Fifth Session of the International Tribunal on Evictions: the urgent need for a global moratorium
The fifth Session of the International Tribunal on Evictions in Quito, Ecuador, has exposed the tragedy of evicted people, a taboo subject at the UN Habitat III Conference despite the figure surpassing 60 million people on a global scale. Despite the threat of police action, the opening session at Monte Sinaí, Guayaquil, with 600 people in attendance, and the Session in a crowded lecture hall in Quito, gave a voice to the poignant testimonies calling neoliberal policies into account. The verdict that came out of this Session is final: public authorities have a responsibility and must urgently put in place a global moratorium on evictions. Solidary mobilisation will have a key part to play in this.
The ITE has given evictees back their voice and their dignity, a taboo subject for Habitat III
The fifth Session of the International Tribunal on Evictions (ITE), which was organised by the International Alliance of Inhabitants in coordination with local popular organisations in Ecuador as part of the People’s Social Forum for Resistance to Habitat III, began on 15 October in Monte Sinaí, Guayaquil, and was concluded on 17 October in Quito.
The decision to intervene in areas of conflict has uncovered the dramatic situation faced by the more than 981,000 people reported in 88 cases, of which six were selected from around the world and three from Ecuador. This is the tip of the iceberg, a taboo subject at the UN Habitat III Conference, despite the figure reaching more than 60 million people on a global scale, which brings to light the damaging effects of the neoliberal policies supported by the New Urban Agenda. The ITE Session has given inhabitants back their voice and their dignity. They have been able to speak of the violent attacks that they have endured, both physically and/or masked behind politics, largely as a result of the financialisation of the economy.
It is important to highlight the determination and the unity of local organisations, which have learned to carry on in their commitment despite the difficulties that they face.The stages of the ITE itinerary, from Guayaquil to Quito, to denounce neoliberal policies in Ecuador and on the five continents
In Guayaquil, nothing could put an end to the determination of the 600 people in attendance or to the sense of responsibility that the ITE team and the Jury members and organisers felt, despite threats from the police who had destroyed the ITE’s equipment in an attempt to halt the opening Session in Monte Sinaí on 15 October. The Session still took place and everybody’s attention was on the poignant testimonies presented by inhabitants representing 6000 families who had fallen victim to or were living under threat of eviction, in Monte Sinai and at the Casas Colectivas.
The members of the Jury, who were very enthusiastic despite a highly tense atmosphere, were very attentive and listened closely. In the first Recommendations released on that day they highlighted the urgent need for a moratorium for Monte Sinaí, to be declared a “Zero Evictions” zone, and stated that a forum for dialogue should be formed in order to find solutions that are respectful both of housing laws and all human rights.
The next Session took place in Quito on 17 October, in the crowded Che Guevara hall in the Faculty of Law. Those in attendance heard the direct and dramatic testimonies of nine cases from five continents, chosen from among 88 cases from 35 countries, which were received in response to the call sent out asking for cases. From the land grabbing of territories in Bilangalonzo in the Congo to the mass eviction of Roma families from the slum on the inner ring in Paris, France; from the threat of mass evictions in Izidora, Belo Orizonte, in Brazil to the populations threatened by militarisation and a massive tourism project on the island of Jeju in Gangjeong village, South Korea; from the Bedouin villages of the Negev, unrecognised and destroyed dozens of times by Israeli settlers on occupied Palestinian territories to the mass evictions in Detroit, USA, of scores of people impoverished by the crisis, unable to pay their water bills due to the privatisation of the sector. Not forgetting the thousands of families in the community on the Isla de Muisne, under threat of eviction following two earthquakes in April 2016. Following the earthquakes Ecuador’s government declared the zone to be at risk of tsunami, officially, when in reality the aim was to convert the destroyed residential area into a tourism project.
At the end of the Session, dozens of people were given the chance to have their voice heard and presented testimonies of evicted communities or communities threatened with eviction, most notably from Ecuador.
Of particular note is the struggle by the Shuar people against the expropriation of 40,000 hectares in the Cordillera del Cóndor, where they live, in a decision taken by the government of Ecuador in favour of the Chinese mining companies Tongling and CRCC.
