State of the World's Cities 2010: Slum Upgrading Can Work!


State of the World's Cities Report

released for the World Urban Forum suggests that slum upgrading can reduce poverty, improve living conditions and not just gentrify neighborhoods.  See the

press coverage here

and the

full report here.

The report notes that 

the number of Brazilians living in slums was reduced by 10.4 million people from 1999-2009 and 227 Million people world-wide have moved out of slum conditions since the year 2000.  Unfortunately, Sub-Saharan Africa saw only a 5% reduction in slum dwellers over this period.  Here is one graphic from the report showing the reductions in slum populations in Africa:

Importantly, the State of the World's Cities report emphasizes that some of the most unequal cities in the world are in the

United States

, where the rich live next-door to some of America's poorest.   The causes are many, but racial residential segregation - its historic legacy and present-day continuation is, according to the UN report, the KEY driver of urban inequality in the US.  

One powerful quote:

"Even where standards of living are high, the marginalization and spatial segregation of specific groups creates cities within a city: distinctly deprived areas that further reinforce unequal opportunities and the distance between abject poverty and affluence."

The implications is that slums are NOT inevitable and economic growth alone is insufficient.  We need to look to Brazil, Thailand and other countries that have made a national and neighborhood commitment to participatory and integrated healthy city planning - where improvements to infrastructure, housing, land rights, economic livelihoods, and governance are the focus.  National and local government, NGOs, academics, multi-laterals, bi-laterals, and organize slum residents, build on their expertise and knowledge, and let us all get back to the hard collaborative work that must be done.

Professor Jason Corburn