Today marks the first in a mini-series of blog posts from my trip to South Africa, where I am attending a convening of housing rights experts put on by the Ford Foundation. Today’s lesson is: we are not alone!
Participating in today’s conversation were lawyers and advocates from South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Egypt, India, Kenya, and Argentina. And despite coming from vastly different legal and political contexts, the challenges we face are strikingly similar.
A quick sampling of issues – see if you can match the issue to the country:
- A poor community living on potentially valuable waterfront real estate is threatened with summary eviction to make way for redevelopment, where they “may” have a chance to purchase housing units after they have been displaced for several years.
- Homeless persons dying of exposure on the streets while politicians claim there is no money in the budget for shelters.
- Police marching into a homeless encampment and tearing down tents and shelters without warning.
The answers, in this case are Nigeria, India, and South Africa. But any of them could have taken place in the U.S.
But here is where the hope lies:
- In Nigeria, this community organized and fought back, and is now being included in development discussions and plans for a phased development, with new housing being created before anyone moves out.
- In India, the courts found cities letting homeless persons die of exposure violated the right to life in the Indian constitution, and ordered a minimum of one homeless shelter per hundred thousand residents.
- In South Africa, police were ordered to rebuild the encampment, and their police chief was held in contempt and fined for each day they failed to do so.
Our neighbors around the globe are creating solutions to the problems we face here, and in the U.S. we need to remember we are not alone in fighting these battles — and we can learn much from those who have faced them elsewhere!
-Eric Tars, Human Rights Program Director
P.S. Tomorrow, I’ll get to visit some of the communities and lawyers that have fought for these changes here in Johannesburg. Looking forward to learning and sharing more!