Quito, capital of Ecuador

This past winter I went to Ecuador for a vacation.

I saw lots of frigate birds; gained a better understanding of Charles Darwin’s theories; and surprisingly, perhaps, learned a bit about other approaches to the concept of housing as a right.

I say surprising because I’ve worked in housing in Ontario for many years. I can more or less quote the UN Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25) that asserts our right to housing.

I know getting housing accepted as a right here in Canada is an uphill battle as the Charter Challenge demonstrates.

Yet Ecuador (with a population of just over 14 million, a high poverty rate, a GDP per capita at around $7,500 per capita {we are 5 times that level}) has built the right to housing into their constitution.

How?  A referendum in 2007 approved this new constitution setting out basic rights related to housing and habitat under a section called the Rights to Good Living.   Secure and healthy habitat is guaranteed under Article 30.

The constitution writers applied the historic and cultural concept of Sumak Kawsay.

Sumak Kawsay (the right to good living) comes from the Quechan language, the traditional native language of the Andes.  Underlying Quechan culture is the value of community and mutual help (An idea that might seem like a strange one to me-first Norte Americanos.)    The concept finds its way into the constitution where a system of social inclusion and equity is elaborated upon in article 340 and translated below.

Here a National Development Plan is imagined  which will feature decentralized planning; be guided by the principles of universality, equality, equity, progressivity, intercultural, solidarity and non-discrimination, and operate under the criteria of quality, efficiency, effectiveness , transparency, accountability and participation.

Also prominent is the idea of the “right to the city” which stresses full enjoyment of the city and its public spaces, respect for different urban cultures and a balance between urban and rural.

The exercise of the right to the city is based on the democratic management of it, in social and environmental function of property and the city, and the full exercise of citizenship.

Perhaps we can find some sort of inspiration here.

To learn more see:

The Right to a Dignified Dwelling and City in Ecuador – International Alliance of Inhabitants at:

http://www.habitants.org/news/inhabitants_of_americas/the_right_to_a_dignified_dwelling_and_city_in_ecuador/ (language)/eng-GB


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