From the ecological transition to the right to the city: Committee’s activities during the COP21

Between December 4th and 10th, UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights was in Paris, on the occasion of UCLG World Council and COP21. During this week, the Committee organized sessions on the right to the city as a fundamental element to contribute to the ecological transition. Through these activities and meetings with local governments and social movements within the framework of the Global Platform for the Right to the City, the Committee strengthened messages and alliances for fair, democratic and sustainable territories in the upcoming World Habitat Agenda.


An important open session of UCLG World Council in Saint-Denis to articulate climate and social justice in territories

Within the framework of UCLG World Council, and on Plaine Commune (Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights’ co-president) initiative, more than 200 people met at Stade de France (Saint-Denis) on 5th December morning for the “From COP21 to Habitat III: local governments and citizens at the heart of the challenges” debate. This session was attended by mayors and local and regional officials from all over the world –including Ada Colau (Mayor of Barcelona), Manuela Carmena (Mayor of Madrid), Pam McConnell (Toronto Deputy Mayor for Social Equity), Fatimetou Mint Abdel Malick (Mayor of Tevragh-Zeina), Jan van Zanen (Mayor of Utrecht), Abdoulaye Thimbo (Mayor of Pikine), Marcelo Cabrera Palacios (Mayor of Cuenca) and Gustavo Petro (Mayor of Bogotá)–, as well as civil society leaders, such as Dimitrios Roussopoulos (Montreal Urban Ecology Centre), Jordi Borja (Barcelona Observatory of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), Gustave Massiah (AITEC, World Social Forum), Lorena Zarate (Habitat International Coalition) and Augusto Barrera (Latin-American School of Social Sciences - FLACSO).

All participants agreed to say climate justice without social justice makes no sense, and that we need to re-think the way we are building and developing territories in order to achieve a fully ecological, democratic and social sustainability. In this sense, both local governments’ and social movements’ representatives referred to the right to the city as a cornerstone for an ecological transition that will not have any space without social and spatial justice. Attendees shared on equal footing their views on ecological transition, specially related to local agendas’ priorities –highlighting the need to work for social inclusion, sustainable and endogenous economic development, access to rights… This debate was conceived as a dialogue with civil society divided into two parts: the first one was related to climate change and urban development, and the second one was focused on proposals for fair, democratic and sustainable territories. Elected officials and civil society’s representatives freely took the floor and were given the same time for their speeches. Therefore the debate was very dynamic. Mayors and civil society’s common proposals were enriched by researchers’ contributions. All of them will be soon compiled in order to feed proposals to Habitat III summit (Quito, October 2016).


The Committee, along with Habitat International Coalition, brought the Right to the City to the People’s Climate Summit

On the same 5th December afternoon, the Committee organized a public debate on “Ecological transition and the Right to the City”, along with Habitat International Coalition (HIC). This initiative was held within the framework of the People’s Climate Summit organized in Montreuil (metropolis of Paris) by civil society (Coalition Climat 21) in parallel to COP21. More than 150 people attended this debate between civil society and local governments, all different sectors being represented through Lorena Zarate (HIC), Sylvie Ducatteau (Plaine Commune), Bachir Kanouté (ENDA-ECOPOP), Dimitrios Roussopoulos (Montreal Urban Ecology Centre), Amaranta Herrero (environmental sociologist), Jordi Borja (Observatory  of Social, Economic and Cultural Rights), Eva Herrero (Barcelona Commissioner for Ecology), Gustavo Petro (Mayor of Bogotá) and Jean-Baptiste Eyraud (Right to the City - DAL), with Gustave Massiah as a moderator.

The debate had an open format and was divided into two main discussions: the urban challenges face to climate change and the alternatives from the right to the city. Each of these discussions was introduced by speakers’ interventions, just before allowing the public to freely take the floor. This format enabled to raise the challenges we are facing in a mostly urban world regarding the huge contribution of urban areas in the greenhouse gases emissions, and insisted on the need to re-think the current urban development pattern in order to mitigate climate change and to build inclusive, democratic, fair and sustainable cities. This debate also contributed to strengthen articulations between urban and ecologists movements, and between local governments and social movements. The right to the city was present through representatives from all these sectors, as a practical and theoretical approach that enables to gather the ecological transition and the social and spatial justice.


The Committee attends COP21 Official Area to contribute to the debate on ecological transition and social and urban justice in metropolitan areas

On December 8th, in the COP21 official area for negotiations, Seine-Saint-Denis Departmental Council (Committee’s co-president and the territory where COP was held) and the Committee gathered local governments and civil society members again in a roundtable on “Ecological Transition in popular peripheries: a priority to reduce social inequalities”. Through their contributions, Stéphane Troussel (President of the Seine-Saint-Denis Departmental Council), J. Enrique Rojas (Bogotá Secretary for Social Inclusion), Abdoulaye Thimbo (Mayor of Pikine, periphery of Dakar), Lorena Zarate (HIC) and Emilia Saiz (CGLU) agreed that local governments, and especially those from popular peripheries, have been systematically forgotten in climate main negotiations –whereas they are laboratories of solutions for the ecological transition. Again, in this debate strong links between ecological transition and social justice were built. Indeed, ecological transition may be a tool for equality in poor metropolitan territories. This debate contributed to strengthen the mobilization of peripheries for polycentric, solidary and sustainable metropolis in views of Habitat III summit.


Time for alliances with civil society to promote the right to the city

On December 10th, Magali Fricaudet (CISDPDH), Lorena Zarate (HIC) and Gino Van Begin (ICLEI Secretary General), participated in the discussion organized by Fondation pour le Progrès de l’Homme: “From COP21 to Habitat III: Cities and Citizens Networks engaged with Global Challenges”. In this meeting with American and European foundations, it has been raised world’s main challenges and their urban implications (climate change and social inequalities). Cities and citizens networks have asked foundation to work together in order to build fair, solidary and sustainable cities, especially in views of Habitat III summit.

Finally, on December 9th, a regional meeting of the Global Platform of the Right to the City (GPR2C) took place in Paris, with representatives from DAL movement (Right to Housing), No Vox, Plaine Commune, Barcelona Observatory of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Montreal Institute for Alternative Policies (IPAM), WIEGO among others. In this context, political advocacy and networking activities carried out by the Platform were presented. Also, the main challenges in the short and medium term were identified: cities commodification, cuts on public spending, increasing evictions… Proposals towards a common action plan were raised, including a European regional coordination meeting of the Platform, which may take place in Barcelona on March 2016


Towards local common actions perspectives

This intensive agenda enabled to consolidate the global movement for the Right to the City and to reinforce the network that works for its concrete implementation, as a global and necessary approach for fair, democratic and sustainable territories. In addition, all these activities enabled to confirm that, although the States were not able to adopt binding measures to climate challenges, it does exist a local governments’ movement that, along with civil society, are determined to act for climate and social justice, and whose local action makes sense and shares dynamic at global level.

All of this build expectations of development for the global movement for the right to the city, both within the municipalist global movement and in terms of alliance with civil society organizations.

As Gustave Massiah stated at the end of Montreuil debate, “today, alternatives are emerging from territories thanks to local governments and civil society alliances. Only such alliances may be strong enough to transform economic actors and to reconvert States”. This is, then, the road we will follow as a committee in 2016 to achieve authentically fair, sustainable and democratic territories.  


- Reports on Saint-Denis and Montreuil sessions will be available during next weeks.

Here you can find the photos from the Committee’s activities in Paris.