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The Urban Way

Towards a forum for the right to the city


City Seminar
Malmö, September 16-21 2008


1. The city in the midst of neoliberalism

1.1 – Analysis confirms that in Europe (from Eastern to Central and in the West, from North to South), neoliberalism is having the same effects on cities and living conditions everywhere. Segregation, gentrification, destruction of common heritage sites and popular quarters, privatization of public land, and economical exploitation of cultural heritage are on the rise daily. The victories of the Welfare State in the city are back in doubt: for example, the right to housing and to free public health and childcare services. The situation of low-income households is getting worse.

1.2 – Work is fragmented, precarious and scarce. Rights won thanks to two centuries’ worth of militating laborers are denied, salaries are going down: laborers in the East and South are being played off against each other while prices are set by the wealthy. Work is becoming more and more of a variable completely subordinate to the production of riches for the richest.

1.3 – For neoliberalism, cities are merchandise; their citizens-users, consumers. Political rights are losing their strength; propaganda from high up has replaced participation. The right to free speech is threatened, as is access to information. The fate of a city is determined by the strength of economical globalization. Urban areas are scattered with implants of global economy: home offices of major companies, hotels, congress centres, international banks; these holdings of the world economy make an autonomous and dominant “city within a city”.

2. A few principles

2.1 An holistic view is essential . Neoliberalism is forcing itself on all of society and the city. The various issues of the urban condition (evictions, segregation, gentrification, privatization, etc.) are different facets of the same strategy. The whole of the city must be involved if it is to escape the fate that neoliberalism seeks to impose upon it.

2.2 – A city is not a consumable good: a city is common property. The city we want takes into consideration the needs and demands of all its citizens, starting with the weakest. We must be able to offer housing at an affordable rent for every income. We must be able to guarantee everyone comfortable access to workplaces and public services. These should be available to every inhabitant, regardless of income, origin, culture, age, social class, religion, or political leanings.

2.3 – The policy of a city is the responsibility of its inhabitants. The city, as we envision it, is a place of true democracy, not only representative but associative. The networks of people and of associations that make up the socio-spatial web of the city must be built around the municipal power. Urban development comes first. It must create the city: a space the citizens can identify with, as well as a sytem of distribution of advantages to those most in need. The residents of disadvantaged neighbourhoods are those who have the most right to the most advanced equipment, the largest public areas, and the greatest effort to improve housing conditions. The city must be conceptualized and thought out with the good of the majority in mind, as opposed to the present urban logic: that by which the city is seized by the wealthiest and most resourceful.

2.4 – In the city, the demands of urban living and work find common ground. The city should be the place where an alternative to neoliberalism can be tested and practiced: an economy which doesn’t waste resources, which can distinguish necessary goods from those imposed by producers, which promotes local produce, which values those applications of work necessary to personal growth, and to increasing the ability to understand, participate, and enjoy.

3. What must be done?

3.1 In all European cities movements are fighting against eviction of inhabitants from their homes and neighborhood against privatization of land and public services and for their further development, as well as against the destruction and commercialization of urban heritage sites. That is the starting point: these organizations should be united and share goals and means, as well as be aware of the difficulty of the issues and links with all facets of the neoliberalstrategy.

3.2 The goal of all concrete actions of our associations is to resist eviction from homes, public spaces, central neighbourhoods, and work, and to win citizens’ rights for all inhabitants.

3.3 However, at the same time, we wish to work to reveal the links between the parts and the whole. Our attention is fixed on the local to the national and the global, from the sectorial to the general. The neoliberal strategy operates on different scales: it is therefore imperative to be able to combat it on all scales.

3.4 To begin with, we plan to (and we invite all others to join in that goal):

- introduce the organizations and networks that share our aims, to each other, to facilitate cooperation and participation between them;

- indicate the resources each can share with the others and make these resources available to all;

- highlight the local or national actions that would be in need of international assistance;

- present different forms of action which could be effective;

- organize pan-European initiatives.

4. How to do it?

4.0 - Three directions can be taken at once: the important thing is to decide who should head each and who should collaborate.

4.1 – Begin an effective effort that can continue indefinitely:

- a permanent forum on the ESF site which will list all available computer resources; a mailing list, to be assembled immediately, will be updated systematically;

- in 6 months, a workshop will take place to evaluate common activities and to decide on a global strategy (conceptualize and create cities as we imagine them).

4.2 – Increase the number of people, associatons, and groups that share our aims. We take it upon ourselves, in that regard, to organize in all European cities where it will prove possible, a week of debates on our themes, in accord and communication with all initatives already started by the IAI, with No Vox International and with HIC. We suggest as well that the 24, 25 or 26 of November be a day of mobilization in every country (these are the days of the informal meeting between the European ministers of housing in Marseilles.

4.4 – Arrange the mention of our themes, analyses, claims, and ventures in the international press and at international events.

Malmoe, September 20th 2008

Here below, please find the translation of this text in Turkish, German and Cinese: