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Right to the City in an Urban Future – Alison Brown, Cardiff University

By on October 12, 2016
Lecturer - profile

Alison Brown


Main affiliation
Cardiff University


United Kingdom

European Union



Alison Brown is Professor of Urban Planning and International Development in the School of Geography and Planning, where she heads the Informal Economy Research Observatory. She is an urban planner and development policy expert with extensive experience in academia and professional practice. Her research and consultancy focusses on urban planning and sustainability, governance, the Right to the City, urban livelihoods and the informal economy, and has included projects in 24 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. She is leading several large research projects on the informal economy under the ESRC/DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation and the ESRC/DFID Growth Research Programme on: law, rights and regulation; access to finance for urban micro-enterprises, and economic recovery in post-conflict cities. She is a member of the Habitat III Policy Unit 1 on the Right to the City, and Cities for All.

Alison has published widely on the informal economy and rights-based approaches to development, with an edited book on Rebel Streets and the Informal Economy: Street Trade and the Law to be published early in 2017, and research reports for DFID’s Evidence on Demand series on Planning for Sustainable and Inclusive Cities in the Global South, and Livelihoods and Urbanisation. She is planning advisor to the global advocacy group, WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment, Globalizing and Organizing), editor of the Commonwealth e-Journal of Local Governance, and a board member of the NGO Reall (formerly Homeless International).

English Proficiency
Mother tongue

Previous experience of recording video lectures

Experience of lecturing to large audiences

Experience of lecturing to large audiences

Frequency of lectures
Very often

Recording opportunities
Habitat III attendance and availability
15-21 October


Main themes
Social Inclusion
Planning and Design

Right to the City in an Urban Future

This lecture explore the potential of the Right to the City to transform our approach to cities and urbanisation.

Issues which the lecture addresses
More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, increasing to two thirds by 2050, but the current urban development model fails to address the problems of urban poverty and social exclusion that are endemic to many cities today. Why should the urban poor suffer insecure land for housing and livelihoods, and face constant threat of evictions? The Right to the City is a powerful paradigm that seeks to address exclusion and provide an alternative framework to re-think cities and urbanisation. This lecture explains the concept of the Right to the City, explores its implications for those living and working in vulnerable urban settings.

Short analysis of the above issues
The Right to the City is defined as, ‘the right of all inhabitants to use, occupy and produce just, inclusive and sustainable cities, defined as a common good essential to a full and decent life’. Stemming from the philosophical ideals of Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey and other leading academics, and a rallying cry for social movements, the Right to the City is seen as a way to remake the city in a different image. Its core dimensions include: spatially just distribution of resources; the social function of property; inclusive urban economies; gender equality; enhanced political participation, and a city of cultural diversity. Claims to the Right to the City are often played out in public space. Reference to the Right to the City in the Habitat III New Urban Agenda is the first time that this powerful agenda has been referenced by the international community.

Propositions for addressing the issue
As a collective right, implementation of the Right to the City is challenging, but many precedents exist.

Proposition 1: At international level, the legal framework for the Right to the City is well-established in international covenants and conventions, e.g. the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development.

Proposition 2: At national level, a number of highly successful initiatives have demonstrated the effectiveness of the Right to the City as a development paradigm, such as the 2001 Brazil City Statute, the 2006 Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, and the 2014 federal law in India that seeks to protect the livelihoods of street vendors.

Proposition 3: At local level, rights-based approaches can transform the livelihoods of the urban poor, for example informal economy workers, and claims are often played out in public space. Wastepickers in Bangalore are now included in the city’s waste strategy, and home-based workers in Nepal now have a 48,000 strong organization of whom 80% are women.

Additional Reading Materials
Habitat III (2016) Policy Paper 1, Right to the city and Cities for All

GPR2C (2016) What’s the Right to the City, GPR2C (Global Platform on the Right to the City) http://www.righttothecityplatform.org.br/download/publicacoes/what-R2C_digital-1.pdf

Draft presentation