PORTO ALEGRE CHARTER
The processes of urbanization, generalized throughout the world, do not always include citizenship rights. Large sectors of the population are excluded and marginalized, affected by one of the worst aspects of neoliberal policies: the division between those who are included and those who are excluded from social rights and the democratic process itself.
These effects are more evident in large cities, which are attracting large groups of people affected by the existing imbalances between urban and rural dwellers. Such urban sprawl also leads to further damage to the environment. These phenomena do not only appear in less developed areas, but are actually more pronounced in more developed cities.
It is within cities that we find the most profound processes of exclusion. At the same time, cities also often provide the best conditions for the development of policies of social cohesion and protection of the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
In the Habitat II Conference held in Istanbul in 1996, mayors from around the world affirmed the need to recognize the role of local governments, who are democratically elected to manage and lead in their respective cities. They held that cities should be participatory, socially inclusive, and provide accessible public services to all citizens. The mayors also affirmed that local authorities should speak out at the international level, through their networks, regional and issue-based structures and a representative and unified organization.
We adopt these principles, in conjunction with the declaration of the May 2000 International Conference of St. Denis (France), which recognized that while the greatest tensions and inequalities are found in cities, it is also in cities that new social aspirations are expressed, along with innovative responses affirming the quality of life and social rights.
The Forum of Local Authorities in Porto Alegre, held as part of the World Social Forum, which affirms that “Another World is Possible”, contributed public policies aimed at overcoming the inequalities generated by the economic models associated with hegemonized globalization. We therefore affirm that “Another World is Possible, and it Starts in the Cities.”
The delegates gathered at the Forum of Local Authorities for Social Inclusion, committed to strengthening and valuing citizenship and cities as democratic spaces, defend and propose as follows:
. We recognize the right of citizens to new public spaces arising from the process of urbanization. This means “socializing” the condition of being a citizen, and creating the cultural conditions needed for the least integrated sectors of the population to experience citizenship and have access to all rights that belong to citizens.
. Local authorities should commit, with the direct, democratic participation of their citizens, to promoting policies to overcome the housing crisis, the precariousness of urban services, the poverty which affects significant sectors of the population, and the phenomena of social exclusion and marginalization which deny citizenship rights. Such efforts will entail a better and fairer redistribution of public resources, involving proper allocation of public monies between central and local governments, so that cities will be able to provide the necessary infrastructure and public services to their residents.
. Social policies, so much needed in cities, are a decisive part of human rights protection. Local authorities should commit to promoting and encouraging such policies, with concern for the interests of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
. Local authorities, through their acts of government, should commit to developing programs aimed at job creation, fighting unemployment and precarious working conditions, as well as providing incentives for new sources of work.
. We recognize the important role of cities in this era of globalization, as an instrument regulating the implacable market logic. It is therefore important to strengthen and build civic networks throughout the world to allow cities to intervene, in solidarity, in decentralized cooperation programs.
. We recognize the importance of the relationship between city and countryside, and join in the struggle to defend, protect and promote the agricultural policies necessary for sustainable, economic and social development for healthy cities. . We will promote recognition of the right of cities and their democratic governments to act in the political, economic and cultural life of the world. It is therefore important to maximize local alliances, as well as direct joint and collaborative efforts between cities. . We defend the right of cities to have their own voice and will participate in international bodies. It will be helpful to work toward a new declaration of universal rights and obligations of citizenship, to allow for the construction of a common culture for all citizens.
. We defend the need for close collaboration between local government and non governmental organizations, in order to maximize international initiatives aimed at reinforcing citizenship rights.
. National economic development, based on the sovereign participation of every country in the world economy, without one-sided subordination or dependency, can only be achieved if built on public, city-based action and movements in defence of social justice. In the context of globalization subordinated to finance capital, we must go further in our discussions about social control over the flow of such international money. As part of these discussions, we should explore the creation of a tax on international financial transactions. Such a tax would be directed toward policies to combat poverty and increase social inclusiveness.
Cities are also an important vehicle for fending off the policies of exclusion and favouring the development of politics of social inclusion, as well as to respond to the problems of the citizenry. Cities provide a key space in which to re-establish the hope that we can build a more just and human world.
Porto Alegre, January 27, 2001.
Committee to Draft the Porto Alegre Charter: Angel Merino (Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Spain); Gabriel Abascal (Badalona, Spain); João Luiz dos Santos (Porto Alegre, Brazil); Marcelo Deda (Aracaju, Brazil); Maria Helena Magaiha (Maputo, Mozambique); Paulo Ziulkoski (National Confederation of Brazilian Municipalities); Pedro Wilson Guimarães (Goiania, Brazil); Pepe Vargas (Caxias do Sul, Brazil); Vasco Franco (Lisbon, Portugal); Tarso Genro (Porto Alegre, Brazil).