INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Unesco and Its Right to the City Program

Published: Mon 20 Nov 2006 03:47 PM
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Lucia A Keegan 11/28/2006 10:04:25 AM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan
Cable
Text:
UNCLAS PARIS 07462
SIPDIS
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DRAFTED: HHS:JHOFF
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UNCLAS PARIS 007462
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FROM USMISSION UNESCO PARIS
FOR IO/UNESCO
NAIROBI FOR OBSERVER
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SCUL KPAO UNESCO
SUBJECT: UNESCO AND ITS RIGHT TO THE CITY PROGRAM
1. Summary. Despite concerns raised by the U.S. Mission, UNESCO
continues to pursue its "Right to the City" program and will be
holding a December 11-12 meeting on "Urban Policies and the Right to
the City." Despite UNESCO's support of this program, it is clear
from a recent meeting with the organizers, that its goals are fuzzy
at best. At the same time, the fuzziness of these goals may present
an opportunity to get away from an open-ended pursuit of ill-defined
"rights" and for this program to be redirected and focused on civic
education. End Summary.
2. DCM and HHS attache met November 20 with Wataru Iwamoto and
Brigitte Colin of UNESCO's Social and Human Sciences (SHS) program
and who have been the primary staff responsible for the "Right to
the City" program. In previous meetings Mission had expressed its
unhappiness with the profligate use of the term "rights" by UNESCO
and SHS and the vagueness of the term "right to the city," in
particular. Mission had also raised the unclear aim of this
program. Though there will be a working group meeting at UNESCO
December 11-12 on "Urban Policies and the Right to the City,"
Iwamoto, stressed he is aware of U.S. concerns and promised that the
name of the program will soon be changed to remove the word rights.
The new name will try to more accurately capture the nature of the
program. Iwamoto also assured us that the outcome of this project
would not lead to a normative instrument.
3. Unfortunately, judging from the conversation, the nature of the
program is not clear, even to the UNESCO secretariat. They have
lumped together a number of inchoate concepts such as access to
water supplies, rights of women and dealing with immigration at the
city level. Topics of sessions at the upcoming UNESCO meeting
include: innovative practices in French speaking cities, Montreuil,
France-policies for integrating immigrants, rights to the city for
street traders and informal workers, the right to urban water, and
so-on.
4. Attending the December that meeting will be representatives from
UNHABITAT and various universities and cities participating in a
loose network that has already been established. Among the
participants will be Mark Purcell of the Department of Urban Design
and Planning at the University of Washington. Colin from SHS
pointed out that they have been having a difficult time finding
partners in developing countries that really may need help with
urban management. For this reason, they are working through the
already-established network of Francophone mayors sponsored by the
Francophonie organization. HHS attache asked if there was a
possibility of working with the Commonwealth.
5. When asked what other UNESCO sectors the program is working with,
Iwamoto replied the Education Sector's Education for Sustainable
Development program and the Science Sector's water education
program. Iwamoto appeared open to a suggestion from the DCM that
the program be more focused on the basics of democracy and civic
education. Iwamoto agreed with a suggestion by the DCM that he meet
with the chief of the education sector's division responsible for
civic education and that he also meet with the Communications and
Information sector to see how they could be involved in this
program.
6. Mission reps also offered to look for partners that could be
involved in getting the program better focused on grassroots
democracy and practical solutions to urban problems. Among the
organizations suggested was Sister Cities International, an
organization that Iwamoto and Colin knew nothing about. A name that
also arose was that of Shannon H. Sorzano, Deputy Assistant
Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of
SIPDIS
Housing and Urban Development. Sorzano was a panelist at the World
Urban Forum in Vancouver, Canada this past May. (Comment:
IO/UNESCO may want to reach out to Sorzano to coordinate policy in
this field.) USAID is also doing work in this area and might have
ideas for partners and resources.
6. Comment. While we received a positive response to our proposal
to focus the program more on civic education, we are still a long
way from realizing that goal. It will probably takes months of
prodding and pushing to turn the "Right to the City" into a program
that produces tangible outcomes rather than a lot of fragmented
discussion.
KOSS
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