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The Mediterranean Network of Inhabitants



Soha BEN SLAMA, Coordinator for International Alliance of Inhabitants, Tunisia  

The Mediterranean Network of Inhabitants

The Mediterranean Network of Inhabitants’ history is deeply rooted in the first World Assembly of Inhabitants  which we co-organised at the WSF in Tunis in 2013 (517 signatories), the first Conference for the Right to Decent Housing  in Tunisia in October 2013, and the second World Assembly of Inhabitants  in 2015 – three important meetings that have already mobilised various partners on both sides of the Mediterranean basin. This was an arduous task which started with the social organisations in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, France, the Unione Inquilini in Italy and the PAH in Spain.

Following the popular uprising in Tunisia and the political, ideological and identity-related upheavals and the calls for action on social topics, notably the right to housing, which also spread to the neighbouring countries on both sides of the Mediterranean, there is still a lot to do. The inurbation of inhabitants in precarious situations and migrants that come from the countryside and sub-Saharan Africa, the absence of policies tackling this emergency over the medium and long term, the catastrophic consequences of real estate prices, the living standards of the poor and middle classes, and the push for unlawfully erected buildings are affecting the African States bordering the Mediterranean to an ever-greater extent.

The shared challenges and united responses of inhabitants on  both sides of the Mediterranean

There is a prevailing capitalistic mind-set that is causing towns to grow in a predatory manner throughout the countryside, on the northern and southern shorelines of the Mediterranean; this promotes speculation, mega-projects and grabbing of land, water and natural resources, and causes the destruction of the ecosystems that link these two areas. This common view considers urbanisation to be inevitable and agribusiness to be the only way of eradicating hunger and poverty. The World Assembly of Inhabitants advocates for an alternative to private property in the form of collective ownership and other types of traditional communal usage and management, and the recognition of the social function of the habitat, which is fairer, more humane and more sustainable. In solidarity with the struggles of inhabitants’ organisations in the towns and countryside, we are resisting this together and call for an end to all criminalisation of social movements and activists engaged in the struggles for respect and the application of human rights: to land, water, food, housing and the town.

All of these elements were conducive in organising the first Conference for the Right to Decent Housing in Tunisia during the World Zero Evictions Days on 24–27 October 2013, which brought a group of organisations, associations and experts together in a pilot committee. Three days of discussions and presentations on the state of play of the right to housing in Tunisia, the urban policies, taxation, debt, etc., resulted in 13 recommendations , covering a proposal to constitutionalise the right to decent housing, the justiciability of the right to housing in line with PIDESC, the creation of regional and local monitoring centres to identify the needs of the neighbourhoods, the number of homeless people, vacant private and public housing, real estate fraud and the ensuing court action. These proposals, put together by the participants, experts and public, were presented to the constituent National Assembly of the time in a report on the new Constitution.

But the right to housing was not written into the constitution of 2014 and the legal uncertainty persists today. The Code for Spatial Planning, Urbanism and Construction (CATUC) disseminated in the summer of 2015 and prepared by the Directorate General of Urban Planning, has already been withdrawn by the presidency of the government for being full of irregularities. Neither the Directorate General of Planning, nor planning officials, and the specialist associations were involved or consulted. Certain ministerial departments connected with planning were disregarded, such as the Ministry of the Environment and the Directorate General of Local Government, which were in the process of preparing a new Local Government Code that, among other things, aims to integrate the articles of the Constitution grounded in the principles of decentralisation and new governance of the territories. However, once complete, this Code had to be enacted by an organic law which the Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP) had to vote for. In this way, it was designed to serve as the foundation of all the other subsequent laws concerning the management of local and regional territories, including of course the CATUC, the enactment of which is solely an ordinary law. It has therefore been correctly rejected by all stakeholders involved. A CATUC in contradiction with the new principles of territorial governance and decentralisation is now however part of the Constitution of 2014.

On the other hand, despite the accumulation of sovereign debt and its catastrophic growth, there is no political attempt or willingness to cancel this and instead put in place adequate social policies and housing policies that will help to get out of the crisis. We therefore highlight the proposal for an audit of the sovereign debt. This was one of the proposed recommendations in response to the successful campaign run by the IAI, which calls for the cancellation of Kenya’s debt with the Italian government , and is supported by the Zero Evictions Campaign, with the aim of releasing EUR 44 million, a part of which has been allocated to the redevelopment and improvement of the Korogocho slum in Nairobi.

Solidarity resistances, supporting the responsible future  of the Mediterranean shores

Taking into account the similar problems experienced by inhabitants on both sides of the Mediterranean sea, as well as the joint request submitted by the social organisations and local authorities to deal with this, the IAI has focused its engagement on the goal of encouraging exchange, speaking up and international solidarity mobilisation, which is essential for having an impact on policies regarding housing and the town.

Why are inhabitants’ organisations resisting the unlimited and uncontrolled development of cities? And why are they working every day to help rural territories and urban harmony that respect diversity and culture?

Is it because these organisations are against progress? Or is it to curb the unlimited development of the urban sector, which causes the migration of thousands to hundreds of thousands of people from the country to the city, who as a result end up in poor housing, inequality, even when the city invades the countryside, abusive urbanisation, and the destruction of the environment?

Why is resilience suddenly being called for by international bodies when resilience means adapting to their policies, and accepting them? This is not the solution.

The inhabitants’ organisations base their principles and actions first and foremost on respecting human and environmental rights, and exercising their responsibility towards the inhabitants, citizens and governors of our territories in order to form the foundations for better cities for future generations of inhabitants.

Resilience does not propose a way out of the crisis, but rather it risks promoting the infinite reproduction of all the issues mentioned here.

This is why we support the resistances to unlimited development in the urban sector and to policies that regard inhabitants as subjects.

The resistances therefore, by highlighting the responsibility of inhabitants towards this and future generations, are not against progress.

In order to be effective they must involve all actors on the ground, the inhabitants’ organisations, supportive NGOs, the international networks, and local authorities. This is a call that we make everywhere we go.

Let us welcome the Mediterranean Network of Inhabitants, independent and able to form alliances with progressive local authorities, universities and experts from the region.

An emerging network for which we repeat our call “Do not touch my land, my water, my house, my activists! For rural and urban harmony, respect diversity and cultures”

The Volunteer translator for housing rights without frontiers of IAI who has collaborated on the translation of this text was:

Chloe Spreadborough


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