Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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Welcome Ana Maria Vargas Falla

Our most recent Visiting PhD Scholar is Ana Maria Vargas Falla, a researcher in the field of law and society enrolled at Lund University (Sweden) and the University of Milan (Italy). We are delighted to welcome Ana Maria to the Centre for International Governance and Justice!

Ana Maria will discuss her research in a seminar next Tuesday:

‘Legal Empowerment of the poor: Evaluating the impact of business rights and formalisation’

Date: Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Time: 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Venue: Level 3 meeting room, Coombs Extension Building (8), Fellows Road, ANU

The global discourse about the importance of giving property rights and business rights to the poor has become popular in national and international arenas, influenced by the theory of Hernando De Soto ex-member of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the poor. This approach is part of ‘the rule of law’ movement and it is promoted by organizations such as the World Bank in their justice reform programs. However differences in legal cultures and social structures make rule of law discourses very dependent on the context and one can only understand legal change by looking at the impact it may have at the local level. This presentation is concerned about the impact of business rights for the poor as a discourse promoted by the World Bank and implemented at the local level. The aim is to evaluate whether giving business rights to the urban poor can be a tool of empowerment for poverty reduction.

This presentation questions the idea that business rights can empower the poor to become entrepreneurs and instead suggests that laws play a more marginal role. The conclusions of the research are based on 169 interviews among street vendors that were able to legalize their businesses in the city of Bogotá. The rule of law helped the vendors to increase their freedom and to improve their lives because having a legal status provided them with the security that police offices are not going to evict or harass them. However having business rights had limited effects for poverty alleviation as people are usually engaged in low income business and have difficulties to escape poverty traps.

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