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«Contesting the streets Volume 18, number 1 • 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and Research ...»

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These structures, called Tripartite Consultation Commissions, also consist of representatives of the municipality, vendors’ organizations, and neighborhoods. Their mandate is to coordinate plans and formalization programs for street vendors with their democratic participation. The ordinance also contains provisions outlining the rights of street vending organizations’ leaders, including the right to be recognized as interlocutors and to be attended to by local officials. According to the city official who implemented the consultative process with street vending organizations in Lima’s 43 districts, “the initiative that vendors took was evident in their proposal to promote changes that would allow them to exercise their citizenship rights and influence the Municipality of Lima, to overcome repressive policies and, in concerted fashion, make municipal legal norms more adequate.”31 Policy Implications and Future Research Despite widespread recognition that street vending is an ancient form of livelihood that exists all over the world, its legitimacy as a modern-day occupation is rarely made explicit in law or in policy. An important stream of recent scholarship has begun to explore how this deficit shapes the day-to-day interactions between vendors and local governments. The evidence presented in this article locates informal governance practices—including low-level harassment, arbitrary confiscations, and evictions—within legal-regulatory frameworks that lack limits on local authorities’ power vis-à-vis street traders. It also gives examples in which street vendors and like-minded elites have jointly advanced collective livelihood rights via legislation and litigation.

Makwickana v. eThekwini Municipality & Others, Paragraph 144.

Guillermo Nolasco Ayasta, “Ordenanza que Regula el Comercio en Los Espacios Públicos de Lima: Iniciando un Sueño (que se hizo realidad),” May 7, 2014. http://marcialperezherrera.blogspot.com/2014/05/ordenanza-que-regula-el-comercioen-los.html (author’s translation).

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Recent research holds important lessons for policymakers in both developing and developed countries. First, just as reasonable limits should be placed on the use of public space for livelihood activities, so should limits be placed on informal governance practices that enable local officials to use their position of power to undermine the income-generating activities of those who rely on public space for their livelihood. Second, policy processes in which street vendors and their representative organizations are involved can result in a balance between regulation and protection that may be more sustainable than strictly regulatory or punitive approaches. In U.S. cities where street vending regulations are being contested at present—including New York City, New York; Chicago, Illinois; and Los Angeles, California—understanding the daily experiences and perceptions of vendors themselves could go a long way toward developing rules that are appropriate and sustainable. Finally, in the global urban policy agenda, efforts to recognize and promote the “right to the city” and sustainable, inclusive urbanization—including those under way as part of the Habitat III process32—must not neglect informal livelihoods.

Further research into informal governance practices and the rules that shape them can play an important role in addressing a city’s need to balance livelihood opportunities on the one hand and reasonable regulation on the other hand. A specific need is for future research to analyze the menu of technical options for establishing fair and transparent systems for allocating licenses and permits, including mechanisms designed to advantage the poor in accessing them. A strong need also exists for more research that privileges the lived experience of vendors in interacting with local authorities and legal-regulatory structures.

Acknowledgments The author thanks Raphael Bostic, Annette Kim, Abel Valenzuela, Jr., Lissette Aliaga Linares, and Darshini Mahadevia for their helpful feedback on this article. All errors and omissions remain the author’s.


Sally Roever is the Urban Policies Programme Director at Women in Informal Employment:

Globalizing and Organizing.

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