Civic Media for Housing Rights: Lessons from struggles against evictions in São Paulo and Lagos

Lead Research Organisation: International Institute for Env and Dev
Department Name: Human Settlements Group

Abstract

The role of digital and social media technologies to advance social change is a key debate of our times. In this field, there is a range of literature discussing 'Civic Media' to examine how media practices and technologies employed by grassroots groups have helped to advance rights and social justice. We will contribute to this debate by focusing on the civic media practices utilised in the housing rights struggles across Lagos and São Paulo, where rights violations are threatening lives and livelihoods of marginalised groups living in insecure housing.

In São Paulo, local government has recently endorsed evictions that violate housing rights, while in Lagos, government-led evictions and harassment of informal dwellers have persisted even after court orders condemned these as unlawful. Social movements and their support networks in both cities have used digital and social media practices to share information about the threat of evictions and denounce these housing rights violations. In São Paulo, social movements have used on-line manifestos, webinars and digital mapping tools to generate public debates about these violations and to amplify the voices of the urban poor. Meanwhile, grassroots groups in Lagos' informal settlements have developed films, exhibitions and digital stories aimed at mobilising public support against evictions while also challenging social stigma associated with residents of informal settlements. In both cities, it is crucial that these civic media initiatives can be strengthened to improve their capacity to shape equitable decision-making processes and support more inclusive visions of urban development.

This project will support and learn from these initiatives by focusing on how civic media can influence policy and planning processes in Lagos and São Paulo. The research activities will identify specific short- and longer-term opportunities to support housing rights by reducing unlawful evictions and other violations, while at the same time securing policy instruments that can promote access to adequate housing and enhance recognition for marginalised urban citizens. During our participatory action research project, we will carry out civic media campaigns in both cities targeting these specific planning opportunities. At the same time, we will analyse the lessons learnt and impacts of these experiences, with the intention to inform debates and practice about how civic media can advance social justice in cities.

Our project's public-facing outputs will mainly target policy and planning processes in Lagos and São Paulo to raise policymakers' awareness of marginalised residents' voices and priorities. By doing this, we hope that urban plans are better able to recognise the diverse needs of the urban poor and support programmes that can upgrade informal settlements and other precarious housing via participatory processes. Through academic papers and a tool-kit on civic media for housing rights, we will share key lessons with international networks of practitioners, civil society organisations, and engaged academics interested in using civic media to enhance the capabilities of social movements to advance housing rights. Finally, we also seek to influence international donors and foundations by discussing how to promote housing rights using community-led communication activities.

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