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Confronting urban segregation: Legal empowerment in Latin American cities

In Latin America, an estimated eight in ten people live in cities. In many cases, those large urban centres house deep inequalities. Upwards of 29% of inhabitants live below the poverty line and 23.5% live in informal settlements (slums). The urban poor face challenges in securing economic opportunities, which are further exacerbated by low respect for social and economic rights, especially access to adequate housing and basic services, and access to justice more generally. The concentration of inequalities in these slum areas is referred to as “urban segregation” which, in many cases, results from exclusionary or uneven public policies.

Against that backdrop, this action-oriented research project will develop evidence on how to improve access to justice and respect for human rights in three large Latin American cities: Buenos Aires, Argentina; La Paz-El Alto, Bolivia; and Quito, Ecuador. These cities host large pockets of poverty and informal settlements, and over the years have seen social movements crop up in the face of larger social challenges. Informal settlement communities, however, continue to face obstacles that hinder improvements to their poor living conditions. Women and migrants face additional vulnerabilities in asserting their rights.

In response to such challenges, an interdisciplinary team of lawyers, urban specialists, social scientists, and community actors will examine three questions: how the problem of urban segregation relates to existing rights of informal settlement inhabitants; which community-driven actions are most effective for those communities to assert their rights; and how legal empowerment strategies can strengthen those actions. Working with community members, the research seeks to improve awareness of their rights, develop and test tools to help improve their living conditions and access to justice, and contribute to public action and policies that are more responsive to the rights of the urban poor. The local partner is the Asociación Civil por la Igauldad y la Justicia (Civil Association for Equality and Justice) based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
36 months
IDRC Officer
Adrian Di Giovanni
Total Funding
CA$ 619,900.00
Democratic and Inclusive Governance
Governance and Justice
Institution Country
Project Leader
Sebastián Pilo
Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia