World Class Cities For All

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It has become a boringly predictable reality that, when a country prepares to host a high-profile international event, the country and its local government authorities prepare to create “World Class Cities” of a particular type, i.e. “World Class Cities” which:

  • will attract foreign investment;
  • have modern up-to-date infrastructure;
  • have no visible signs of urban decay;
  • have smooth traffic flows;
  • have no visible poor people or social problems.

Street vendors’ organisations are usually a good barometer of these plans, as they start to notice plans for their eviction some time in advance of the main events. Sometimes they are actually given prior notice – but in other cases they learn to read the signs in advance and they are evicted without warning.  Sometimes some effort is made to provide alternative means for earning their livelihood – but in most cases the alternatives are either insufficient to provide alternative livelihoods for all the evicted street vendors, or no attempt is made to look for alternatives.

The eviction of street vendors is usually accompanied by “slum clearance” programmes in terms of which the poorest members of the population also lose their homes.  Sometimes alternative shelter is provided, either on a permanent, but more usually a temporary basis, but very often no alternative is either provided or permitted.  Many of the newly homeless, being unable to enter the formal labour market, are also in the informal economy – many of them street vendors – which means that such people lose both their homes and their livelihoods at the same time, leaving little for them to fall back upon as their survival strategy.

Street children and beggars are usually rounded up – and this has been the matter of international scandal on more than one occasion when the methods of keeping them out of sight have been publicly exposed and found to be sadly lacking in compliance with internationally acceptable standards of human rights.  Sometimes sex workers are also rounded up along with the street children and the beggars, but other cases their trade is merely re-organised and regulated in anticipation of an increased international market for their services during the upcoming event.

What all these groups have in common is that they are part of the poor and marginalised classes of society – very often those classes who are not central to government policies other than as passive recipients of welfare funds, and therefore they are not seen as forming part of the host population which anticipates benefitting from hosting a high-profile international event.

Where civil society in general or specifically the poor interest-groups are well-organised, organisers of such events sometimes try to pre-empt their criticisms by designing a corporate social responsibility (CSR) element into the programme – such as building temporary housing for sportspeople participating in Olympic Games or World Cup matches and promising that this housing will become low-income housing complexes after the event – but there is not a very impressive success-rate in this regard.

Gender implications:

The creation of typical “World Class cities” – meaning some sort of first world city of middle-class people only, where the poor just disappear – usually results in any prior development plans for poor being abandoned or shelved.  On the streets this results in pitched battles, which often militarises the struggles of street vendors, giving prominence to militant militaristic male leadership figures, and the women literally disappear from the public profile, even if they were prominent before – as all the development issues disappear. Thus the event pauperises women by removing their source of livelihood in the public spaces of the cities concerned, while their male colleagues end up fighting a massive defensive battle.  If there is a settlement at the end of the struggle, the militants are the ones with whom the authorities settle – while those displaced at the outset (mostly the women) remain unseen, forgotten, and have to start from the beginning again looking for a place to earn their livelihoods.

Aims of the campaign:

This campaign aims to challenge this traditional approach to building “World Class Cities” and create a new, more inclusive concept of “World Class Cities for All” with the participation of street vendors and other groups of the (urban) poor.  The campaign will have a strong focus on women and other vulnerable street vendors who are the first to lose their livelihoods and the most invisible in most plans for “World Class Cities”.

Campaign activities:

This international campaign will be ongoing in its objective of creating a global consciousness of a new type of World Class Cities for All.  It will run in any number of countries simultaneously, being launched in any country which is identified by StreetNet after being notified by our members that moves are afoot in that country to establish “World Class Cities” in preparation for a big international event.

(1) The campaign can be kicked off in South Africa in 2006, where authorities in some cities have already started talking about establishing “World Class Cities” in preparation for the FIFA World Cup in 2010, and some of them have already started evicting street vendors.

(2) At the same time it should be launched in Ghana, where the African cup of Nations is to be held in 2008. Three new stadiums are being built in Takoradi, Tamale and Cape Coast, and the stadiums in Accra and Kumasi are being renovated. A new ministry of modernisation of capital cities has been created which is already talking about evicting street vendors.

