In the run up to last summer’s World Cup, several thousand people in South Africa were forcibly evicted from their homes and workplaces. These buildings were torn down and replaced by the tournament’s ‘controlled access sites’ and ‘exclusion zones’. Victims of this practice were temporarily relocated or sent to transit camps unsuitable for human habitation. Even worse, some of those who spoke out against the government were targeted by the police for harassment and, in certain cases, physically attacked.
For major sporting events, this was not an isolated incident. All too often the organisers of high-profile competitions and celebrations are responsible for a variety of human rights abuses, including forced evictions and other violations of the right to adequate housing.
The Commonwealth Games kicked off in Delhi less than three months after Spain lifted the World Cup. Over 200,000 people were forced out of their homes as a result of the Games, putting the controversy about accommodation for athletes into context. If the ‘India Shining’ slogans of a few years ago painted a distorted picture of the country by ignoring the marginalised, the desire to ‘beautify’ Delhi for the Games went much further. Pavement and slum dwellers were uprooted from their homes and lost their livelihoods as privileged classes deemed them an eyesore and nuisance.
In hosting the Winter Olympics last February, Canada demonstrated that it is not only emerging economies who use grand occasions to trample on their poor citizens. In Vancouver, the authorities failed to prevent unscrupulous landlords from evicting their vulnerable tenants and charging higher rents during the event. In addition, there was a distinct crackdown on the homeless in various parts of the city, as the government sought to conceal from foreign visitors the city’s shocking inequality.
Yet in all these cases, as well as in other instances of forced evictions and associated human rights abuses, the oppressed have not remained silent. Across the world, people have challenged those who place short-term profits over human dignity and, secondly have developed alternatives to the neoliberal economic dogma that justifies such abuses. For example, in Brazil (which will soon host the World Cup and Olympic Games), the National Movement for Housing Struggle has occupied empty properties in different cities, resisted evictions and transformed these properties into permanent community housing solutions for low-income workers. Such people are also challenging discriminatory attitudes by asserting that they are citizens who, like everyone else, must be properly consulted and appropriately compensated. In Pakistan, the residents of three settlements in Karachi have repeatedly taken the government to court over plans to construct the Lyari Expressway. This has caused massive delays to the project and forced the government to negotiate with residents.
Unfortunately, the UN’s performance on these issues has been uneven. Some excellent research and public statements (especially by the key Special Rapporteur) has been offset by the organisation’s decision to celebrate World Habitat Day at Expo 2010 in Shanghai – the site of over 18,000 forced evictions. In addition, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) fail to consider forced evictions. Perhaps this is not surprising, as the Goals also completely ignore rural housing and claim that the target for slums has been achieved despite the fact that there are over 50 million more slum dwellers now than in 2000.
Indeed, the MDGs do not engage with issues of power and human rights, which lie at the core of poverty and provide the framework to overcome it. Civil society groups at local to international levels must work in alliance with those enduring forced evictions, as well as the many millions of others who are denied their right to adequate housing, to change socio-cultural attitudes and pressure states to meet their obligations towards all of their citizens. Only then will the organisers of mega-events and ‘development’ projects be forced to play fair.
For more information on housing struggles visit the International Alliance of Inhabitants.
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.