Spaces to exercise the right to the city
Diversity as a resource for society
The term “inclusive city” was introduced for the first time in 2001 by the United Nations, which defined it as “a place where everyone, regardless of their economic status, gender, race, ethnicity or religion, is enabled and empowered to fully participate in the social, economic and political opportunities that are on offer” (United Nations Centre for human settlements 2001). A city can therefore be defined as inclusive when it builds its policies and identity on the explicit recognition that diversity can be a resource for the development of society. Although the inclusive city is a shared virtuous model towards which to strive, the urban space includes many factors that increase polarization, fragmentation, and social exclusion, under the influence of the global market.
Within this articulate system, common goods can play a crucial role in making a city inclusive. Specifically, commons, in their broadest sense as places of solidarity and sharing of community-based practices, are proving essential in providing services and support to communities, especially to the people more often excluded and marginalized by our society.
The commons become to exercise the right to the city
The activities offered range from reception and hospitality to social inclusion and education, training and job placement. The commons therefore become spaces to exercise the “right to the city”: experiences that generate positive encounters and cultural exchanges, promoting an equal and active participation of communities in the development of the city and in the fulfillment of the needs of a varied population. A haven for those on the fringes of society, safe and comfortable spaces that have the ability to provide and reproduce social stability by surpassing market and central government control.
Therefore, this itinerary shows how the emergence of urban commons is often a reaction to all the laws and mechanisms of global capitalism that physically exclude those who cannot afford to pay the price imposed by the market for goods and services, or cannot benefit from state welfare systems because they are refugees, migrants, marginalized people or simply because they want to live differently within society.
Inclusion through solidarity social and economic models
The cases presented here are indeed notable for being promoters of unconventional activities of care and collective management of common goods in which new forms of living spaces are tested out and new ways of inclusion are experimented with through social and economic models of solidarity and sustainability.
These unique experiences make “commoning” – the practices of sharing material and immaterial resources – both the means and the end for the promotion of alternative projects in social housing, education, culture, trade, production and provision of services.
These spaces allow for the practice of a new “active welfare” in support of the skills of the most fragile communities and individuals, reminding us that the quality of the urban space does not only depend on the infrastructures available within an area, but also on the quality of projects, the relationships they generate and the ability to tackle social conflicts, manage diversity and benefit from it.
Commons as a response to social crises: what’s going on in Greece?
The deep crisis that has affected Greece since the autumn of 2009 has had direct and serious consequences on people's everyday lives, with particular impact on the most vulnerable and fragile groups through cuts in pensions, wages, social services, tax increases and structural reforms.
Greek people react to the crisis by taking part to mutual-aid actions
As a reaction to the austerity politics imposed by the central government, solidarity and mutual-aid actions were initiated by collectives and individuals all over the country. From occupying the parliament square (Syntagma Square) with tents, to the “movement of the squares” born in 2011, there’s a lot of people who, acting outside their comfort zones, took part in public solidarity actions, which often led to new or alternative ways of using the urban space.
The country has seen the emergence of over 400 self-organized spaces, squats, collectives and community initiatives; around 40 solidarity clinics and pharmacies with an average of 46 volunteers per clinic and 2,000 people being taken care of per month; 47 self-managed food banks and 21 social kitchens with about 56 volunteers per group who, in 2014 alone, distributed 4,318 food packages per month; 45 distribution networks, with over 5,000 tons of products distributed; and about 30 solidarity education facilities.
From 2015 on, bottom-up solidarity projects arose for the reception of refugees
In spring 2015, it became clear that the domestic policies of the individual states were not enough to deal with the dramatic increase in the flow of refugees. According to the UNHCR, there are currently about 119,700 asylum seekers and recognized refugees in Greece; 100,600 are on the mainland and 19,100 are on the Aegean islands. In this case too, alongside the actions of the central government, other bottom-up solidarity projects and experiences arose to respond to the ongoing emergency. These solidarity practices, which today are an important experiment in shaping a new and different public sphere, are characterized by the implementation of alternative forms of engaging in politics in situations of crisis and deprivation, by the introduction of new actors in the field and by the ability to eventually reconfigure public space and redefine the forms of urban citizenship.
Commons for a future that is more open to solidarity, community-making and inclusion
The experiences that were included in this thematic itinerary propose a different narration of the Greek humanitarian emergency, one in which commons become examples of participatory democracy and direct action, for a future that is more open to solidarity, community-making and inclusion.
Explore the commons
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