Habitat International Coalition (HIC) describes itself as “an independent, international, nonprofit movement of some 400 organizations and individuals working to support campaigns for housing rights.” The movement is “coordinated geographically” by way of regional focal points, and maintains offices in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East/North Africa (MENA), and North America.
HIC identifies four “perspectives” as central to its work:
(a) The social production and management perspective “concerns practices that affirm people as active agents of change” in addressing problems of “global and local deprivation.” Deeming capitalism an unjust economic system, HIC supports a socialist model featuring people’s “own regulation of the ends, means and relations of production, and the sharing of habitat goods and services …”
(b) The human dignity and rights perspective “seeks to enhance the implementation of international consensus, commitments and obligations, including those relating to the universal entitlements of individuals and groups — women, men, youth and children … specifically the right to adequate housing, which includes secure tenure.”
(c) The sustainable environment perspective aims “to ensure social, economic and environmental sustainability of ‘habitat as human settlements’ and ‘habitat as planet Earth.’”
(d) The gender equality perspective seeks “to ensure the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, including domestic violence in all situations.”
HIC originally grew out of an NGO committee that was formed to help organize and coordinate the NGO input into the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver in 1976. During the 1980s and 1990s, HIC led fact-finding missions to “denounce violations of the right to housing” in Santo Domingo (1988); Seoul (1990); Hong Kong (1990); Narmada (1992); Panama (1992); Managua (1992); Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (1993); Rio de Janeiro (1994), Kobe (1995); Istanbul (1996) and Lima (1998). HIC has been active in the World Urban Forums in Nairobi (2002) and Barcelona (2004), in the pro-socialist World Social Forums, and in many other UN conferences.
HIC’s major programs include the following:
(a) The Housing and Land Rights Network is “a specialized group of HIC members who cooperate to develop methods and share strategies for using human rights to promote and defend adequate housing and land for deprived persons and groups … [and] to promote … the human right to adequate housing as [a] right for everyone …”
(b) The Women and Shelter Network, which hashad a formal consulting relationship with UN–Habitat since 1989, seeks “to unite, promote and support women and their organizations in the development of human settlements that improve women’s and a community’s quality of life.”
(c) The Habitat and Sustainable Environment Network aims “to establish linkage between issues of habitat and environmentally sustainable development in order to improve the quality of peoples’ living conditions …”
In addition to these Netwotks, HIC also maintains several informal working groups that arise periodically from the initiatives of members “with a common interest in the social production of habitat.” In 2005, HIC members created: (a) the Task Force on Housing and Land Rights in War, Conflict and Foreign Occupation; and (b) the Working Group on Privatization and Globalization of Habitat, which focused the negative impact of free trade agreements on habitat.
The Middle East/North Africa section of the HIC website is replete with articles that are strongly critical of Israel. In a section that lists the countries where HIC is actively engaged, there is no link for “Israel”; instead, reports and other materials pertaining to housing issues inside Israel are found in the “Palestine” section.
The HIC website also features a “historical overview” that likens the “legal mechanisms in Israel” to those of “the apartheid regime in South Africa,” claiming that such mechanisms “reflect the racism at the base of the state’s colonial ideology.”
In February 2003, the “News” section of the HIC website featured an article charging that the “Zionist Entity” — the piece did not call Israel by its name — was planning “the demolition of 50,000 Arab houses in the Negev, Galilee and Triangle areas.” The article also quoted Dr. Amer Al-Hazeel, a member of the regional council for “unrecognized villages,” accusing “Tel Aviv” of “plotting a settlement plan on the lands of unrecognized [Arab villages] in the Negev.” Another article lamented that “the state has a policy of demolishing Arab houses inside Israel.”
This profile is adapted, with permission, from the NGO Monitor.