Sustainable Urban growth: Sustainable and Healthy Territories for the Global South

With global population expecting to reach 10 billion in 2050 and over 11 billion in 2100, with virtually all this growth in urban areas in the Global South, the fight against the spread of poverty in association with urban expansion deserves all of our attention in terms of research and innovation efforts to be coupled with innovative practices and policies[1].

The development of pilot projects fostering sustainable and healthy territories under K4P Alliances aims to provide a systematic identification, description and analysis of emerging innovation paths of “community-based participatory research and innovation” to promote well-being in urban contexts in Latin America and Africa.

The initiatives to be launched and promoted under K4P alliances consider interinstitutional, transdisciplinary and collaborative innovation aimed to achieve structural change at medium and long term in complex urban contexts, including slum areas. The combination of emerging technologies with decisive participation of local communities will be applied in real living conditions, being monitored, and evaluated with the purpose of generating positive impact on the most vulnerable population and on the design and implementation of public policies.

Emphasis will be given to leverage existing initiatives, including those of non-governmental organizations, to guarantee the basic right of “access to public security for all”. This includes: i) access to public health; ii) access to quality water and adequate sanitation conditions; iii) access to education; and iv) access to quality jobs; beyond v) access to a secure daily life[2].

It should be noted that in most of the slums and other vulnerable urban landscapes in Latin America or in Africa there is no participation of the population in local processes of institutional corruption, including those associated with the occupation of the territories by drug dealers and armed groups, as well as their complex relations with local security forces. The process is authoritarian, private and established through military power, just like dictatorships are installed. In view of the absence of the regulatory public power in the popular spaces of many slums, the social relations established there have been associated to the construction of their own regulatory mechanisms.

Consequently, public security cannot be left to security forces alone, and it will not be transformed by local corporations. It is increasingly necessary that locally recognized social actors (e.g., NGOs, public and private foundations), especially civil society, education institutions (including universities), the media, co-design and implement alternative security initiatives, based on a strong participatory process and people´s engagement.

The rational for the proposed work relies on the fact that many civil society organizations continue to adopt a merely demanding and “denunciator” stance in relation to police practices, without seeking to build dialogue channels, methodologies and conceptual propositions that contribute to the effective construction of other paradigms. There is simply the desire to remain in a “comfort zone” and not face the sophisticated set of tensions and challenges posed by the various actors of contemporary social reality.

As a result, it is necessary to overcome the traditional and conservative representations, but also the so-called progressive ones, which rely on a simplifying and deterministic logic of the social reality of the slums and of the State itself. Thus, only with creative, integrated proposals that articulate different social actors will it be possible to produce innovative public policies for popular spaces in the field of public security. It is, in fact, a matter of also “re-signifying” all the policeman's work and his professional condition.

The work under K4P Alliances will rely in innovative organizational arrangements involving citizens, civil society organizations, academia, government agencies and private sector. The ultimate goal is to foster pilot projects using advanced data acquisition and processing systems combined with data derived from Earth Observation systems to enable innovative policies and practices driven by new research dealing with the complex social landscape of slum territories in Latin America and Africa.

To work creatively and have impact to attempt changing the spread of poverty in association with urban expansion in the Global South, recent analysis clarifies the need to understand local social norms that characterize most of the slums and related complex landscapes . Consequently, the adoption of forms of collaborative innovation under K4P Alliances aims to foster strong interactions with the local context and to promote effective transdisciplinary cultural learning processes. For example, the engagement of artists and related activities, among many other skills and competences, in the adoption of new technologies and practices should be planned to facilitate entering into unexplored intellectual territories fostering science and innovation for development.

[1] See, for example, UN (2003), “The Challenge of Slums” and David, M. (2006), “The Planet of Slums”.

[2] See Eliana S Silva (2019), “Testemunhos da Maré”, Mórula editores, Rio de Janeiro.