Slum clearance, planning, and community resistance
Slum clearance refers to the removal of slum residents for rehousing, usually with the stated goal of preparing the area for demolition and rebuilding. While "urban renewal" can lead to old and decrepit buildings being put to more "productive" and/or lucrative use, these evictions can be disastrous for slum residents. Mega-events and rising property values lead developers and government officials to displace residents, often without proper notice, legal standing, or reimbursement. Read on to learn about how four participation-based solutions use community resistance to face slum clearance in Cairo, Mumbai, Lagos, and Rio de Janeiro.
Upgrading Mumbai's slums from within
Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager
Mumbai's quest to become a world-class city shines with rhetoric of "clean" and "green." The efforts have spawned policies of making the city slum-free; demolitions, relocations, and high-rise government slum redevelopment buildings define much of the existing plan and actions. Standing in between the government's Shanghai dream and the existing state are the 62 percent of the city's population who live in slums. The "eyesores" are taking up precious city land that has grown in value exponentially over the decades. Plans to deal with the impediments ignore the vibrant upgrading and development that have been taking place inside these settlements all over the city.
From above, the city's thousands of slums look like crammed, dirty, and resource-deprived places. On the ground, however, it is a different story. A Dharavi-based organization, URBZ, which focuses on "user-generated cities," describes their home turf: "From the point of view of the new migrant, or that of the suburban slum-dweller, parts of Dharavi are aspirational. It is, after all, a centrally located, superbly connected business hub with seven municipal schools and dozens of private or NGO-run educational institutions. It has decent medical facilities and countless shrines and temples tailored to its fantastically diverse population. Over the years people have replaced their shacks with brick and concrete houses, which often double as retail or production spaces."
And, says URBZ, that self-construction process is key to understanding a new way of moving forward with slum areas. URBZ has launched an antidote to the heavy-handed government redevelopment policies: the 'Homegrown Cities' project seeks not only to acknowledge the local construction practices that exist in these neighborhoods, but also to catalyze the process by joining forces with URBZ's international network. "Our aim is not to revolutionize the way construction is done in homegrown neighborhoods, but simply to contribute to a process of constant improvement that is happening already," write Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava, co-founders of URBZ. "We intend to become actors in the local development of housing and habitat in homegrown neighborhoods."
The plan is to develop tiny plots in collaboration with the community, talented local builders and non-local architects and engineers. They will then sell or rent each house to someone from the community at the same price as for any other similar structure. "We see process as a way to creating a long-term relationship with various neighborhoods, which will allow us to get involved at other levels as well," say Echanove and Srivastava. "This will help us highlight the good work being done there, and show that there are alternatives to the wholesale redevelopment of unplanned and incrementally developing neighborhoods. We want to demonstrate that architects, planners, and others can engage meaningfully in local processes, respecting existing morphology, supporting the local economy, and bringing in their skills and creativity."
For the group's pilot project in the Mumbai suburb called Bhandup, URBZ has launched a crowdfunding page. Donations will go toward the operational costs of the pilot project. For more on the Homegrown Cities project, visit its Facebook page or follow @homegrowncities on Twitter.
Photo credits: Homegrown Cities
Slum clearance calls for better social housing initiatives
Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager
The Makoko riverfront is an informal residential area that is Lagos' largest and most visible slum. It is located right beside the busiest highway in the state, which is the most used route to link the mainland to Lagos Island. Makoko village is mostly made up of fishermen and their families, and it is here that the famous floating school is being built. This informal community has been a bone of contention for the state government for three main reasons: it is unsanctioned, shanties have expanding beyond the established boundary, and some of the erected shanties are dangerously close to electric lines and poles.
