October 6, 2008
In Colombia, children participate in a drawing contest about the significance of World Habitat Day.
At Habitat, celebrating World Habitat Day (WHD) means that we jointly applaud successes such as homes built, dreams fulfilled and alliances formed in favor of adequate housing. But it doesn’t end there. This “celebration” is unique, in that we also recognize our immense responsibility as advocates for the upholding of basic human rights specific to shelter.
This year, staff at Habitat’s area office in Latin America and the Caribbean strengthened ranks against the fact that our current habitat is more urbanized than ever. In 2007, for the first time in history, the world’s urban population outnumbered the rural. In addition, Latin America and the Caribbean possesses the highest level of urbanization in the world—roughly 70 percent of its habitants are centered in cities. At the same time, the region also suffers the highest level of economic inequality.
“The right to the city,” an initiative that Habitat for Humanity LAC and our partners are currently leading, is more than just a slogan that appeals for equal access; it is a foundational principal that should be reflected in the systems and laws that dictate development. As human beings, our “habitat” is closely linked to some of our most basic survival needs: shelter, livelihood, education, transportation, infrastructure, public services, healthcare and personal safety. “Adequate shelter” as such, is a catalytic step that extends beyond four walls.
In this spirit, we celebrate our successes while continuing to recognize our responsibility as organizations, governments, businesses…and as individuals.
Secure land tenure as a vital step towards gaining secure housing was the focal theme for WHD this year. On October 6th, over 100 Habitat affiliates across the U.S. and 30 national offices world-wide shed light on this subject through fund raising, advocacy, and construction.
“As we reflect on the 1.5 billion people worldwide in need of adequate shelter and are reminded that among them, 80 percent of the world’s population lacks security of tenure, we can find hope in our collective effort to get involved, to act and to make a difference.” -Jonathan Reckford, CEO, Habitat for Humanity International
How did we celebrate in our region?
12 Habitat offices across Latin America and the Caribbean celebrated World Habitat Day in creative and unique ways.
In Costa Rica , the National Center for Culture hosted the celebration, where Habitat homeowners, collaborators and staff shared the stage to speak about the value of secure tenure and harmonious cities. Meanwhile, the national band Mal País performed songs whose lyrics appealed to the dozens of young people assembled to reflect upon their collective responsibility towards the future.
Habitat Mexico  also commemorated the day with public events. In Hildago, over 200 families gathered to share the traditional meals of the region, while in San Cristobal, community members distributed flyers about housing issues. Habitat staff in Ixhuatlan hosted an event for over 300 individuals from 17 different communities, where kids and adults created drawings and banners that expressed their opinions about how to resolve local housing issues. Later, they took to the streets, shouting songs and slogans.
Colleagues in Bogota, Colombia  also spent the day in activities, joined by the National Director of Habitat Chile and local partner families. Kids created drawings and planted 100 trees while adults discussed what it means to “make your world a home,” which was the theme of the celebration throughout the region.
Habitat Argentina  sent and electronic newsletter with information about housing issues, and Habitat Honduras  and Nicaragua  published articles and video in national media sources, urging the importance of the day. Habitat Trinidad and Tobago  hosted a national day of prayer for the cause.
World Habitat Day is an international call for collaboration, and Habitat Guatemala , Bolivia  and El Salvador  took this to heart. HFH Guatemala hosted the Second Annual Conference on Housing, inviting both the public and private sectors to participate. In Bolivia, a joint agenda was established between members of the National Human Settlement Network (RENASEH), aiming to push authorities to act on issues involving the “right to the city” El Salvador hosted the forum, forum, “The Right to the City in Latin American communities,” and was also the site for 90 organizations and housing networks from 15 countries to jointly proclaim the Declaration of Civil Society Organizations before the XVII Assembly of MINURVI .
Habitat Brazil  celebrated with 100 women from the Feira Nova Municipality, who had gathered to sign contracts for their new homes, thanks to an alliance between Habitat Brazil and the federal bank CAIXA.
In Chile , the day marked the end of a successful workshop for Habitat homeowners, who were trained on subjects such as family finances, advocacy and leadership. Enthusiasm was the tone of the closing event, with participants vowing to replicate the training for over 600 additional families in their communities.
These are just some examples of the creative and unique WHD celebrations in Latin America and the Caribbean. We would love to hear your thoughts and reflections on themes such as: secure tenure, harmonious cities and what it means to “make our world a home” at comunicacionesLAC@habitat.org .
You can also visit Los Lectores Opinan  on our Spanish language website.
Read more about the history of World Habitat Day.