Izmir Centre for the Right to the City

In November 2020, Izmir Centre for the Right to the City (ICRC) set off as a new initiative aiming to address crucial issues faced by the city dwellers in their everyday life. ICRC seeks to empower citizens who struggle to get access to justice, city infrastructure, food, care, etc. Framing these daily problems as a breach of the collective rights of citizens, it also aims at strengthening communal bonds and individual agency, enabling communities to find sustainable solutions to essential issues. It focuses on the local while targeting wide-reaching effects. It aims to develop a fresh understanding of the urban dynamics and social issues, paying special attention to the needs of the most disadvantaged citizens.

The overall objective of ICRC is to promote a rights-based approach and support active participation of citizens faced with socio-economic challenges and the shrinking of democratic space in Turkey. By empowering local communities and actors in Izmir, ICRC aims to reach out to citizens who lack access to basic economic, social and cultural rights in the city. Bringing together academics, lawyers, rights advocates and citizens, the Centre constitutes a dynamic platform to rethink urban issues and develop original and sustainable community solutions.

ICRC aims to develop a transformative approach to citizens’ rights, which empowers local communities to enhance their urban integration and resilience and access to information and rights. Rooted in Karşıyaka, a socially mixed district of Izmir, the program combines fieldwork, research, training and local experimentation to offer an alternative to the traditional top-down approach to urban governance. The Centre thus aims to form a nationwide critical knowledge hub for citizen participation and empowerment, regarding access to justice and urban resilience.

With its interdisciplinary team and local expertise, the Izmir Centre for the Right to the City aims to develop a fresh understanding of the urban dynamics and social issues, paying special attention to the needs of the most disadvantaged citizens. The Centre seeks to disseminate the accumulated knowledge through online and printed materials, so that it becomes an accessible resource for policymakers, academics and the wider public in Izmir and beyond.

Drawing upon the work of its research team, the ICRC also aims to develop an original information and training program to facilitate citizens’ access to rights and promote their active participation in urban governance. By the end of the program, the objective is to provide citizens with a comprehensive set of materials, taking into account the economic and socio-cultural diversity of the district. With the help of the trainers and lawyers involved in the project, they also develop new skills and strategies to respond to challenges such as evictions, urban renewal, debt, access to food or school dropout. The Centre thus aims to lay the first stone of a set of public legal education initiatives and programs at the national level. Likewise, legal and practical urban solutions developed in this project will become examples to follow for other urban projects in various other cities.

Finally, the program seeks to foster community solutions to local issues. An original objective of the program is to support local communities and individuals who develop original initiatives to address key issues threatening their rights and welfare. While the first results shall be tangible at the end of the two-year program (June 2022), the impact of these local initiatives will hopefully continue to grow in the next years. The goal is to foster democratic participation of the citizens in the urban fabric; to promote civic-mindedness and awareness of belonging to a community; and to encourage local actors to assume responsibilities to defend their rights and welfare.

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