In 2012, the state government issued a demolition order for the settlement. Various organizations stepped in to back up the residents' opposition to the sanctioned demolition of their homes, including the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC). SERAC works by building awareness about economic, social, and cultural rights, and by broadening individuals' and communities' access and participation in social and economic policy processes. In its fight for the provision of affordable social housing and inclusive housing laws, SERAC created and runs a housing initiative for Lagos slums called the Nigeria Social Housing Initiative (NSHI), with support from the Catholic Organization to Relief and Development Aid (CORDAID) and the Ford Foundation. The NSHI program seeks to undertake innovative approaches towards improving housing conditions in slum communities while also considering the social, economic, and environmental functioning of these neighbourhoods. The initiative focuses on:
- Creating awareness in slum areas on the need to improve housing conditions and to regenerate the physical, social, economic, and environmental conditions of these communities
- Establishing social housing cooperative(s) to aid target communities' ownership of, and participation in, the program
- Boosting income-generating opportunities through training in technical crafts and other economically viable skills
- Designing and instituting a savings scheme to retain and grow members' financial capacity to participate in the social housing cooperatives
- Promoting engagement among community members for developing an enabling and strategic policy, and a legal and collaborative framework for social housing in Nigeria.
SERAC has also worked with the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos under their Urban Spaces Innovation (USI) program, which works for the provision of affordable housing for the urban poor. This collaboration led to a program that trained local youth from the Makoko slum community in technical and construction skills. This enabled the youth to secure construction jobs during the construction phase of the Makoko Social Housing Development Project (MSHDP), which helped both with youth unemployment as well as reduced housing unit cost thanks to reduced labour cost.
SERAC recognizes the importance of social housing policy in promoting accessibility to quality and affordable housing to low-income groups, so the organisation is working on a new social housing policy draft which Dinma M. Nwanye, the community relations officer for SERAC, says will be finalized by end of June 2013. The goal is to get the social housing policy draft adopted by the Lagos State government. According to the organisation, "the successful institutionalization and implementation of the policy is expected to reduce the deficit of 31 percent to less than 10 percent within eight years of implementation."
Photo credit: Gist Only
طاقم أدوات لحماية حقوق السكن
هويدا كامل - مديرة وحدة القاهرة
في اليوم الثالث عشر من يوليو سنة ٢٠١٠، تم هدم ما يقرب من ١٥ مبنى في منطقتي إسطبل عنتر وعزبة خير الله. بين تقرير منظمة العفو الدولي Amnesty International report 2011 أن العائلات التي كانت تعيش في هذه المساكن أجبرت على إزالة ممتلكاتهم الشخصية ودفع ٢٠٠ جنيها مصريا (حوالي ٣٦ دولار أمريكي) لشحن أمتعتهم إلى الوحدات السكنية البديلة في مدينة ٦ أكتوبر. عندما بدأت عملية الهدم، قامت قوات الأمن بإفراغ هذه الوحدات السكنية، مدعين أن هذه الاسر ليس لها الحق أن تعيش في هذه المباني لأنها حاولت غش عملية التعداد للحصول على السكن المجاني. ثم قيل لهؤلاء السكان أنهم يمكنهم دفع ٥٠٠٠ جنيه (٨٩٠ دولار أمريكي) لتسجيل اسمهم في قائمة التعداد.
أثناء إنشاء خطة Cairo 2050 في عام ٢٠٠٨، وصفا الهيئة العامة للتخطيط العمراني (GOPP) وصندوق تنمية المستوطنات غير الرسمية (ISDF) منطقتى إسطبل عنتر وعزبة خير الله بأنهما غير آمنين. و أوضح تقريرهذه الخطة أن جميع العشوائيات في منطقة القاهرة الكبرى قد تكون غير آمنة، و الهدف هو تحويل هذه المناطق لأماكن آمنة تشمل مباني حديثة، و فنادق، و حدائق عامة. أيضا، تعهدت الحكومة لإنشاء ٢٠٠٬٠٠٠ وحدة سكنية جديدة لسكان المناطق العشوائية في جميع أنحاء القاهرة، و لكن عدد سكان هذه العشوائيات يقرب ٥ مليون نسمة، فلا يكفيهم هذا العدد الضئيل من المساكن. وعدم يقين هذه الناس بشأن سكنهم و خوفهم من عمليات الإخلاء كان سبب من الأسباب الكثيرة التي جلبت هؤلاء السكان إلى ميدان التحرير للتظاهر في يناير ٢٠١١.
