the execution of decisions and priorities defined in the participative processes that make up the life of the city.
• The maintenance of cultural identities, methods of peaceful coexistence, social production of habitat, as well as forms of manifestation, organisation and action of social or citizens groups, especially the vulnerable and disfavoured, based on their usage or customs, constitutes an infringement of the Rights of the City.

2. The actions and/or omissions may be found in the administrative areas, by the elaboration of projects, programs or plans; in the legislative spheres by the introduction of laws, by the control of public funds or by government action; or, in the judicial arena area by judgements or sentences handed down in collective or circumstantial conflicts referring to themes of urban interest.

Everyone has a right to effective and complete administrative and judicial recourse with respect to the rights enumerated in this document, including the right not to take advantage of such rights.


I - The Networks and Social Organizations commit to:

1. Widely disseminate this chapter and strengthen the international articulations thorough the Right to the City in the context of the world social forum, in conferences and international forums with the objective to the advancement of social movements and NGOs networks and for the building of a dignified life in the cities.

2. To build platforms of the exegibility of the right to the city, to document and disseminate local and national experiences, which aim at the construction of this right.
3. Present this chapter to the right to the city to the different organizations and agencies of the United Nations System and to the Regional Organizations, to initiative a process to recognize the right to the city like a international human right.

II – The Local and National Governments commit themselves to:

1. Produce and promote institutional framework to recognize and protected the right to the city, such as formulating urgent plans of actions for a model of sustainable development that applies to cities, in accordance with the principles espoused in this chapter.
2. To build associative platforms with the full participation of civil society, to promote sustainable development in the cities.
3. Promote the ratification and applications of human rights covenants and other international instruments that will contribute to the construction of the right to the city.

III – International Organizations commit themselves to:

1. Embark on a mission to stimulate, sensitive, and support the government thorough the promotion of campaigns, seminars and conferences, and facilitate technical publications that highlight the adherence to the principles of this Chapter.
2. Monitor and to promote the applications of the applications of human rights covenants and other international instruments that will contribute to the construction of the right to the city
3. Open participatory spaces for the consultative and decisions –making bodies of the United Nations that facilitate the discussion with respect this initiative.

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