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Rights in the City

Adopting a rights-based framework, this research explores the evolution and impacts of policies affecting street traders in two Latin American cities, Cusco and Quito.

In both cities relatively tolerant policies have recently emerged. In Cusco, traders were permitted to return to the streets under a Mayor elected on a commitment to support street traders. Initial supportive polices were revoked but were being revisited. Cusco, Peru, was the location of considerable informal vendor displacement over a decade ago but, drawing on over a decade of research, the team have examined how traders have created new forms of trading space within the fabric of the city. In Quito, Ecuador, the pioneering 2008 constitution recognised a ‘right to the city’, which was being implemented through legal reform and urban policy innovation. Across the developing world, informal trading constitutes a significant element of the urban economy and yet policies targeted at traders are increasingly pursuing spatial displacement in favour of the middle classes and sometimes tourists.

In Quito, policies the rights-based approach provided a more stable footing for negotiations over street trade. Although the national constitution embeds a right to participate, and a right to property, traders still face confiscations and difficulties obtaining trading licences with no effective mechanisms available to seek redress.

In both cities there is a recognition of the economic need for traders to work but the informal economy is still not seen as a core component of local economic development.


British Academy


  • Dr Peter Mackie, Cardiff University
  • Professor Alison Brown, Cardiff University
  • Profesor Rafael Fernando Vargas Salinas, Facultad de Economía, Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco
  • Pascual Yepez, Expert, Quito