في عام ٢٠٠٦، أنشأ شبكة حقوق السكن والأرض (HRLN) وفرع القاهرة للتحالف الدولي للموئل (HIC) طاقم أدوات toolkit لتوفير الإرشاد للمجتمعات التي تواجه تهديدات الاخلاء السكني. يتضمن هذا الطاقم منهج مكون من ١٠ خطوات ten-step process لحماية حقوق السكن، و يستعمل كوسيلة لتشجيع الاجراءت السكنية من خلال متابعة الأطر القانونية الوطنية والدولية. يوفرهذا النهج المعلومات العملية و التوجيه الفني للمنظمات المجتمعية من أجل تعليمهم و تقييمهم و مراجعتهم . وعلاوة على ذلك، يوفر طاقم الأدوات منهج أساسي للتقاضي، و الرصد، و التوعية الإعلامية، و التعاون مع منظومة الأمم المتحدة. أخيرا، تم نشر هذا الطاقم إلى الشبكة العالمية للتحالف الدولي للموئل لرصد حقوق الأراضي والسكن في جميع أنحاء العالم.
كما شاركت منظمة ال-HLRN في الدعوة ضد عمليات الإخلاء التي تنتج عن خطة Cairo 2050. في عام ٢٠٠٩، قامت المنظمة بالإشتراك مع المركز المصري لحقوق السكن Egyptian Center for Housing Rights و منظمة العفو الدولية Amnesty International لإرسال شكوى إلى رئيس الوزراء السابق، السيد أحمد نظيف. و أوضحت هذه الرسالة أن معظم سكان العشوئيات ليس لديهم أي نوع من الحماية ضد عمليات الإخلاء، و ليس هناك خطة واضحة لإعادة توطين هؤلاء السكان. و دعت الشكوى إلى تضمين السكان في عملية التخطيط لتلبية احتياجاتهم بطريقة مباشرة، و توفير الوحدات السكنية المجانية لجميع العائلات التي تملك وثائق إخلاء صحيحة.
لا تزال خطة Cairo 2050 مستمرة حتى الأن رغم الإضطرابات السياسة و الاقتصادية التي تمر بها الدولة منذ ثورة ٢٠١١. بفضل مساعدة من ٦ منظمات مدنية أخرى، نظمت منظمة ال-HLRN برنامج تدريبي workshop لمدة يومين، و دعت الموظفين العموميين، و مخططي المدن، والباحثين، و الناشطين لحضور هذا البرنامج. في اليوم الأول، قام البرنامج بتغطية قضايا التخطيط العام في القاهرة واستراتيجيات الحكومة، ثم سمح البرنامج للعائلات الحاضرة التي تم ازالتها من منازلها بتوضيح حقائق عمليات الاخلاء القاسية، وتقديم الشكاوي ضد هذه العمليات. و اثبتت ردود فعل المسؤولين الحكوميين عدم معرفتهم لتفاصيل عمليات الإخلاء القسري وظروف ضحاياها. و شمل اليوم الثاني من البرنامج جلسات للعصف الذهني من أجل التوصل إلى طرق فعالة لهيكلة السياسات حول قضايا تأمين ملكية الأراضي، و السكن، و شبكات الاتصال و النقل.
تركز استراتيجية منظمة ال-HLRN على نهج قائم على حماية حقوق المواطنين على المستوى المحلي والوطني والدولي. و لتجنب مزيد من عمليات الإخلاء في القاهرة، يجب على خطة Cairo 2050 أن تضمن آراء و أفكار سكان المستوطنات غير الرسمية لتلبية مطالبهم وضمان حقوقهم السكنية بشكل كامل.
Toolkit to protect housing rights
Howaida Kamel, Cairo Community Manager
On July 13, 2010, approximately 15 buildings in the areas of Establ Antar and Ezbet Khairallah were demolished. As written in the 2011 Amnesty International report, families in these buildings were forced to remove their personal possessions and pay 200 LE (approximately $36 USD) for a truck to take their belongings to alternative housing units in 6th of October City. Once the demolition began, security forces at the scene began to offload the belongings of 21 families, claiming that they were trying to cheat the enumeration process for free housing and they weren't residents of the area. These families were then told that by paying 5000 LE ($890 USD) to a middleman, they could be placed on the enumeration list.
