A Personal Perspective on the World Urban Forum: Naples, September 3-6, 2012

December 3, 2012

By György Sümeghy: Habitat for Humanity Hungary 

The 15-member Habitat for Humanity International delegation was greatly involved in giving lectures, holding trainings, taking part in panel discussions, attending events, having a booth in the exhibition area and networking. I took part in two panel discussions based on my housing advocacy experience in Hungary. First, I contributed to a session sponsored by HFHI about “Enabling Good Housing Policies Informed by Evidence-based Research.” It was a very inspiring academic discussion about the importance of different indexes and criteria in framing and developing housing polices e.g. the Global Housing Indicators initiated by HFHI. I could present how in Hungary we started to use the United Nations criteria for adequate housing1 consistently in all our statements and communications.  Interestingly enough, Claudio Acioli2  from UN-Habitat was referring to the same criteria in his contribution. The audience was very excited when they learned that Shlomo Angel, also present, was a pioneer in introducing housing indexes to poverty housing related research. It was great to be part of a community of practitioners who really make an effort to develop a common language and understanding which should be the basis of all future advocacy initiatives.

The second panel discussion I contributed to was organized by the Open Society Institute about “The Lessons Learned from the U.S. Foreclosure Crisis.” I was asked to give a European perspective by presenting HFH Hungary’s flagship advocacy initiative, the Introduction of Social Rental Agencies in Hungary to improve the social rental sector. It was fascinating to reflect that the problem of vacant housing can be regarded as a great opportunity in very different cultural and economic contexts.

I attended very inspiring sessions hosted by the International Union of Tenants, where speakers strongly advocated for renting as a real housing alternative not just a necessity3. There were also strong arguments for why housing can and should be on an EU level agenda. It seemed to be the start of a new European movement which we should follow closely both from a Habitat and a Housing Forum partnership perspective.

Best practices shared from the experience gained from social cooperatives in Latin America presented yet another alternative to address poverty housing issues with a strong community development focus. I was very excited to listen to Mrs. Raquel Rolnik, United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing4  who gave a very emotional, charismatic testimony on why neo-liberalism and the market approach are not adequate in many poverty housing related situations. Slum upgrading and city rehabilitation projects were presented from Sweden, France and Brazil where the common thread was participatory planning and involvement of the residents throughout the whole process to make these projects sustainable.

[1] http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/%28Symbol%29/469f4d91a9378221c12563ed0053547e?Opendocument

[2] http://www.unescap.org/apuf-5/documents/updates3/Presentation-Claudio-Acioly-Housing-Sector-Profile.pdf

[3] They even developed 13 arguments which you can check at http://www.iut.nu/HabitatDay/2012/PROS_RentalHousing.pdf

[4] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/RaquelRolnik.aspx

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