Q. 1. What is your notion of ‘The Right to the City’? What populations in your own city would most benefit from The Right to the City?

March 24, 2017

This discussion is now closed. Thank you for your participation.


  • Claudio Torres Slum Upgrading Consultant, Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch. UN-Habitat
  • Pireh Otieno Human Settlements Officer, Urban Basic Services Branch - UN-Habitat
  • Kulwant Singh Regional Advisor - UN-Habitat
  • Marcus Mayr Urban Planner, Climate Change Planning Unit, UN-Habitat
  • Edmundo Werna Head of Unit at Sectoral Policies Dept. ILO

Q. 1. What is your notion of ‘The Right to the City’? What populations in your own city would most benefit from The Right to the City?

Leave No One Behind: Urban Equity & Poverty Eradication 

Question 1: What is your notion of ‘The Right to the City’? What populations in your own city would benefit most from The Right to the City and what resulting services or goods would they then have access to?

Please share your ideas and/or examples below.

World Cycling Alliance
Fri, April 29, 2016 at 01.00 pm

We agree with much of what has been said here, specifically the idea of access. While much of the discussion is aimed at policy/decision-making access, we’d like to turn the question around and think about physical access as well – the right to access all parts of the city, be they geographical or not. We are coming from the transport sector, hence the reason for taking this perspective, representing the voice of cyclists’ and to a greater extent active mobility (cycling and walking) as a means of transportation within our cities.

From this perspective, we see the “right to the city” in a frame of mobility – meaning a freedom of movement. As a citizen of your city, you should be free and have the right to move about your city in a safe, affordable, sustainable and accessible way. No part of the city should be inaccessible. We feel that transport is missing from a lot of the key discussions – the best and most inclusive housing and well-managed services can be offered, but if there is no way for people to access (physically) those parts of the city, then a big part of the solution is missing. In this sense, a city for all is one that has equitable space allocation. From our viewpoint, this means adequate road/space allocation for active mobility. We bring this up here because rather than just staying to the confines of “transport and urban services” (for example in Policy Unit 9 / Issue Paper 19) we believe that cycling provides a solution to many cross-cutting issues outside the scope of transport as it is usually defined.

Populations that would most benefit from investment and promotion of active mobility are: everyone! Increased cycling and walking reduces air pollution, noise pollution, traffic congestion, traffic accidents and road-related deaths. It provides daily exercise and makes people healthier and… happier! Cycling is an accessible, cheap and inclusive mode of transportation. We see in many cities the price of public transport representing a high percentage of the income of a family or individual making it inaccessible to many – or instances when public transport does not service certain areas of a city. The bicycle is therefore a very strong tool of social integration and accessibility to the city. A study done by the European Commission showed that the bicycle is the fastest transport mode in the city for distances of up to 5km. This means that people can study, work and seize the opportunities and benefits offered by the city thanks to an affordable and clean transportation mode. Initiatives to create intermodality between cycling and public transport are clear examples of how citizens can ensure their right to the city. 

With this answer we seek to inspire discussion on the interconnectedness of mobility and transport with all aspects of the New Urban Agenda – including the “right to the city”. If you’re interested in more ways cycling is a solution to our current urban challenges, please read our “Cycling Delivers on the Global Goals” brochure, available at ecf.com/global-goals 

Thank you for reading!

World Cycling Alliance / European Cyclists’ Federation


Thu, April 28, 2016 at 03.16 pm

I would like to state that my comments above are not on behalf of UN-Habitat but in my individual capacity as a former Regional Advisor of UN-Habitat.  There is a need to adopt policies which take care of the whole informal sector as it contributes significantly to the local economy and also provides employment to a large section of population. 

Liberty Global Consulting
Thu, April 28, 2016 at 05.59 am

Speaking on behalf of those currently residing on the bottom of the economic pyramid, my comments will be direct, sincere, and clear enough to be understood across barriers.

  1. What is a ‘Right to the City’, if the Right isn’t acknowledged or recognized.

  2. Rights in any capacity should be agreed upon with ALL INHABITANTS given ACCESS to vital resources and services cultivated in the city.

  3. The City is People. So the rights claimed within the city should be presumed to exist unless conditions prove otherwise.

  4. We can’t discuss Social Inclusion without accurately portraying those who have been Excluded from the opportunity to share socio-economic benefits prescribed for by the city.

  5. Local Planning and Cooperation with People, the Communities they form, the Organizations they create, through a Partnership of Government they participate in should be supported. People will need to be given Priority and Access to the New Urban Agenda if it will be expected to function off-paper in the real world.