The General Organization on Physical Planning (GOPP) and the Informal Settlement Development Fund (ISDF) categorized Establ Antar and Ezbet Kheirallah as "unsafe" during the creation of the Cairo 2050 plan in 2008. The plan classifies all informal settlements in the greater Cairo region as either unsafe or unplanned, and all unsafe areas are projected to transform into mixed use high-rise buildings, public parks, or hotels by 2020. The government has promised to create 200,000 new units for residents of informal areas all around Cairo, but this number is nowhere near adequate to house the estimated 5 million people who live in these areas. The threat of evictions and uncertainty about housing was one of the many reasons that brought these residents to Tahrir in January 2011.
In 2006, the Housing and Land Rights Network (HRLN) and the Cairo branch of the Habitat International Coalition (HIC) created a toolkit to provide guidance for communities that face threats of eviction. Broken down into a ten-step process, the toolkit is designed as a formula for remedial and constructive action within existing national and international legal frameworks. With a focus on capacity building, it provides community-based organizations with practical information and tactical guidance for learning, referencing, assessments, and strategic planning. Furthermore, the toolkit provides a basis for litigation, advocacy, monitoring, media outreach, setting standards, and cooperation with the UN system. This toolkit is written as a guide to any community facing housing threats, not only in Cairo, and has been shared with the entire HIC global network.
The HLRN has also been involved in advocacy against the evictions caused by the Cairo 2050 plan. Starting in 2009, the network co-signed a letter with Amnesty International and the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights, sent to the former Prime Minister, Mr. Ahmed Nazif. The letter drew attention to the fact that no guarantees are provided for residents against eviction, nor is there consultation about alternatives to eviction or resettlement conditions for residents. The letter called for residents to be included in the planning process in order for their direct needs to be addressed, as well as new flats to be given free of charge for residents with proper eviction documentation.
With the Cairo 2050 plan still on the table after the revolution, the HLRN hosted a two-day workshop, with six other civil society organizations, inviting public officials, urban planners, researchers, and activists. The first day covered issues of public planning in Cairo, government strategies, and testimonials from those evicted. The proceedings also highlighted the reaction of government officials to the testimonials and how little they knew about the conditions of forced evictions. The second day consisted of brainstorming sessions to create alternative ways to structure policies about alternative housing, securing land tenure, violations, and networking and communication methods.
The HLRN strategy against evictions in Cairo is focused on a rights-based approach that practices advocacy on local, national, and international levels. To avoid further evictions in Cairo, the 2050 vision must be inclusive of members of informal settlements. Coordinating efforts with all stakeholders is a key element in addressing the needs of the city, as is true in any city.
Photo credit: Amnesty International and the Cairo 2050 plan
Os protestos pacíficos de Meu Rio e suas ações proativas
Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager
Brasil tem se juntado ao grupo dos países que estão experimentando protestos massivos sobre diferentes temas públicos, tais como o aumento das taxas de transporte público e os elevados custos da infraestrutura esportiva da Copa do Mondo. Nas passadas semanas Rio e São Paulo, tem se tornado epicentros de protestos e encontros entre cidadãos e polícia, muitos deles violentos, preocupando o surgimento de maior violência no país.
Mais o envolvimento da sociedade civil nos temas públicos não tem que ser violentos. Quando eles viram pacíficos e utilizam mecanismos criativos, eles conseguem uma mobilização importante e inclusive conseguem soluções às problemáticas. Este é o caso da ONG Meu Rio. Uma organização criada faz pouco menos de dois anos por dois jovens e orgulhosos moradores do Rio, que compreendem a importância da participação da sociedade nos assuntos públicos. Estes próximos anos são de grande importância para a cidade por causa das transformações no contexto da Copa 2014 e os Jogos Olímpicos 2016 e Meu Rio está tendo um papel importante na apertura de canais de participação cidadã.
Meu Rio tem uma pagina de internet e no outra no Facebook com mais de 16 mil seguidores. Também administra o site "Panela de Pressão", uma iniciativa interativa que apoia residentes da cidade na organização de campanhas para resolver problemas específicos junto ao poder público local. Atualmente existem mais de 50 campanhas ativas.
