Right to the City

Dernière mise à jour le 7 juin 2019


The goal of this right is to ensure the efficacy of collective and individual rights to the city, an urban territory and social space in which can one come and go as one pleases; where one can choose, in accordance with one’s means, one’s place of residence; and where one has access to the public services without which genuine urban life cannot exist (education, health, energy, telecommunications, transportation, culture, etc.).

The right to the city cannot be limited to the right not to be excluded from the city. Living in a city in deplorable conditions (homeless, without services, unemployed, without assistance, family, etc.) is neither living nor city-living. The right to the city means decent housing, a job that pays, living with one’s family, and being free of police hassle, even if one was born far away. It also means quite simply the right to live in a city that is beautiful, convenient, healthy, and respectful of the environment.


From a political standpoint, the right to the city is above all the recognition of the (individual and collective) right to participate as a city dweller (with no citizenship and thus national criteria) and as a city user in [[definitions:u:urban_planning|urban planning]] decisions.

The concept of city user is an interesting one. It is found in most European legislation. It needs to be fleshed out both practically and politically. A “user” is neither the public (i.e., an anonymous and unorganized mass), nor the representative of an association recognized by the government as a defender of a general or particular interest (typically an unabashed lobbyist), nor a real estate developer (or ambush investor).


From a legal standpoint, the right to the city is the right to criticize a particular measure on the grounds that the city has not been respected. It cannot be ruled out that the recognition of such a right would give citizens a legal right to challenge [[definitions:u:urban_planning|urban planning]] decisions before a legal jurisdiction, thus linking it to property rights (which guarantees only the defense of property rights) and the invocation of the general interest or public utility (which often are little more than fig leafs for the interests of the government and its clients).


In Latin America, for twenty years, a process for elaborating a world charter for the right to the city has been launched.

This charter is not simply the sum of already recognized international rights, but “implies the interdependence among population, resources, environment, economic relations, and quality of life for present and future generations. It requires deep structural changes in the production and consumption patterns. Also, it demands the replacement of the ways of appropriating territory and natural resources. It is a reference for the development of solutions against the negative effects of globalization, privatization, the lack of natural resources, the growth of world’s poverty, environmental fragility and its consequences for the survival of the humanity and the planet.”

The world charter for the right to the city is based on three principles:

  • Full use of the rights provided by citizenship, which implies in practice the exercise of all human rights and fundamental liberties, ensuring the wellbeing of the city’s inhabitants in terms of equality and justice, as well as respect for production and the social management of the habitat.
  • Democratic management of the city, thanks to society’s participation and control through direct forms of participation in [[definitions:u:urban_planning|urban planning]] and governance, in ways that strengthen local public administrations and popular organizations.
  • Social function of the city and property, understood as the prevalence of the common interest over the individual right to property, which implies a socially fair and environmentally sustainable usage of the urban space, as well as a balance between urban and rural areas.

Sources: IPAM NetworkHIC Network

File translated by Michael C. Behrent – Assistant Professor – Department of History – Appalachian State University – Boone, NC  28608


Capture d’écran 2016-02-07 à 10.33.07Under the leadership of the POLIS Institute in Brazil, a meeting was held in late 2014 to create a Global Platform for the Right to the City. Its aim is to contribute to the adoption of commitments, public policies, projects and actions for fair cities, democratic, sustainable and inclusive. One objective of the Platform is the recognition of this right at the next conference Habitat III (Quito 2016).

Capture d’écran 2016-02-07 à 10.34.04« The Global Platform aims to contribute to the adoption of commitments, policies, projects and actions aimed at developing fair cities, democratic, sustainable and inclusive by United Nations bodies and the national and local governments. The construction of a Global Platform Right to the City at this time is extremely important for the strengthening of local and national urban social struggles and to the joint and international mobilization to especially address the definition processes of the Development Agenda / Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Developmen (Habitat III) in 2016 and the World Social Forums and Social World Urban Forums, 2017. The Global Platform has the structural axes Human Rights in Cities; Democratic Governance and Participatory of Cities; Urbanization and Sustainable Use Planning and Social Inclusion; the Economic and Social Inclusion Development in the Cities.

Among the organizations that are part of the Global Platform Right to the City we can highlight the Habitat International Coalition (HIC), ActionAid, Cities Alliance , International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI), Commission on Human Rights and Equal Social UCLG, National Urban Reform Forum (FNRU),  Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI), Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO),  Habitat for Humanity, Global Fund for the Development of Cities (FMDV) and  Streetnet. The project is funded by Ford Foundation. »

To learn more, Go to the Global Plateforme Right to the City