Legal empowerment to promote citizen participation and social justice in Rio’s favelas

This project aims to identify solutions to justice and development challenges in three informal settlements (“favelas” or “periferias”) in and around Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The urban poor in Rio face deep inequality and exclusion, poor access to basic services, insecurity, high crime rates, and harsh public safety policies that are associated with police violence. Spaces for citizen participation have been closing in recent years, and Brazil is now one of the four most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. Organizations offering legal support to the urban poor have often operated externally to favelas, focusing on high-profile court cases. This leads to a gap with on the ground efforts to transform conditions of poverty and exclusion. These conditions have created obstacles for residents to claim their rights and access justice.

Against this backdrop, the project will study how legal empowerment approaches can address existing and new forms of insecurity. Working with community-based organizations, the Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas (Ibase) will implement a Citizenship Indicators System. The system will use a combination of community perceptions and public data to analyze human rights conditions in the favelas. Community members and organizations will use the results to identify priority action areas to improve social conditions, and they will receive training on legal empowerment approaches to support those efforts. In parallel, a technical reference group will be formed (including national organizations, legal support, and justice sector institutions) to promote improved spaces for citizen participation on questions of urban poverty and injustice. Together these efforts are expected to generate a stronger evidence base of human rights conditions and legal empowerment approaches in favelas. Residents are expected to gain a stronger awareness of and capacity to claim their rights and engage in processes of public policy and accountability.

Project ID


Project status



30 months

IDRC Officer

Adrian Di Giovanni

Total funding

CA$ 485,200




Governance and Justice

Project Leader

Rita Correa Brandao


Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Economicas - IBASE

Institution Country


Institution Website