Este ano Meu Rio tem criado campanhas de promoção da transparência e responsabilidade dos servidores públicos. Também tem se tornado aliado das comunidades de baixa renda afetadas pela falta de diálogos e consultas por parte do governo local no desenvolvimento de nova infraestrutura para a Copa e Jogos Olímpicos. Este é o caso da escola pública Friedenriech, a qual fica perto do Estádio Maracanã e estava prevista para ser demolida no final de 2012 por parte da Prefeitura para acomodar espaços de treinamento perto do estádio. Meu Rio conseguiu mobilizar 2000 vigilantes para proteger a escola. A ONG também conseguiu envolver entre estudantes e moradores da comunidade mais de 20 mil assinaturas para uma petição de manter a escola. Ao final do ano 2012, Meu Rio e seus aliados conseguiram aquela vitória, a qual seria uma das primeiras para a ONG.
Uma das mais recentes causas para Meu Rio é a mobilização em contra da Resolução 013, melhor conhecida como "Zero Treze" que autoriza a polícia o suspender eventos públicos sem notificação previa. O uso da Zero Treze tem sido comum em varias comunidades de baixa renda restringindo a organização de festas comunitárias, danças e shows e afetando a libre expressão das comunidades. Para dar resposta a esta situação, Meu Rio, em parceria com outras organizações da sociedade civil e associações de moradores tem se juntado para sugerir à Prefeitura sua eliminação por meio de uma petição formal. Estes esforços continuam-se desenvolvendo e ainda não existe um posicionamento definitivo da Prefeitura.
Foto: Meu Rio
Meu Rio's pacific protests and proactive actions
Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager
Brazil has joined the group of countries that are experiencing massive protests concerning various public issues. In Brazil, these include the increased cost of public transportation, as well as concerns over the high costs of stadiums and World Cup infrastructure. Over the past few weeks, Rio and São Paulo have been the epicenters of clashes between protesters and the police. Some of these protests have been violent and have generated worry over a possible increase in violence throughout the country.
Civil society engagement in public issues doesn't have to be violent, and through creative channels it can generate high levels of awareness and even propose solutions to public problems. This is demonstrated by the NGO Meu Rio, or "My Rio". This organization was started two years ago by two young, proud, and engaged Rio residents who understand the importance of civic participation in public decisions. This period is especially relevant to Rio because of the transformations the city is evidencing in the preparations for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, and Meu Rio is playing an important role in ensuring that city residents are active participants in these changes.
Meu Rio has a website and a Facebook page with more than 16,000 followers. It also administers the "Panela de Pressão" or the "Pressure Cooker" initiative, an interactive site that helps city residents to organize awareness campaigns and propose concrete solutions to specific problems, in conjunction with the local government. There are currently more than 50 active campaigns.
This year, Meu Rio has raised awareness about several key issues, including the promotion of transparency and accountability of local public servants. In addition, the organization has been an active supporter of various low-income communities that have been affected by the local government's lack of consultation and effective dialogue over building new infrastructure for the World Cup and Olympic Games. This was the case of the Friedenriech public school near the Maracanã Stadium, which was scheduled to be demolished by the local government in late 2012 to make room for an additional athletic training facility. Meu Rio mobilized almost 2000 "guardians," including students, parents, and community members, to watch over the school in a vigil. The NGO convinced over 20,000 people to sign a petition against the demolition, and was successful in avoiding the school's demolition. This was one of the Meu Rio's first victories.
Recently, Meu Rio has been mobilizing efforts towards eliminating Resolution 013, which allows police to control and even stop public events without previous notice. The use of the "013," as it is known, has been common in several low-income neighborhoods, where police have put an end to public events with the excuse of preserving public safety. But stopping community parties, concerts, and local dances is not promoting safety, and affects communities' rights to assemble and to express themselves. Meu Rio therefore partnered with other local institutions to eliminate "013" though a public petition to the local government. These efforts are still ongoing, and organizers are still waiting for a final decision from the local government.
Photo credit: Meu Rio
Latest blog posts