Slums not as problems, but as solutions

by November 16, 2011

Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro (Photo by Chensiyuan)

Brazil’s pacification operation in the Rocinha and Vidigal favelas of Rio de Janeiro this past week made international headlines, involving as it did the dramatic occupation of the districts by 3,000 soldiers and police supported by helicopters, tanks, and snipers. The operation was mounted, the government said, in an attempt to wrest local control from drug dealers in advance of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

However well-intended, the use of the army cannot but reinforce international perceptions of slums as “problem areas” to be developed or even eliminated. But eminent scholar Janice Perlman — who has spent much of her life in slums in mega-cities around the world, and who last year published a book on her experiences in Brazil (Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio De Janeiro) — sees slums instead as the sites of potential solutions to problems our world increasingly faces. She founded the Mega-Cities Project, in fact, in order to ensure that innovations arising in such areas were identified and shared more rapidly with urban administrations around the globe.

The video below has some fascinating comments by Perlman on the critical need to build “inclusive” cities, and an eye-opening tale of collective action by the women rag-pickers of Pune, India’s eighth-largest city.

Cities as Solutions from Compass Summit on