Looking forward: What to watch for in 2014

As our learnings from 2013 illustrate, much progress has been made over the past year with respect to inclusive urban planning and poverty alleviation. But there is still much more to do in 2014. Some cities in the URB.im network will begin work on large-scale "greening" initiatives, such as Cali's ambitious Green Corridor project or Jakarta's plans to expand green areas by 30 percent. Other cities are experiencing a surge in citizen participation: online activism is transforming urban spaces in São Paulo, and popular protest in India has led to promising reforms that are expected to reduce political corruption. What will it take for initiatives such as these to succeed and grow, and what challenges will confront them? Read on to learn more, and then add your thoughts in the comments below.

Click on the city names to see a perspective from each city below.

São Paulo
Bogotá
Delhi
Jakarta

 

Eliana Barbosa

 
São Paulo: Coletivos agindo!

Eliana Barbosa, Coordenadora da Rede em São Paulo

 

Sem dúvida há muito que esperar para São Paulo em 2014. A abertura da copa, as mudanças na mobilidade, a aprovação do plano diretor, o dilema do mercado imobiliário — será uma bolha? — todas as questões acima poderiam ser tópicos para discutir no ano que vem.

Entretanto, o fato extraordinário em 2013 que pode mudar o modo como vivemos a cidade é o seguinte: As pessoas estão provocando mudança. Muito foi dito sobre as manifestações de junho e seu impacto no que diz respeito a conscientização política, cidadania, participação e o surgimento de uma nova geração de ativistas. Nota-se cada vez mais o surgimento de grupos independentes transformando o espaço da cidade com suas próprias mãos e meios.

De acordo com a pesquisa "Ativismo Online: 2013 o ano do Brasil," esse foi o ano que mostrou aumento histórico dessa forma de ativismo no país. Campanhas de sucesso foram capazes de mudar micro-realidades, chamando atenção para causas locais. Ao contrário das caras campanhas mundiais das grandes organizações — como a Greenpeace e o WWF — a tendência atual se refere à escala do cotidiano. Habitantes descobriram nas petições online um canal para participação popular.

Interessante o fato de que as causas relacionadas ao planejamento urbano ganharam mais impacto. Foram capazes de alterar decisões institucionais através de pedidos específicos, pressionando as autoridades locais. Um exemplo interessante é a petição organizada pelo coletivo Ocupe & Abrace, que conseguiu evitar a derrubada de 30 árvores para a implementação de corredores de ônibus na zona oeste.

O que nos leva a outro tópico digno de nota para o próximo ano: os Coletivos. É impressionante a quantidade de coletivos relacionados a mobilidade, espaços públicos e cultura que se formaram nos últimos anos. Coletivos são grupos de pessoas que, através de uma causa ou interesse em comum, juntam-se agindo para mudar a letargia da participação pública pelos meios oficiais. A Cidadania e o Direito à Cidade revigoram-se com essas nova forma de olhar a cidade. De muitos exemplos interessantes, destaco três:

Baixo Centro, com seu delicioso slogan "As ruas são para dançar," começou como um grupo de produtores culturais ao redor do Minhocao, promovendo, através de financiamento coletivo, eventos e intervenções urbanas nos espaços públicos na região.

O movimento Boa Praça é um grupo que se reúne com o objetivo de revitalizar as praças da zona oeste da cidade. Apenas em 2013 eles trabalharam em dez praças, através de eventos abertos, nos quais pessoas podiam plantar árvores, construir mobiliário urbano e compartilhar um picnic numa praça local, o que — na "cidade dos muros" — já é uma grande conquista.

Recentemente, um grupo decidiu transformar um estacionamento em Parque Público. Terreno marcado como parque desde o Plano Regional de 2004, a área nunca foi desapropriada. Em novembro o lote foi comprado pela maior incorporadora da cidade, para o desenvolvimento de um empreendimento de uso misto. Após apelar para a prefeitura, sem sucesso, o Grupo Parque Augusta começou trabalhar na área, criando uma programação diária de atividades, que culminou num festival para 4000 pessoas. O Parque Augusta tornou-se, pelas mãos dos próprios habitantes, uma realidade.