The pressing verdict: put alternative policies in place, starting with a global moratorium on evictions
Faced with the gravity of the violations recorded during the Session, the ITE has judged that it is undeniably urgent to alert the independent UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights to the fact that most of the serious human rights violations are the result of the neoliberal development model that the New Urban Agenda, created by Habitat III, wants to put in place. Ignoring the campaign is not an option. The recommended international moratorium concerns both cities and the rural world.
The verdict of the fifth Session of the ITE, which is presented in the form of final Recommendations based on the cases examined, highlights the legal responsibility of both local and national authorities to respect human rights. For this reason there is an urgent need to declare and put in place a global moratorium on all types of eviction and set up negotiation forums with the involvement of all those concerned, including inhabitants organisations, in order to prevent evictions. After all, a government of human settlements and mother earth should base its housing and land policies on human and environmental rights and the responsibility towards future generations, not merely subject itself to the power of the market.
Acting on a verdict that goes to the heart of local/global mobilisation
Among the Recommendations sent to UN bodies, governments, local authorities and all people concerned, the Main Recommendation is to produce a report on the implementation of the verdict every six months, with particular attention paid to the report of October 2017. In connection with this, the organisations supporting the cases are already engaged in organising activities as part of the World Zero Evictions Days.
Following up on the verdict of this popular Tribunal is therefore entrusted to the inhabitants organisations and their international networks. Each case will in effect be at the heart of the Zero Evictions campaigns, concretely adopted through solidary mobilisation both at local and global levels, as already demonstrated by the international mobilisations against evictions in Monte Sinaí and on Isla de Muisne.
The strategic decision by the ITE Steering committee to base this opinion Tribunal on participation and mobilisation has been successful and has shown why the International Tribunal on Evictions is considered in the real trophy of the People’s Social Forum for Resistance to Habitat III. It is a popular tool, innovative and useful for fighting as it is capable of having an impact on the cases which have been identified, examined and judged.
Members of the Jury of the fifth Session of the International Tribunal on Evictions:
Agustin Territoriale, Argentina: Lawyer, UBA Diploma of Honour, Human Rights M.Sc., researcher and lecturer in urban issues. Specialist in social rights, 10 years of experience studying questions relating to habitat and to related conflicts. He was the director of the legal department of the Central de Trabajadores (Trade Union) of Argentina – capital section. Currently, head of the programme for habitat, the right to the city and the no.1 territorial approach of the public Ministry of Defence of Buenos Aires.
Blessing Nyamaropa, Zimbabwe: Regional leader among Zimbabwe lawyers working in the area of human rights and providing advice on the Zimbabwe bar. Lawyer, particularly involved in procedures of general interest on the protection of the right to housing, education, health, training on human rights and defence of the promotion and protection of human rights. Making the community aware of human rights issues.
Cesare Ottolini, Italy : Representative member of the Steering Committee, degree in political science, currently working as global coordinator of the International Alliance of Inhabitants and active member of the World Social Forum International Council, founder of the Zero Evictions Campaign at international level. He was the coordinator of the Habitat International Coalition and national secretary of the Unione Inquilini (tenants union). He was a member of the Advisory Group on Forced Evictions for UN Habitat.
Miguel Robles, Mexico/USA : Urban planner, professor at Parsons. Co-founder of Stichting Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra) (Rotterdam and NYC), co-manager (from 2012 to 2015) with Marxist geographer David Harvey of the National Centre for Strategies for the Right to Territory (CENEDET) in Ecuador: elaboration of tactical design strategies and civic engagement platforms, confronting the contradictions of neoliberal urbanisation, such as homelessness, housing crises, gentrification, the effects of financialisation, interurban competition and urban social movement
Members of the Steering Committee of the International Tribunal on Evictions:
Soha Ben Slama, Tunisia : Her international involvement began in 1995, at the World Conference on Women at the International Tribunal on Violence against Women in Huairou, Beijing, China. Co-founded the Coalition for Women of Tunisia and the Civil Alliance against Violence and for Liberties in 2012. She organised two World Assemblies of Inhabitants as part of the WSF in 2013 and 2015, coordinator of the first Conference for the Right to Decent Housing in Tunisia as part of the World Zero Evictions Days. She is also the co-founder of the Global Platform for the Right to the City (São Paulo, Brazil). She is the coordinator for IAI Tunisia and is responsible for media and culture. She is engaged in the construction of the Maghreb Alliance of Inhabitants as well as the African Network of Inhabitants.
