The Habitat International Coalition (HIC), its Latin American office (HIC-AL) and the Global Platform for the Right to the City (GPR2C) have come together to promote an online communications campaign to draw attention to the persecution suffered by human rights defenders related to habitat and to demand that the authorities fulfil their obligation to take all necessary measures to put an end to this situation. In recent years, struggles for the right to housing, land and the city have been the cause of persecution and criminalization by powerful forces that frame these rights as commodities. In 2018 alone, 164 people have been killed for defending their habitat and environmental rights. This is in line with an alarming global trend in which murders of human rights defenders tripled between 2015 and 2016.
This is a reality that directly touches the members of HIC and GPR2C who have often witnessed or suffered directly different degrees of harassment and persecution. This campaign arose out of a demand by the HIC-AL membership to structure some kind of mobilization or manifestation of denunciation of the situation and solidarity with these defenders. In this sense, the campaign was presented as a global record of these violations, and as a way to add the voices of HIC and the GPR2C to the excellent work of organizations such as Front Line Defenders, also serving as a space for vindication and solidarity to the harassed and persecuted members in our networks.
Considering the importance of the theme, it has been chosen to develop the campaign throughout Urban October, starting on World Habitat Day (7/10) and culminating in the World Day for the Right to the City (31/10). Subsequently, a new impetus has been given to the campaign on International Human Rights Day (10/12), in the context of COP25, with a particular focus on the persecution suffered by environmental defenders. The campaign was supported on two main fronts. On the one hand, the list of cases compiled together with the membership and disseminated by means of a map and cards in social networks; on the other hand, two declarations drafted jointly for World Habitat Day and World Day for the Right to the City, exposing the situation and making demands to the competent authorities.
The strategy of developing an extended campaign, throughout a strategic moment such as Urban October has proved very fruitful. Our initial efforts on World Habitat Day saw the GPR2C twitter account be among the 100 most influential accounts in the discussion when accounts from all regions were mobilized.. On the World Day for the Right to the City we built on this, the impact of the campaign being consolidated and expanded. More than 400 beads joined the campaign (between tweets and retweets that contained #RightToTheCity#DerechoalaCiudad#DroitalaVille within #WorldCitiesDay) and the right to the city was the second most commented topic on Twitter within the World Cities Day discussion (official name given to this day by the United Nations and adapted by the GPR2C as “World Day for the Right to the City”).
This success is due to the work and commitment of all involved. The campaign has been built collaboratively, integrating the membership and working groups of the three organisations. The GPR2C, in particular, has articulated its advocacy and communication working groups to support the drafting of statements and the structuring of the online communication campaign, respectively. In addition to the mobilisation and effort of the members, the good result also reflects the process of consolidation of the communications working group, the fruit of coordination meetings and a workshop on online advocacy campaigns, which resulted in a manual. If you know of stories of human rights defenders suffering persecution or if you have comments, ideas or suggestions, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.