  6. The greatest gift to someone in need is ACCESS!

  7. We talk, we overlap but How will implementation of bold new innovative designs co-exist in the current eco-system of unsustainability?

  8. Participation from Civil Society has been demonstrated actively and through productive use of Voice. Rather it’s the response from those who share responsibility and have positions of power to influence, who many times lack the willingness themselves to collaborate. It’s in this inability that the very cracks in trust, and transparency form.

  9. Why do we even need Habitat3 in the first place?

    Short Answer: Because the ‘Right to the City’ within the context of local needs stem from a vast array of Inter-Connected Rights, which enveloped within its complexities affect the outcomes of each counterpart.

    The need for Habitat 3, the New Urban Agenda, and all 17 Sustainable Development Goals show the great depth at which global efforts need to scale to live up to new standards through 2030.

  10. Governments, Policy Makers, and Global Agendas will need to “grow small” to handle the many smaller intricate channels of the economy which drive the socio-economic inclusion from the “bottom-up”.

    I will sum up my contribution to the discussion with this message:


VICTOR OSEI KWADWO “””PhD Student ( Economics and Governance) from Netherlands
Wed, April 27, 2016 at 03.22 pm

Everybody has the “right to the city” if the right to the city is simply translated as access to and freedom to utilize urban resources. 

For Harvey (2008), the right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. That is true but I wonder how the city will be if we were all individually shaping it according to our preference. Chaos at worst and conflict at best will be the outcome. Right to the city, thus the right of changing the city is unlike fundamental rights, it is given and shaped by public policies which define what you can modify and to what extent. 

The right to the city argument is a policy decision argument. To ensure that everybody get to exercise this right, attention should be paid to the processes through which policies are formulated and implemented. Who sits at the table, who participates, who is consulted, and how views of the right holders are taken on board is more important than the claim of having the right. The right to the city should be the right to shaping or  influencing urban policies.

It will be idealistic to think everyone can influence policy. From a realistic perspective, we should think of urban justice and the custodians of it. This brings me to the changing role of planning the urban. The composition of our societies is like two sides of the same coin with “haves” and “have-nots” which require some level of intervention to protect the disadvantaged. Such a role from a spatial point of view in most countries is supposed to be played by the planners. However, planning has evolved from being an agent of protection and integration to an arbiter of development proposals. Especially relating to mega events the pressures of politics and free enterprise has tinted the planner’s attention and responsiveness to citizens, thereby hindering the precepts of justice in the city.

As to the population who benefit from the right to the city, it is simply those with a voice. That is the rich, the politician and a few poor radicals who eventually join the political league. The voice of the poor is not heard in the city. The poor thus has no right to the city and it is practically not an easy task to address. That is if we are being realistic. Targeted and inclusive governance processes are the best service we can offer to ensure everybody has the right to the city. Even if not fully, as this comes with time, the best service we can have to facilitate our right to the city is; the chance to be heard. When everybody’s stance is acknowledged and we are all equally represented in policy decisions, that is when we can confidently claim our right to the city.

Liberty Global Consulting
Thu, April 28, 2016 at 06.03 am


Steven Tomas Branca Urban Economic Development Policy Advisor from New Zealand
Wed, April 27, 2016 at 12.14 am

The two development forms that are human constructs are urban and rural.  What is in between have been facilitated by technology of some kind – trolleys, power, especially cars.  Cities arose from a natural human inclination to interact for individual and mutual benefit, and economic activity – trade – works best when each “business” is proximate to all the others.  Such markets have been with us for 7000 years or more (and the modern shopping mall is an absurd attempt to emulate that model).  That leads to a concentration of jobs or economic opportunity in general which is a fundamental attraction. Cities are also naturally diverse since there isn’t (usually) any mechanism for keeping people out – property and development restrictions, land values, etc.  That diversity is unquestionably a strength of urban areas, a strength not found in lower density exclusionary suburban areas.   The ability of poor and marginalised to settle in cities is made possible by a naturally occuring property market that places value on land based on relative advantages, which are well known.  In other words, there is cheap land/rent in most cities, sometimes in the centre (US) sometimes in the outskirts. 

Whatever “right to the city” that may exist has to be exercised within that construct that even in the absence of controls will inevitably result in inequities.  The first in may be the most advantaged.  Skills vary in their value, so a wagon-maker may be more prosperous than a candle-maker, which difference will manifest itself in a better location, larger residence, or more influence.  The paper on the right to the city is predicated on a virtual elimination of market forces or private investment as we know it today.  That’s fine – I have no problem with that in theory.  However, in practice, it will never happen.  Still, I do believe in intervention in markets because markets are far more subject to abuse and negative externalities than the official capitalist line would have us believe.  For example, there is no way to effectively reduce gentrification without intervention in the housing market.  Adequate transport relies almost solely on public investment. (Privatization of almost anything has been a failure, and is by its nature anathema to equity.) 

