Raising awareness and making progress in Latin America and Caribbean -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Raising awareness and making progress in Latin America and Caribbean

By Maria Luisa Zanelli and Rodolfo Ramirez

Two important root causes of inadequate housing in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are high rates of urbanization and high land prices in relation to income.

In response, advocacy efforts in the region have taken a three-pronged approach:

  • Working to strengthen capacities of families and community-based organizations in advocating for housing rights, secure tenure, access to public resources and respect for cultural values of indigenous populations.
  • Advancing the roles of civil society networks and local leadership in designing and managing regulatory frameworks and public policy.
  • Participating in forums and conferences that raise awareness and address the root causes of poverty and poverty housing

These efforts have produced tangible results in Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. For example, HFH Brazil joined forces with the National Forum for Urban Reform (FNRU) to help pass a law that recognizes popular entities as housing promotion agents and provides community-based associations, social movements and popular cooperatives access to state financial resources. Within the framework of this law, the Program for Social Production of Housing was formulated and approved, and Brazil’s National Fund for Social Interest Housing (FNHIS) was created. The program has designated R$100 million (more than US$60 million) to these entities so they can directly implement social interest housing projects and initiatives during 2008.

In Honduras, the initiative of the Cooperative Housing Network (REDVISOL), which includes Habitat Honduras, together with the Honduran Council for Cooperative Housing (COHVISOL), created the Program for Cooperative Housing and Credit Solidarity (PROVICCSOL). This program allows NGOs and cooperatives to channel public funds for the self-managed construction of social housing to benefit low-income families.

In addition, Habitat volunteers in Brazil raised awareness of the housing deficit with a public relations campaign that included videos about sprawling favelas in Sao Paulo, among other features. A project with the Swedish Cooperative Center will promote access to adequate housing in urban Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The project for 2008 will focus on Guatemala.

Additional forums, conferences and awareness-raising activities include:

  • Joint promotion and participation of Habitat for Humanity Latin America/Caribbean, RENASEH, Habitat Brazil, FNRU and the Ecuadorian Social Contract for Housing in the fifth Conference for Social Housing in Chile.
  • Promotion of the participation of Habitat for Humanity LA/C, Habitat Bolivia, RENASEH, Habitat Brazil and FNRU in the Latin American Social Studies Congress in Ecuador.
  • Participation of Habitat Brazil, Habitat LA/C and Habitat’s Government Relations and Advocacy Office in the third National Cities Conference in Brazil.
  • Participation of 10 NGOs and Habitat LA/C in the World Conference on the Development of Cities in Brazil.
  • Participation in the Roundtable on Social Housing and Challenges of the Millennium Development Goals, with the participation of Habitat Bolivia, Habitat Chile, RENASEH and government authorities.

As a continued effort to promote involvement in advocacy on a regional level, Habitat for Humanity LA/C has formed a consultation committee of NGOs, which has participated in decisions regarding regional strategies and content. Among the joint actions developed are mapping of initiatives and the organization of the first Seminar on Capacity Building for NGOs and Partners, held in coordination with the GRA Office in February 2008 in Brazil. Now under way is the design of a workshop on lessons learned, baselines and verification of training needs.

Maria Luisa Zanelli (MZanellia@habitat.org) is manager of the Advocacy/Partnership Project in Habitat’s Latin America and the Caribbean office.