The Right to the City as an integral part of the discussions

The Right to the City has been very relevant for the World Social Forum 2018 (WSF2018), held in Salvador de Bahia from 13 to 17 March. This right was one of the thematic axes of the Forum and central theme in many activities thanks to organizations such as Alianza Internacional de Habitantes, Asociación Civil Madre Terra, Instituto Brasileiro de Direito Urbanístico (IBDU), Pólis Institute, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto – MTST, Rosa Luxemburgo, StreetNet International and União Nacional Por Moradia Popular, as well as the Global Platform for the Right to the City (GPR2C). These activities addressed various aspects of the Right to the City: political participation, gender equity, social production of habitat, urban extractivism, informal work and the right to housing.

The Global Platform for the Right to the City in Salvador de Bahia

GPR2C was very active in the WSF thanks to several events focusing on the Right to the City and the dissemination of information in its tent located in the central square of the university, where interested groups were welcomed. There was a wide participation in the events by numerous groups of students, researchers, social movements and organizations, mainly from Brazil and other countries such as Argentina, Germany, the United States, Ecuador, Finland, Nepal and Norway. This generated a rich exchange of experiences, knowledge and commitment to continue fighting for the defense, vindication and promotion of the Right to the City for all.

The GPR2C training workshop “How to advance in the implementation of the Right to the City?”, organized together with the IBDU, Pólis Institute and Techo, allowed a deep understanding of the limits and possibilities of the Right to the City through the discussion of the concept and its dimensions (political, material and symbolic), while portraying it as an articulating element in the defense of human settlements.

At the public event “Re-invent the City!”, held in the Terreiro de Jesús, an important square in the Historical Center of Salvador, ensured that this public space fulfilled, during the event, its social function par excellence: a space of political manifestation of the diverse urban struggles for the democratization of the center of the city. Together with the Articulation of the Old Centre and IBDU, the voice of all local movements – which denounced the processes of eviction, gentrification, institutional violence and persecution – was amplified and heard by the people who work and circulate in this busy and tourist square on a daily basis.

The “Convergence Session on the Right to the City” was a meeting point for various participants who were looking for a broader space for political articulation in the WSF within the framework of the Right to the City. Many organizations were able to express their willingness to be more committed to the work of the Platform.

On the other hand, the tent was a meeting point and a venue for public activities by some of our organizations, such as the game and the discussion wheel on inequalities in the access to the Right to the City, promoted by Pólis Institute. The presence of interactive materials was also important for visitors to receive information on the Right to the City and to share their perception of the different dimensions of this Right.

Challenges, learning and achievement

One of the great challenges in this edition of the WSF was the interaction between different organizations and the multiple demands and struggles expressed in the Forum. The large number of activities proposed, the delay in the publication of the programme and the fact that the activities of the different thematic axes were in separate areas made exchanges somewhat difficult. For upcoming events, greater interaction between the activities and participants of the Right to the City axis with other thematic axes should be achieved.

However, these challenges did not discourage the Forum in which the public and open activities connected with the local reality, as well as the collective use of the meeting space of the tent. This allowed different audiences to perceive and debate the centrality of the Right to the City in their lives and the complexity of the territorial dimension in the daily lives of all.