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After the Zero Eviction Days, inhabitants prepare for the 2009 World Social Forum in Belem

More than 80 events were organised during the 2008 edition of the World Zero Eviction Days, which saw the participation of tens of thousands of people. The events strengthened participants’ awareness of being the central figures in a common struggle whose aim is to present a united front against the disastrous effects of neo-liberalism on cities and their inhabitants, with resistance and alternatives being the tools of choice.

Inhabitants are using the same approach as they prepare to participate in the Belem WSF.

This approach characterized the Day of Social Anger, which saw the participation of forty Russian cities, as well as the counter-commemoration organised in Luanda, where UN-Habitat held its official celebration – an unfortunate choice of venue given that this city is, above all else, the capital of evictions.

Other noteworthy events included: the mobilisation of the inhabitants of Chennai on the occasion of the anniversary of their mass eviction; marches of the homeless organised in Lagos and New York; the demonstrations in many Latin American cities from Paraguay to Peru and Venezuela to Mexico – and in front of the parliament of the Dominican Republic; the gatherings and the occupation of vacant homes in Brussels; the show of militant solidarity in front of the Italian Embassy in London against the eviction of Roms, and, lastly, the debates and seminars organised in Brazil, Barcelona, Mexico, Italy, Germany and Argentina.

Gearing up for the World Assembly of Inhabitants

The Zero Eviction Days also had a major impact on the continuity and effectiveness of grassroots organisation and networks, as they continue the initiative to create common ground for urban social movements in the run-up to the World Assembly of Inhabitants slated for 2011.

Now that the mobilisation produced by the Zero Eviction Days has finished, the Right to Housing and to the City Without Borders initiative continues throughout the world.

At the regional level, particularly in Europe, this involved mobilisation in Marseilles in late November, following on from the Malmö ESF. The mobilisation was reinforced by the Right to Housing Caravan that crossed France in October. The objective was to lobby housing ministers from European Union countries to grant full recognition of the right to housing, to ensure that it is respected without delay, including in new policies at EU level, and to institute a pan-European ban on evictions not accompanied by adequate rehousing alternatives.

At the international level, there was a call on the G-20 to
. This initiative was widely supported and should serve as a strategic base for local g-platforms. Next steps include a clarion call for new public and social action in the housing and real estate sectors (price and market controls, reviving housing as a public service) to provide decent housing to a billion people and avoid evictions and impose an international moratorium, as well as anti-cyclical resources to be generated through taxing real estate speculation and vacant housing, and through the cancellation of the foreign debt of poor countries.

These are the foundations that underpin the movement, which are now fairly well established, and bring together inhabitants organisations and urban social movements at the global level.

Urban Tent and IAH initiatives for the 2009 WSF

The next phase is the World Social Forum (Belem, 27 January-1 February 2009), where stakeholders in the housing and urban sector will meet, not only at their own initiative, but also on the common ground established by Urban Tent.

In particular, the IAH will put forward two broad-based initiatives.

The first will take stock of the Zero Evictions Campaign at the social, political and institutional levels, including the report by UN-Habitat’s AGFE (Advisory Group on Forced Evictions). The objective is to examine its relevance prior to its upcoming release. Also to be considered is the need to strengthen its local roots, for example, by establishing the Belem Observatory on the impact of city renovations on the lives of city dwellers.

The second, which is strategic in nature, is to contribute to the establishment of the World Assembly of Inhabitants, by proposing the establishment of a united committee with a common agenda for the purpose of organizing the various aspects of this innovative approach. The principal stakeholders will be inhabitant networks and urban social movements, as the initiative seeks to remain open to all those who are active in housing and urban issues, including NGOs and supportive local authorities (FAL), proposing cooperation with other organisations such as Via Campesina (the International Peasant Movement ) and Dignity International.

Finally, the participation in other seminars and workshops (Charter on the Right to the City, Women and Housing, Housing Cooperative, Forms of Urban Resistance, etc.), as well as an exchange of experiences organised with Dignity International and local organisations, are indispensable for training and networking local g-leaders participating in the WSF.