So the right of the city to me means that everyone in a city, as well as future dwellers in that city, are catered to in an equal fashion with public services, education and infrastructure of an equal quality city-wide.  Also, there are no no-go zones that exclude people either because the residents don’t want them, or outsiders don’t want to go there.  Maybe most important, everyone needs to have good access to employment opportunities.  In current first world city development, jobs are getting farther and farther away from the people who need them most.  These goals require various types of intervention (what form that takes is for another tedious comment):  crime has to be reduced, eliminated or spread evenly throughout the city; there needs to be planning that directs employment opportunities to particular areas based on labour supply, skill levels, and location factors.  Accompanying that should be “upskilling” (hate that word) the population through better education and training.  Then, infrastructure must recognize and support the parts of the city that need these kinds of action. 

All of these require strong intervention, and considerable investment of funds, public or private non-profit, but such investment is not going to be uniform throughout a city but is necessarily targeted at specific geographic areas and demographics.  Many problems have deep and complex roots, but a lot can be solved with money.  It seems like solving problems like national defense, flooding, transport, and communications can be solved with money, but “you can’t solve the problems of the poor or education by throwing money at them”.  How convenient.  The right to the city is, in my view, better expressed – or supported – by recognizing that everyone in a city is a resource and many of these are underutilized.  I do not mean to dehumanise anyone by this terminology, just recognise the inherent value in and potential contribution of every individual that usually goes unrecognised by the powers-that-be.  Those values and contributions, and the resulting ferment, are what led to the rise of cities in the first place and will still make our cities better.  As much as it is a right to cities, it is even more a right to fairness, and through fairness comes the ability to thrive.     

 Thank you for reading.

Senior advisor from Indonesia
Tue, April 26, 2016 at 07.59 pm

This is not about “another right” issue. Rights are rights, non quatifiable, and not for sale (under “new right programs or projects”). Don’t worry, it won’t take more money from your wallet. It is much deeper than that. It is not just about “policies” or “programs” or “agenda.” It’s a basic rights, embedded (= not “another”) in the existing universal human rights. This is not about an “individual” right but more about a collective, communal, societal rights to have a life, to determine the kind of urban life and the kind of city that society (collectively) would like to have.

There is no city without urban life, and there’s no urban if it is only a collection or a sum up of sole individuals. Urban and City is about a collective, shared life of social groups (i.e., families, clans, ethnicities, professions, artisans, and so forth – you name it). The Right to the City is about providing socio-cultural and political space for those groups to exercise, organize, conduct, sustain their lives in the assembles of urban setting named as a City. Securing the Right to the City as an agreed upon “right” and a fundamental part of the universal human rights would provide a common principle on how cities should or would be built and how urban life should be aimed to sustain a humane living environment, namely, of a City. 

Liberty Global Consulting
Thu, April 28, 2016 at 06.07 am

I share your perspective!

Arslan Scientific, Physical & Industrial Research
Tue, April 26, 2016 at 04.34 pm

I have a single answer to all the six questions.  The following may be followed up.

A lot of background work after extensive group discussions all over the world has been done. Thereafter, the six questions have been framed and now answers are being sought to achieve the goals/aims behind every question. Right?

Are you getting the answers? And How well do they achieve the goals?

To achieve the goals in your questions and frame a Universal (a single, policy framework for all cities, in every nation) Habitat policy for the future, please follow the following book and review it with all others.

First Delhi, the national Capital, the entire State, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, India, the entire Nation.

The above Book is a template for other books.

We are writing such books for every Country as a part of our Campaign to stop Climate Change and build advanced infrastructure to empower humans and the Planet Earth not for just a sustainable but an empowered, overwhelming immediate present & the future. The books should be ready and available at the COP-22 Conference at Marrakesh. Once you review the above & other books, it will become easy for you to achieve the Habitat-III goals contemplated under the above 6 questions. We would be not only writing the books, but collaborating with the respective Nations, to convert every one of them in to Empowered, Dark Green, Smart Cities. Following are examples of the titles of the Books in process:

