Rio Events Highlight Contrasting Approaches to Land Rights in Brazil’s Favelas
UN Photo/Kibae Park
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The event on the theme, ‘A Simpler Brazil,’ addressed the role of property rights in addressing poverty, and focused on the role of state and corporate actors who aim to help entrepreneurs in favelas who are limited by the insecurity of the informal sector.

The event themed, ‘Peripheral Perspectives,’ raised critiques of the relationship between public authorities and businesses, and warned against relying on “institutional solutions”.

The Land Portal article concludes that the possibility of bridging the gap between these two approaches “appears bleak”.

24 September 2018: A blog published on the Land Portal provides a critical review of two events focusing on land rights that convened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: ‘A Simpler Brazil,’ which addressed the role of property rights in addressing poverty; and ‘Peripheral Perspectives,’ which critiqued the focus on “land regularization” as a solution to poverty and exclusion in informal urban settlements.

The two events took place on 18 September 2018.

Convened by the Brazilian Support Service for Small and Micro Businesses (SEBRAE), the first event featured a presentation by Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, founder of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, on formal property rights and economic development around the world. The second event, which took place on the campus of Rio de Janeiro State University, was addressed by Raquel Rolnik, former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing (2008-2014), who documented housing rights violations in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.

‘A Simpler Brazil’ focused on the role of state and corporate actors such as SEBRAE and Rock in Rio, which aim to help entrepreneurs in favelas who are limited by the insecurity of the informal sector. The article notes that this informed the event’s emphasis on the role of improved coordination among federal, state, and municipal governments as the solution to many prevailing urban challenges. The adoption of relevant legislation in 2017 was cited as an important step in the process of ongoing land regularization and bringing more favela residents into the formal sector.

In Puerto Rico, a distinction is made by granting the right to houses, or surface rights, “without necessarily granting the right to the land.”

By contrast, the article notes, ‘Peripheral Perspectives’ raised critiques of the relationship between public authorities and businesses, and warned against relying on “institutional solutions.” Speakers called for public-private partnerships (PPPs) that aim to address the needs of favela residents to “not only recognize that social and economic organization in favelas has positive attributes but also bring resources directly to social and economic entities in favelas in order to avoid the destruction, dispossession, and violence that top-down institutional resources and formalization can generate.”

While noting that both events highlighted the importance of recognizing and generating value in favelas, the article identifies “major divergences” between approaches focused on strengthening property rights and providing formal land titles in favelas on the one hand, and the view that approaches predicated on economic development “ultimately end up reinforcing inequalities and exclusion” in the world’s cities on the other.

Questioning the view that land titles offer a simple solution to problems in favelas, Jailson de Souza e Silva, founder of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Favelas Observatory and member of a panel on land regularization at the event themed, ‘A Simpler Brazil,’ called for a reconceptualization of the city to recognize its role in stimulating “interaction, diversity, solidarity, and affection,” rather than being about “just facilities and services.” He characterized favelas as central spaces and cultural entities “that have to be preserved against the logic of transforming these assets into market assets,” pointing to the example of Puerto Rico, where a distinction is made by granting the right to houses, or surface rights, “without necessarily granting the right to the land.”

The article concludes that the possibility of bridging the gap between these two approaches “appears bleak.” It describes corporate initiatives such as “Communities Do Business” or a “favela space” at Rock in Rio as contributing to a narrative that “makes a spectacle of poor communities and attributes value to favelas only as they are inserted into the formal market.” While benefits may emerge for a select few in favelas, the article argues that this approach primarily generates “enormous wealth for large businesses without producing substantive change for the poor.”

The Land Portal participates in the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), an alliance of international partners contributing to poverty alleviation through increased access to land and tenure security for all. The Network is a partnership of organizations drawn from the rural and urban civil society, international research and training institutions, bilateral and multilateral organizations, and international professional bodies. GLTN is coordinated by the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). [Land Portal Blog]

 

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