By Ivahanna Larrosa
A couple of months ago, I joined the Coalition as Regional Coordinator for Latin America and I am still settling myself into this new role. I’m enjoying getting to know our members and allies across the region, but also meeting again with friends and colleagues from different organizations I had already worked with.
I joined the Coalition inspired by its values and its theory of change, based on the vision of community-led development. For me, this is an exciting opportunity to continue learning and to help sharing knowledge and experiences about rights-based approaches to international development. As a feminist, I´m always in a learning process, trying to understand how we can identify and break oppression structures and all their layers.
I have been working with human rights organizations, feminist groups and communities-led organizations for over 20 years at the local, regional and international level. I feel privileged to continue to learn from outstanding advocates and defenders and become part of the global community the Coalition represents.
In my previous roles, I had the chance to coordinate global coalitions and networks efforts, such as the campaign for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the ESCR-Net. I have also worked as a director at the national office of Amnesty International in my home country, Uruguay, among other advocacy and coordination roles with different organizations.
These experiences have taught me how far we can get thanks to our collective efforts, and the difference we can make by becoming a powerful force that goes beyond the sum of our parts.
Some of the areas I have focused on in my work are economic, social, and cultural rights, and especially habitat rights and the right to housing. This has allowed me to support and learn from communities impacted by so-called development projects in their towns, cities, and territories. In this particular challenging time, I feel humbled to see the resistance and the response of local communities who are facing the worst impacts of the pandemic, because of lack of adequate policies and persistent structural inequalities. The solidarity and the innovative responses of communities all over the world have been another proof of collective strength and power.
I have always been interested in the linkages among the human rights field and the development and international finance architecture. These fields are often seen as separate, despite the determining impact of economic policies and structures on the fulfilment of human rights. One of the spaces where activists working in these two fields have come together has been the World Social Forums, where I have seen how our collective energy, knowledge and joy can enhance peoples’ power.
The idea that human rights must be upheld within the development finance sector is not new, but now it cannot be ignored any longer. Local communities have been challenging the dominant economic order and proposing structural, radical changes. Every day we hear about communities and defenders facing risks as a retaliation for their work in defense of the commons, in defense of their territories, in defence of their right to self-determination on their own paths to development. Powerful actors come into play, such as governments, corporations, development banks, and big mainstream media. All of these actors have to contribute to enabling the environment for participation and to hearing the voices of those affected the most. We need to counterbalance these powers to be able to have just societies with meaningful people’s participation, where the common good is upheld and a life with dignity is possible for all.
I think the Coalition with its members is a powerful collective force and space where committed and diverse people of all regions and paths come together to make another world possible. I feel humbled and honored to be part of this big community.