  1. First Washington, the National Capital, the entire District of Columbia, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later the USA, the entire Nation.
  2. First London, the National Capital, entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later the United Kingdom, the entire Nation.
  3. First Paris, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the French Republic, the entire Nation.
  4. First Moscow, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Russian Federation, the entire Nation.
  5. First Beijing, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Peoples Republic of China, the entire Nation.
  6. First Tokyo, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, Japan, the entire Nation.
  7. First the Mecca & the Medina, the two Holy cities, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the entire Nation.
  8. First Rabat, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Kingdom of Morocco, the entire Nation.
  9. Cairo, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Arab Republic of Egypt
  10. First Istanbul, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Republic of Turkey, the entire Nation.
  11. First Tehran, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the entire Nation.  
  12. First Nairobi, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Republic of Kenya, the entire Nation.
  13. First Pretoria, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Republic of South Africa, the entire Nation. 
  14. First Canberra, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, Commonwealth of Australia, the entire Nation.
  15. First Quito, the National Capital, the entire City, One Empowered, Dark Green, Smart City & Later, the Republic of Ecuador, the entire Nation.

Please follow the above book ‘First Delhi…………..” available on Amazon websites.  There are some personal references and story of the struggle to set up the project which would not be made in the other books.  These will be sort of Pre-feasibility study reports, ready to be launched immediately after obtaining comments of Administrators, Scientists & Engineers of respective countries.   

Wed, April 27, 2016 at 03.47 am

Hello frendz,

Seasosn Greetings !!

I find above N’Delhi details much interesting &’ll like to buy the copy, meanwhile I’ll appreciate who in India, one can speak to in these matter, as I’m in this far away town, where knowledged-folks in these initiatives are not many, to share/care more to help in Confidence&Capcity-BuildingMatters, as I’m also hoping to possibly ShowCase in H-III-Q’s SideEvents a multi’million-US$, LowIncome’s-SocialHousing-project from Solapur-MAH’-India.

So let me know those in Mumbai/Pune/N’Delhi who are planning an event in HIIIQ, W’Regards/B’Wishes, thanx.

Mr. (Ar ‘.) Atul Vivek CITY


e’m: kota.architects@gmail.com

(LicensedPractitioner @ www.coa.gov.in &

Member @ www.aaschool.ac.uk | @ SocialHousingCell)

Ministry of Public Works and Housing
Tue, April 26, 2016 at 03.36 pm

The discussion on rights to the city should also include the responsibilities of its inhabitants. 

Rapid urbanization requires a paradigm shift not only for goverments and authorities in providing access to basic services such as housing, public space, education, health etc to support the well-being of its inhabitants, but also requires a paradigm shift for its inhabitants to adjust their lifestyle to be more urban, and follow the rules of conduct of living in a city. 

Sistren Theatre Collective/ Groots Jamaica/Hauirou Comission
Tue, April 26, 2016 at 03.32 pm

Ensuring Women’s Right to the City Through Public Spaces and Urban Transport

Foster the empowerment and leadership of women at the household, municipal and national levels through public policies and budgets that promote women’s equitable participation in economic and civic affairs and their safety and mobility.

Support women’s groups to establish public priorities and program strategies that engender planning and policy processes related to how public spaces and essential municipal services–markets, meeting spaces, toilets, transport, green spaces and sports/recreational areas– are designed, provisioned and managed.          

Guarantee women’s equal access to public market and storage facilities and regularize, their public vending activities to enhance their economic security and roles in the informal economy.

Promote and publicly finance community centers, operated and accessed by organized grassroots women’s groups, as autonomous meeting and programming spaces to enhance women’s empowerment and formalize their leadership in sustainable urban development.

Design public transport systems that acknowledge and flexibly respond to women’s needs as workers and family caregivers and that provide safe travel between home and public spheres, increasing women’s social mobility.

Improve gender responsiveness in control and management of public spaces: for local authorities, police, gender desks, etc.

Sistren Theatre Collective/ Groots Jamaica/Hauirou Comission
Tue, April 26, 2016 at 03.25 pm

Invest in and implement multi-dimensional approaches that empower women’s groups to realize their own tenure, housing and settlement priorities and to partner with government officials to insure the New Urban Agenda is engendered, inclusive and efficient.

Mitigate risks of land grabbing and displacement in formal, informal and customary systems to promote the economic and social security of women and their families and their contributions to the local economy.

Promote the connection between women’s security of tenure and their economic and political empowerment, which is central to alleviating poverty, enhancing productive capacity and reducing income inequalities.

Guarantee women’s meaningful participation in the entire process, from data collection and enumeration to fostering an understanding of land and housing administration, management, and governance.

