Since the 1980s, Brazil has been improving its institutional and legal frameworks in alignment with the international human rights framework, moving towards tackling inequalities in urban settlements that affect millions of people deprived from adequate standards of living. These steps forward such as the Constitution (1988) and the Statute of Cities (2001) are strongly related with the claims and proposals from organized civil society, that (i) laid the foundation to ensure the social function property and of the city, and (ii) highlight the importance of democratic and participatory decision making on cities through the Council and Conference of Cities as the main institutionalized arena for dialogue between State and civil society. Recently, the government and civil society organizations (CSOs) from Brazil have strongly contributed to the process towards Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development to include the notion of the right to the city in the New Urban Agenda. Countries who signed the New Urban Agenda committed to the idea of the right to the city as the right to equality enjoy, use and participate in the decisions on cities and human settlements for all people. 

The Provisional Measure 579/2016 changes the legal framework that deals with access to land and land regularization, which is a key issue to the rural and urban poor. This law (coming from the executive branch, entering on legislative matters, without any participation with civil society) subverts the logic of social justice, favoring the regularization of high-standard occupation, usually a result from land corruption processes, and facilitates access to public property by large corporations, including foreign ones. On the other hand, it reduces the access to land regularization for poor families to titling options, which does not consider various aspects of adequate housing, and which strengthens the notion of land as a commodity and not as a right. In addition, it overlooks decades of progressive experiences and land tools developed to ensure the tenure security of the most vulnerables beyond the private, individual property title. 

Further, the Decree 9.076/2017 eliminates the powers of the National Council of Cities to organize the National Conference, and postpones the Conference to 2019, affecting the participatory processes of dialogue, monitoring and decision making on urban policies at national, state and municipal levels. It overlooks the Constitution, the Statute of Cities and the international frameworks that call for democratic participation to decide the future of cities and human settlements. 

Habitat for Humanity Brazil was elected to represent CSOs as City Councilor at all levels: national, state and municipal levels. In concrete terms, the impact of the decree implies that Habitat Brazil, together with CSOs and social movements, may lose the mandate/role as National City Councilors. In Pernambuco, state-level City Councilors haven’t been elected because the State Conference of Cities did not occur and the former mandates are no longer valid. At the municipal level, in Recife, the Conference occurred before this decree and Habitat Brazil was re-elected Councilor. 

In parallel with the Provisional Measure on Land Regularization and the Decree on the Council of Cities, the National Government is also proposing major changes in terms of workers’ rights and social security, which became a priority of the agenda of social movements and CSOs, impacting the capacity to mobilize civil society on efforts related to housing and land. 

Habitat Brazil and other CSOs are taking the following actions. 

  • Reviewing advocacy strategies for the national level; building new alliances at national level such as with the Federal Public Ministry (judicial system) and the Urban Development Committee of Congress and Senate (legislative);
  • Strengthening efforts at state and municipal levels, such as the work with the State Public Ministry, the Court of Justice and the Public Defense Office (judicial system) and the Urban Planning Department and Women Secretariat (executive branch);
  • Strengthening alliances within civil society sector at local level, building on evidence, working towards defense and proposals; and
  • Seeking international support to raise awareness and influence the government to respect the legal and institutional frameworks related to participatory/democratic management of cities and related to improving access to land to the most vulnerable. 

And that’s where you come in. We encourage your organization to sign on to the letter of support that Habitat Brazil and partner CSOs have drafted to show international support. You can do so by emailing solidground@habitat.org.