Hard power vs. soft in the quest for Favela Urbanization

Guilherme Fragomeni is a SC Network associate in Curitiba, Brazil.

Sustainable Cities  Network members Luis and Guilherme Fragomeni, alongside their colleagues at Vertrag Urban Planning are participating in the “Morar Carioca” Project in Brazil. This national contest will select 40 urban planning offices with the best proposals to improve housing, sanitation, mobility, sustainability, social integration and other sensitive matters in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.

But before the Vertrag’s planning team could meet local stakeholders in the favelas, strong and firm action was taken by the State to increase the security situation in these areas. During the last five days, 45 armored cars were used to transport 2,600 men from the military and police forces into the favelas against AK47’s, grenades and home-made bombs. The main goal of the operation was to drive away armed groups that controlled and oppressed the favela population, opening up space for the Peace Making Police Units (UPP), a successful programme that utilizes specially trained police officers help secure, organize and free residents from crime domination. UPP units are already operating in 12 Rio favelas with a high level of local community support.

With the 2014 Soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics on the horizon, the State and the City of Rio de Janeiro have made an integrated effort to halt drug domination of the favelas and reduce the social division between the “legal” structure of the city and the famous informal, organic growth of the favelas.

This story demonstrates the collision of soft and hard power in the pursuit of a safer and more equitable city. The urbanization of favelas is a huge challenge that will not be achieved in the short run through violence nor forced relocation, and with the expulsion of the organized and armed groups, the State must make a strong commitment to remain present and active inside favelas, filling the gaps from the previous power structure. In the meantime, we will continue doing what we can to create a safer and more sustainable city. The results of the “Morar Carioca” project will be announced on December 8th.

The immediate need is dignity, security and citizenship to a population long forgotten by a government before the obligation to organize safe and inclusive worldwide sport events. After all, if the former is achieved, Brasil will have made a big step towards the latter.

Here’s hoping the competition to create a better city comes before athletics.


To see a photo essay on the situation in the Complexo do Alemão, please click here.


About sustainablecitiesnetwork

Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
This entry was posted in Curitiba. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Hard power vs. soft in the quest for Favela Urbanization

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Hard power vs. soft in the quest for Favela Urbanization | Sustainable Cities : PLUS Network blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Gis Méndez says:

    “… the State must make a strong commitment to remain present and active inside favelas, filling the gaps from the previous power structure”

    How do you think brasilian planning processes can effectively address this at the beginning of a long line of interventions? 😉 Is the community ready to create or embrace a new power structure?

    (need extra hands, we’re in!)

  3. The Brazilian State, as alwasy, promisses the best of worlds with constant presence in favelas and heavy investments on infrastructure and urbanization – lets hope we get hired for that! The long term planning for favelas is wired with the municipal development plan (10 years perspective), and that is essential to make it go further than this administration only.
    Residents in favelas seem te bo glad with this intervention…many where thanking soldiers and police officers, lots of aprehensions and arrests where based on anonimous calls…at the same time, there are many people reporting police abuse and lots of critics about “sending in the army” to solve a social issue. Hard to please them all.

    Gisela…we´ll save a place for you on the solar power research project, you have to tell us how many hours of sun we get in Ipanema beach monthly ; )
    Best regards to all!

  4. guilherme fragomeni says:

    Just to say that Vertrag and its PLUS members won the Morar Carioca contest (selected with 40 other offices from all over Brazil) and will be rewarded with favela urbanization contracts….great perspectives for 2011 and 2012!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s