Hungyin Chen, Taiwan : She began her involvement in the area of international solidarity, most notably the rights of migrants and workers, at the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives office in Seoul. She has been active in the Taiwan Alliance for Victims of Urban Renewal since 2012 and co-founded the Taiwan Alliance Anti Forced Evictions , for which she is the coordinator, a network that includes dozens of inhabitants organisations throughout the country. In July 2016 she coordinated the International Tribunal on Evictions Session for East Asia, the regional stage towards the People’s Social Forum for Resistance to Habitat III.
Cesare Ottolini, Italy: Former squatter, involved in the global/local campaign for the right to housing and the city since 1977. He was also the secretary of a construction workers’ union. He is currently a member of the national syndicate Unione Inquilini, the most important tenants organisation in the country, which every year organises the Zero Evictions Day in dozens of cities. He is a member of the International Council of the World Social Forum, co-founder of the International Alliance of Inhabitants for which he is the global coordinator, and was a member of the UN-HABITAT Advisory Group on Forced Evictions. He lives in a collective ownership cooperative property with migrants and Italians, of which he is one of the founders.
Mike Davies, Zimbabwe: He is a local activist in Harare, promoting direct participation in the local government. Former General Secretary of the Combined Harare Residents Association which aims to re-establish the right to housing in Zimbabwe, protesting the eviction of more than 700,000 people from their homes. He was also a member of the UN-HABITAT Advisory Group on Forced Evictions. He co-founded Smart Harare and Urban Farming Zimbabwe, which promote urban agriculture in Zimbabwe. As the IAI coordinator for English-speaking Africa, he is actively engaged in setting up the African Network of Inhabitants, providing a connection and support in the local struggles of marginalised inhabitants in towns and villages.
Varghese Teckanath, India: For 11 years he has lived in the slums of Hyderabad, co-founder of the People’s Initiative Network and of the Campaign for Housing and Tenurial Rights (CHATRI), one of the most important organisations for housing rights in India, for which he is also the coordinator. He has been involved in campaigns for social rights at several levels for 25 years, most notably for the rights of workers and the right to housing. He is currently the director of the Montfort Social Institute , the National Platform for Comprehensive Legislation for Domestic Workers, the National Platform for Housing Rights, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Neighbourhood Community Network (NCN).
Rob Robinson, United States: Homeless for several years in Miami and New York, he has been engaged in the movement for the right to housing since 2007. He is the co-founder of Take Back the Land, the most important organisation in the USA fighting against evictions, and is active in the NESRI | National Economic & Social Rights Initiative, which supports organisations based in New York. On an international level he has connections to the homeless movements in Budapest and Berlin, as well as with the campaigns for the right to the land in Brazil and in South Africa. He is currently the coordinator of the USA and Canada Alliance of Inhabitants (USACAI) with forty grass-roots organisations.
Ernesto Jimenez Olin, Mexico : A social activist, he co-founded the Union Popular Valle Gomez and the Movimiento Urbano Popular in Mexico, which campaign against evictions of poor inhabitants and for the participative rebuilding of homes following the earthquake of 1985. He was the first president of the coordination of 80 Venustiano Carranza working-class neighbourhoods. He was very active in the fight for the recognition of the right to the city, and he participated in the El Barzón movement of owners of properties mortgaged by banks. He is very active on an international level in the Frente Continentale de Organizaciones Comunales, the Habitat International Coalition and the International Alliance of Inhabitants.
The Volunteer translator for housing rights without frontiers of IAI who has collaborated on the translation of this text was: