About 35 participants from local and international NGO’s met under the theme “forced evictions and urban displacement” in Soweto between 17-20 July 2017 to learn more about local experiences in resisting evictions and promoting the upgrading of informal settlements and to explore opportunities for further collaboration. The event was organised by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa and the Ford Foundation. Ronald Eglin represented Afesis-corplan.
The concept of evictions relate to legal processes of lawfully or unlawfully forcing people off land or out of buildings they are living in or using for economic activities; while displacement is a broader concept that also looks at, for example, economic forces that ‘nudge’ people out of well located areas forcing them to find alternative accommodation in less desirable locations (also referred to as gentrification).
Examples of some of the lessons that emerged during the workshop included:
- Organise the community so thay are able to resist attempts at unlawfull eviction and broader displacement.
- Emphasise unity building around common goals for the community and adopt a holistic approach to development responding to the multiple needs of the comunity relating to jobs, sanitation, health education, housing etc.
- Build partnerships with range of stakeholders from government, business, to academics, to professionals, with the community playing a central role in guiding planning and monitoring efforts.
- Develop good data bases of who is in the community that can be used to help motivate for and administer any development efforts
- Establish legal structures to keep land affordable into the future so people are not displaced through economic forces once they have secured land rights.
- Develop solidarity networks with like minded organisations from locally and from around the world to highlight the challenges with eviction and displacement.
Participants agreed that the event had been a worthwhile sharing and networking opportunity and that they would like to organise similar sharing events under different themes, relating to some of the lessons identified above.
International participants in attendance at the workshops came from the United States of America, Puerto Rico, Lebanon, Mexico, and Indonesia; while local participants came from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and East London.