Establish a range of win-win partnerships with stakeholders by empowering community based women’s groups to: produce data and qualitative information documenting their access to and control over land and housing; assume formal public leadership roles in upgrading their informal settlements by improving housing, basic services, public space and livelihoods in their communities 

Tue, April 26, 2016 at 12.38 pm

Cities in India are experiencing migration from rural areas. migration also is taking place from smaller cities to larger cities. Migrants face lots of problems which may be problems relating to their livelihoods or life in general. They often have a challenge to access the basic amenities of life which inter alia include shelter or a dwelling unit, access to water, sanitation, access to health related facilities, education for their children etc. Right to the city therefore must include the migrant population including their political right to vote and social, economic and legal rights such that they do not find themselves excluded from the mainstream. 

Nearly 25 percent of urban population lives in slums and squatter settlements in Indian Cities who are deprived of most of the basic amenities of life including drinking water, sanitation, waste disposal, affordable transport and safe and sustainable energy as well as safety for their women and children. Most Cities have segregations as the cities’s poor populations are located in areas denied of such basic amenities where livelihood opportunities are also at places far away from their settlements. Therefore, in order to ensure equitable rights to all citizens, the Indian cities need to adopt policies such that there is no segregation among the city populations and that the cities accept poor migrants who also significantly contribute to the economy of the city by contributing to the local economic development. 

Edward J. Dodson Director (School of Cooperative Individualism) from United States
Mon, April 25, 2016 at 07.30 pm

 We need to begin by embracing the principle that all persons have an equal birthright to the planet. Although groups of related people have settled in particular parts of the world, a large percentage of the population of many societies are the descendants of earlier migrants. Here in the Untied States the challenge has been to create a pluralistic society based on a common rule of law. The only moral basis for restricting the movement of people is to protect the health and safety of existing inhabitants. Whether people choose to live in urban centers or in rural regions partly depends on the opportunities for living a decent human existence. Such opportunities are directly dependent on what nature provides in terms of natural resources but also on the laws that relate to property in land. A serious problem in every society is the concentrated control over land, which leaves many landless (and often, by extension, homeless) and without access to schooling, medcal care, clean water and other “goods” that make for a decent live. There is but one mechanism to solve this problem, and that is for governments to require any individual or entity that holds land to compensate the community by an annual payment equal to the full potential annual rental value of the land held (while, at the same time, exempting any buildings or other improvments made by individuals from the tax base. This change in how government raises revenue will cause owners of land to bring their land to its highest, best use, creating jobs and stimulating economic activity. It will also stimulate the creattion of competitive land markets by eliminating the profit potential from hoarding land or acquiring it for purely speculative gain. The end result will be communities that welcome all and where all have the opportunity to reach whatever potential they have as individuals.

Thiago Herick de Sa Urban health researcher from Brazil
Mon, April 25, 2016 at 03.19 pm

My understanding of the Right to the city is that this right goes beyond accessing the city opportunities, it is a collective right citizens have to transform the city according to their aspitarions. This is challenging as there are several competing aspirations for the future within society, so ongoing experiences of mechanisms for citizen participation and agreement are particularly relevant to fully implement the right to the city. In this regard, I would like to mention the remarkable experience of the Brazilian Unified Health System in ensuring voices from citizens and health workers to be an intrinsic part of the policy making process and definition of priorities. Ongoing experiences on how the right to the city can be exercised across sectors – such as the health sector – can guide the development of a general framework for policy making within cities.

Susan Roylance International Policy and Social Development Coordinator from United States
Mon, April 25, 2016 at 03.20 am

I am very concerned that most of the documents related to Habitat III seem to ignore the basic unit of society — the family.  I am hoping the Zero Draft will recognize that most people live in families, especially those in areas of greater poverty.  In paragraph 31 of the Habitat II Agenda, it states that “Human settlements planning should take into account the contstructive role of the family in the design, development and management of such settlements.  Society should facilitate, as appropriate, all necessary conditions for its integration, reunification, preservation, improvement and protection within adequate shelter and with access to basic services and a sustainable livelihood.”  Also, listings usually contain families — in the lists of “individuals, families and their communities” (paragraphs 34, 53, 58, 89, and 182(h).  Paragraph 94 also recognizes children who live “outside or without families.”  The needs of orphans are great, especially in areas of war and disease.  The needs of females who are the “sole providers for their families” (paragraph 78-e) should be considered.  Paragraph 182-m promotes the representation of intergenerational families — to consider the needs of children and future generations in decision-making processes.

Please consider the need to recognize the importance of the family unit, and the need to empower and strengthen families, so they can help achieve the sustainable development goals — both in the city and the rural areas.