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Open letter to UN-Habitat from the International Alliance of Inhabitants

The city of Jakarta does not deserve a prize but rather the urgent intervention of the international community to halt evictions

October, 1st 2005
Ms. Anna Tibaijuka
Executive Director

Dear Director,
I am stunned to learn that UN-Habitat intends to honor Jakarta Metropolitan City on the occasion of the World Habitat Day 2005 "for successfully improving slums, and building new infrastructure to create an inclusive, cosmopolitan city" .
I have no idea what information the awarding committee has gathered, nor the source of such information.
Unfortunately, the real situation is utterly different. The inhabitants’ associations, such as Urban Poor Linkage (UPLINK) Indonesia denounce the fact that “from 2000 to 2005, the city has evicted 63,676 people and is threatening 1,592,011 people who will be affected by several public-private partnerships projects. The city has also evicted and confiscated some 23,205 pedi cabs and the wares and stalls of some 62,263 street vendors. The city has not provided the poor with public services such as, education, health, and food service, simply because they do not own a Jakarta identity card although they have been living in the city for years” .
Today, thousands of families live precariously on barges in Kali Adem and in areas of forced evictions like Jembatan Besi, Tanjung Duren, and Cengkareng Timur.

This constitutes a clear violation of Article 11 of the ICESCR, and the situation should be brought before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, not honored by awarding the city a prize.
Why did the UN Habitat prize committee not consult the inhabitants’ associations or the international networks which defend housing rights, or even UN-AGFE , before making such a decision?
You know how much we appreciated and sustained your intervention when you went to Zimbabwe to verify the negative effects of ”Operation Murambatsvina”. President Mugabe affirmed that it was the right way to implement the UN-Habitat program “City without slums”, but you refused to accept that 700,000 people would have been left with no alternative to their shanty-dwellings.
How can UN-Habitat now award a prize to those who are clearly violating Article 11 ICESCR?
How can UN-Habitat now honor those who are contributing to the failure of MDG 7 Target 11?
For these reasons we support the slum dwellers of Jakarta and sustain the protest of their organizations.
I therefore appeal to you not to give an alibi to those who would simplistically just eliminate the slum dwellers rather than improve their living conditions. I ask you to make the right decision not to award the prize to Jakarta Metropolitan City.
Instead, I suggest that you take advantage of your visit to Jakarta to go to the slums and propose to all the parties concerned, including the inhabitants’ organizations, to get round the negotiating table and find now dignified housing solutions for everyone.

Such an initiative would be much more appreciated and useful than an award which carries with it the risk of damaging the reputation of UN Habitant in the eyes of the world.
I look forward to receiving your comments on this issue, and confirm that we are ready and willing to sustain our proposals.

Cesare Ottolini
IAI Coordinator


UN-Habitat , Jakarta