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The World Charter on the Right to the City (2004)

Since the first World Social Forum, held in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, several popular movements, NGOs, professional associations, national and international forums and networks of civil society have assumed the challenge of building a sustainable model of society and urban life based on the principles of solidarity, freedom, equality, dignity, and social justice, whereby one of the key bases must be the respect to the different urban cultures and a balance between urban and rural space.

The World Charter on the Right to the City, signed in 2004 after the Social Forum of the Americas, held in Quito, Ecuador, in 2004, and the World Urban Forum, held in Barcelona, Spain, in 2004, is an instrument designed to support urban struggles and in acknowledging human rights and the right to the city in the international system.

The charter defines the right to the city as “equitable usufruct of cities within the principles of sustainability, democracy, equity, and social justice. It is the collective right of the inhabitants of cities, in particular of the vulnerable and marginalized groups, that confers upon them legitimacy of action and organization, based on their uses and customs, with the objective to achieve full exercise of the right to free self-determination and an adequate standard of living.”

Moreover, the charter also defines the city as the culturally rich and diversified collective space that pertains to all of its inhabitants and where all people are entitled to the city without any discrimination in regard to gender, age, race, ethnic group, or political and religious orientation, by preserving cultural memory and identity.

Furthermore, this instrument incorporates the definition of democratic management of the city where all the people have the right to participate through direct and representative forms in the elaboration, definition, implementation, and fiscal distribution and management of public policies and municipal budgets, all this beings in order to strengthen the transparency, effectiveness, and autonomy of local public administrations and of popular organizations.

This charter includes principles such as the social function of the city, which guarantees for all its inhabitants full usufruct of the resources offered by the city. In other words, the city must assume the realization of projects and investments to the benefit of the urban community as a whole, within criteria of distributive equity, complementary economics, respect for culture, and ecological sustainability, to guarantee the well-being of all its inhabitants in harmony with nature, for both the present and future generations.

The charter includes the social function of property and stipulates that public and private spaces and goods of the city and its citizens should be used prioritizing social, cultural, and environmental interests, where all the citizens have the right to participate in the ownership of the urban territory within democratic parameters, with social justice and within environmentally sustainable conditions. It also states that the formulation and implementation of public policies should promote socially-just and environmentally-balanced uses of urban space and soil, in conditions of security and gender equity, among other aspects.

Other principles of the Right to the City contained on the charter are: full exercise of citizenship; equality; non-discrimination; special protection of vulnerable groups and people; private sector’s social commitment; and promotion of a solidarity economy and progressive taxable policies. The charter also includes rights related to the city’s management, its civil and political rights, as well as the economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of the city, inter alia.

To download the World Charter on the Right to the City click here