Como outras organizações, esses coletivos são abertos, não-institucionalizados e horizontais, Organizados virtualmente, promovem atividades culturais financiadas coletivamente, chamando atenção para os debates urbanos, promovendo mudanças reais em lugares específicos da cidade. Tudo feito apesar da vontade política, das verbas públicas e da burocracia que envolve os canais formais de participação.

 

Comments

widya anggraini's picture

New year seems filled with hope and dreams and challenges. I see hope and looking forward to hear more how citizen of Sao Paulo are able to organizes activities in city use their own hands and funds. Without strong social capital, I don’t think communities will be able to transform themselves and make changes, so I am thrilled having reading this. May I also know where is the government at this stage? Are they passive player? Or more like just wait and see? And what triggers the grassroots to be so active? Maybe as in India with the gang rape case, now the government responded by providing Nirbhaya Fund. Do we need certain events to trigger good policy or ask people to react?

As Jorge stated that there is so much to look forward in 2014 and with the whole problems and challenges, we will be able to move on as long as there is hope...welcome 2014!

Dear Widya Anggraini,

Answering to your questions: so far the role of the local government was just not to stand in the way — which is already something unique in our context arbitrary conduct from the police.

Regarding what triggers these actions, I believe it is a mixture of hope and dissatisfaction with the status quo. There was not one event as in India, but years of careless administrations on the local level. The second initiative I mentioned started because the daughter of one of the founders of the group asked for her birthday party to be on the neighborhood square. The place was in such a bad shape that the mother decided to improve space herself — with the help of friends — to be able to host the party there. It seems almost unreal, but that's how the group started.

I don't believe a big event is needed — although it helps to call the attention, multiplying the scale of awareness, especially when it comes to a serious problem as it was in India. These examples show that, to promote change in a local level, what it takes is the creation of strong bonds between people working together towards specific causes.

Jorge Bela's picture

I share with Widya the interest for further information on how the private initiatives in Sao Paulo fit with the local government. Private intervention in public spaces is de facto a public-private partnership, although on the public side the only action has been, well, no action. Still, without proper legal and financial backing from the public sector, long term viability is highly uncertain. I loved the initiatives described in the article, and hopefully they will serve as a wake up call for the authorities. I still hesitate to consider this a suitable long term solution to urban problems.

More somber is the perspectives put forward on the Delhi article. From the distance it is striking that a society generally perceived as far less violent than other regions, has shown up to now such degree of tolerance with violence against woman. The unexpected decision against homosexuals also could prove as an excuse for violence against this collective as well. Priyanka's article properly differentiates between actual insecurity and the perception of insecurity. Both go hand to hand, but are not the same. Let's hope that the Nirbhaya act and the fund do help in reducing the actual levels of assault.

Of course the greening of Jakarta is a much more agreeable topic! Please do keep us posted.

Priyanka Jain's picture

Dear Jorge,

India is in a state of contradiction. Culturally, there is perception of deep respect for women. However, the role models of an ideal woman are referenced from mythologies where the main characters are a symbol of purity and tolerated grave injustices and sacrificed for sake of their husbands or families. This has cultivated years of misogyny against women who don't fit into this almost impossible framework and made objectifying women too easy. If a woman is raped than she has only herself to blame. In a survey conducted by Hindustan Times, 59% of men agreed that 'most women invite harassment because of the way they dress and behave.' Further, most of the people who have power to make policy changes support this framework. Expressions and evidence of a misogynistic culture are so routine on the part of men and women, so deeply woven into the social fabric, that it would not be possible to exhaust even those that have surfaced since Nirbhaya's rape and death.

I don't believe violence against women is unique to India but sustainable solutions to this deep-set problem would surely have to take into account the cultural misperceptions that have put women in such vulnerable position.

Priyanka Jain's picture

Dear Eliana and Widya,

India has a history of movements triggered by iconic cases or profiles, the most prominent is Swaraj Movement by Gandhi. Nirbhaya and AAP is similar in that sense where in the former an iconic case and in the latter an iconic profile galvanized movements. However, its not viable to expect big events to trigger such reaction, an issue that AAP government is trying to resolve by making community level government and institutions more active. It's amazing to see 600% growth in online activism in Brazil. I believe this is indicative of the general movement happening across the world where people are rising to demand their rights from the public sector. With brighter brains and more political savvy people working in the field of social change, I am sure demands will become more focused and lead to viable and scalable solutions.

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