From Tue Aug 29 17:14:13 2000
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 23:48:10 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <>
Subject: /MILLENNIUM SUMMIT/BRAZIL: Urban Planning for Rio Shantytown
Article: 103718
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Urban Planning for Rio de Janeiro's ‘Favelas’

By Mario Osava, IPS, 27 August 2000

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 27 (IPS)—The city government of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's second largest city, is carrying out what it says is a successful urban development programme to provide slum-dwellers with basic infrastructure and services—including, for the first time, something as simple as postal addresses.

By 2004, half of the people currently living in marginalised areas of Rio de Janeiro will have benefitted from the programme, especially through improvements to the favelas (shanty-towns) that line the hills ringing the city, said Municipal Secretary of Housing Jorge de Oliveira Rodrigues.

By improving living conditions for one million local residents by 2004, Rio de Janeiro is thus making progress on its contribution to the Cities Without Slums Action Plan launched last year by the World Bank. The Plan is one of the issues for discussion at the United Nations Millennium Summit, in New York, Sep 6-8.

In his report to the Summit, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, urged for support for the Plan to improve living conditions for 100 million slum-dwellers worldwide by 2020 but did not put a price tag on the initiative.

Two million of the city's residents—slightly over one-third of the total—live in the so-called informal city made up of hundreds of favelas, slums and run-down housing complexes, and lacking the infrastructure, services and rights enjoyed by the rest of the population.

The Programme of Urbanisation for Popular Settlements (slums) is gradually remedying that inequality. Its chief component, the 'Favela- Neighbourhood' project, is to benefit 80 percent of the nearly one million people currently living in favelas in Rio de Janeiro.

Roads and highways improving access to the favelas, sewerage systems, city squares and other public recreational spaces, areas for practising sports, childcare centres and schools, and the provision of clean water and electricity are among the works that have had the greatest impact.

But the mere straightening up of the narrow, winding streets of the favelas to allow the passage of traffic and the assigning of street numbers to housing units have also been important steps, providing local residents for the first time with a postal address—essential for them to feel like full citizens and to obtain loans or other services.

The changes have curbed the power of drug traffickers in the favelas, because new lighting, streets through which traffic can pass, and the formal numbering of housing units and assignation of postal addresses are all enemies of the underworld and crime, pointed out a local community leader in one shanty-town.

The Favela-Neighbourhood is a good project in favour of the poorest of the poor, as it boosts their self-esteem and integrates them into the city, said Jorge Wilheim, former under-secretary general of the United Nations Habitat Conference in Istanbul in 1996 and former Sao Paulo secretary of planning.

However, reducing poverty requires policies aimed at income generation and training, he added, noting that projects of this kind should be accompanied by economic and fiscal measures, aswell as efforts to make credit available.

Another goal of the Millennium Summit, according to Annan's report is fo r the more than 150 heads of state and government to agree on a target of cutting in half the number of poor people (those whoscrape by on less than a dollar a day) in the world—currently representing 22 percent of the global population—by 2015.

Favela-Neighbourhood began to be implemented in 1994. Over the years it has incorporated new areas, such as an adult literacy drive, vocational training, the organisation of workers' co-operatives, courses in computers and other activities that generate jobs or income, said the director of the programme, Andrea Cardoso.

These activities, which were previously carried out in a separate but parallel manner, became components of the programme after the second contract for financing was signed with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is providing 60 percent of the funds, or 300 million dollars in each of two stages.

The first IDB loan went towards works in 56 favelas. The second , which was recently granted, will be used to improve conditions in 73 shanty-towns.

Other programmes are also underway, such as one that focuses on small favelas of up to 500 households, and another aimed at legalising property ownership and extending title deeds to families living in shanty- towns that are home to a combined 600,000 people.

The Secretariat of Housing estimates that all the efforts combined will have improved the living conditions of at least one million people by the year 2004.

The current policies were adopted after a lengthy debate, and after several previous attempts to resolve the problem of the favelas and other precarious housing fell flat.

In the 1960s, the mass transfer of entire communities to housing complexes built far from the city centre merely ended up creating new hotspots of poverty and violence.

Later, the idea of transforming the favelas themselves into proper neighbourhoods, rather than moving their inhabitants elsewhere, slowly beganto take hold. But efforts were limited to timid investments and isolated actions, such as installing a few sewerage systems, said Cardoso.

In 1993, a master plan was drafted, outlining an integrated programme based on new concepts of urban planning as part of public policies, she explained.

No longer did authorities see the problem as a shortage of housing, but as a deficit of urban planning, since the housing units existed, and the real problem was that they lacked water, electricity and other services, said under-secretary of Housing Antonio Augusto Verssimo.

What is needed is to build ‘city’, not houses; to stretch the city to excluded areas, Rodrigues added.

Respect for the social rights of residents of poor neighbourhoods increased when the state recognised that they had made significant investment in building their homes and providing the favelas with certain services. That recognition served as the foundation for justifying public investment in urban development efforts.

Favela-Neighbourhood is a programme of the city, not of any party or the government, and its continuity is ensured through a four-year contract with the IDB independently of whether or not Mayor Luiz Paulo Conde is re-elected in October, said Rodrigues.

The project has enjoyed the support of several political forces, including opposition parties, he pointed out. Rodrigues also underlined that local communities are lobbying hard to be included in the project.

If that continuity is confirmed, by around 2020 Rio de Janeiro will be in a position to increase its participation in the Cities Without Slums Action Plan twofold, extending the project to all people living in overcrowded shanty-towns and other precarious housing.

For the process of urban development of those areas, the methodology followed is important, as is public investment. In that sense, Rio can offer other cities and countries the know-how accumulatedby experience, including the lessons learned from our errors, saidCarlos Fernando Andrade, president of the Institute of Brazilian Architects.

It is a good example, but not a model that can be reproduced without addressing the specific conditions of each city. The Favela-Neighbourhood project, for example, is not active in homes, but in public spaces, preventing the eviction of slum-dwellers. And even in Rio there are dangerous areas whose inhabitants must be transferred, Andrade pointed out.