(3) Within the next two years, the campaign should also be launched in India, wherethe next Commonwealth Games will take place in 2010. Once government preparations get under way it is likely that there will be similar developments to those which have started in Ghana and South Africa.

Campaign activities will consist of the following:

  • Joint meetings with all known street vendors’ organisations to prepare proposals and demands to present to local government authorities ahead of the (World Cup/Commonwealth Games/other event) preparations;
  • Approaches to municipalities bidding to host (World Cup/Commonwealth Games/other event) matches to discuss their intentions in relation to the livelihoods of street vendors during the (World Cup/Commonwealth Games/other event in 2010/or whenever) and to participate in creating a shared vision of World Class Cities for All;
  • Joint meetings with other organisations representing or campaigning on behalf of the poor (residents in “unsightly” informal settlements, homeless and landless people, street children, other informal workers such as car guards, waste pickers, etc.) to establish common concerns in the lead-up to the (World Cup/Commonwealth Games/other event) and to prepare a platform of common demands to present to local government authorities ahead of the (World Cup/Commonwealth Games/other event) preparations;
  • Campaigning for a place at the negotiating table of any multi-stakeholder forums established for the purpose of establishing “World Class Cities” in the lead-up to the (World Cup/Commonwealth Games/other event);
  • Building strategic and tactical alliances with organizations and interest groups who can be recruited to join us in the campaign for World Class Cities for All;
  • A national media campaign to draw the attention of the public to the situation of street vendors and other vulnerable groups whose livelihoods or homes are threatened by plans to create the type of “World Class Cities” which do not recognise the existence of the poor, and to popularise an alternative vision of World Class Cities for All;
  • An international media campaign (including in cyberspace) to draw the attention of our international allies in the trade union movement and the social movements to the national campaign being undertaken in any particular country;
  • Production and international distribution of campaign posters and leaflets to popularise the campaign among our affiliates and their members;
  • Use the World Social Forum to build, expand and consolidate an alternative global vision of World Class Cities for All – in line with the WSF theme “Another World is Possible”.

Two levels:

A high-profile campaign should be run in countries where international or regional events are coming up (as described above) and a second more-low profile level of campaign could be run in all other countries-engaging governments/ municipalities about modernisation plans and introducing our new concept of World Class Cities for All.


The StreetNet International Council meeting in April 2006 determined that the launch of the South African WCCA campaign should take place during 2006, and identified Ghana as another country in which the WCCA campaign needs to be launched as soon as possible. The launching of the campaign in each country should do the following:

  • establish a national WCCA campaign committee;
  • establish a campaign time-table leading up to the expected date of the main event.

The WCCA campaign will be officially launched at the StreetNet International Congress in 2007, where the official campaign name will be decided.

Campaign Structures:

The International Council will set up a Streetnet International Campaign Committee (SICC) to co-ordinate both the Manifesto and the WCCA campaign. Until the formation of the SICC, the international co-ordination of the campaigns will be done by the Streetnet International office.

StreetNet International, as the leading organisation of the WCCA campaign, will identify campaign partners at international level as well as at national level, in conjunction national StreetNet affiliates, in those countries where the campaign is launched. In those countries, the affiliate(s) of StreetNet in that country will play a leading role.

A distinction will be made between strategic alliances forged with organisations who largely share the political and strategic vision of StreetNet, and more tactical alliances forged around identified areas of common ground with organisations who do not necessarily share StreetNet’s vision or primary interests on all other matters.

Strategic alliances:

  • Trade union movement (international such as ICFTU and WCL, as well as national trade union centres such as COSATU in South Africa);
  • Global Coalition for Women Workers’ Rights;

Global Union Federations (particularly PSI (Public Services International) and its national affiliates);

  • International co-operative movement;
  • UN bodies such as ILO and HABITAT.

Tactical alliances:

  • organised business interests who want the buy-in of the popular classes;
  • politicians/political parties who want the buy-in of the popular classes;
  • consumer councils;
  • bodies like FIFA and the Olympic Committee.
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