Dilapidated housing, inadequate utilities, inequitable public services, pollution, traffic jams, diminishing public open space and green space, and garbage in our streets are problems and challenges we all face in our neighborhoods and cities.
These challenges are directly related to the way our cities have been governed for many decades. Overcoming them does not only require new public policies and professional expertise, but our engagement as inhabitants of the city. After all, it is we who experience these problems on a daily basis and have – more than is acknowledged – ideas about how to address them.
In order to successfully address these challenges, there are a number of fundamental urban and environmental rights that we – the citizens and inhabitants of the city – should demand that the state respect, protect and fulfill. In decades-long struggles, people around the world fought for these rights, and succeeded in changing their constitutions and laws to reflect these rights.
“The World Charter for the Right to the City” is one of the most important documents that summarize these fundamental rights and ensures an individual’s right to enjoy a decent life in the city. The charter divides the right to the city into three main components: the principles and strategic foundations for the right to the city; rights which guarantee the exercise of citizenship and participation in the planning, production and management of the city; and finally rights related to the economic, social, cultural, and environmental development of the city.
As the “Constitutional Committee of 50” meets to amend the constitution, TADAMAN: The Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative is launching the Urban Constitution Campaign to familiarize citizens with this set of principles, foundations and rights, which will improve the quality of life in our cities. The Urban Constitution Campaign encourages citizens to demand their rights to the city and strive towards including as many of these rights as possible in the newly drafted Egyptian constitution.
For a right to be comprehensively secured in a constitution, four criteria need to be fulfilled:
Over the coming weeks – in parallel with the “Committee of 50” – we will showcase a series of briefs that shed light on urban and environmental rights. These briefs will show the significance of these rights on our daily life, the evolution of the Egyptian state’s understanding of these rights across Egypt’s modern constitutions, and showcase global examples of other countries.
We hope that with these briefs will open a discussion not solely to draft a new constitution that includes these rights, but also to make urban and environmental rights a fundamental demand that we collectively strive to include in the reality of our Egyptian cities and promote through other vehicles.
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