In May 2010, Catalytic Communities (CatComm), a US 501c3 nonprofit organization and Rio de Janeiro-based NGO, launched Rio Olympics Neighborhood Watch (RioOnWatch), a program to bring visibility to favela community voices in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro. From 2010 to 2016 this news site, RioOnWatch.org, was our primary vehicle for publishing the perspectives of community organizers, residents, international observers, and researchers on the fast-paced urban transformations that characterized pre-Olympic Rio.
Beginning in 2017, RioOnWatch’s new editorial line is committed to:
- Highlighting organizing strategies, community solutions and green technologies from favelas in Rio and around the world so as to inform and inspire collaborative and sustainable grassroots development initiatives.
- Popularizing urban planning concepts to foster agency so citizens can improve their communities independent of public policy.
- Documenting favela residents’ views of and for public policy so as to inform municipal decision-making and international development professionals.
- Publishing favela-specific columns and opinion pieces written by residents so as to mainstream favela perspectives on their own communities and strengthen community media producers.
- Analyzing parallels with informal communities around the world so as to establish connections, networks of support, and strengthen solidarity and learning across communities worldwide.
- Observing the Olympic legacy and monitoring international and domestic press coverage of favelas so as to maintain and build on the legacy of RioOnWatch as an Olympic watchdog news site and offer lessons for cities contemplating large scale transformations or the hosting of mega-events.
- Continuing to analyze, introduce and inform local policy and social debates on Rio so as to strengthen the contextual understanding and compassion necessary to engender larger political shifts that benefit the entire society.
From its outset, the RioOnWatch program has worked to grow the participation of community journalists and international observers in reporting on Rio’s transformations and has dialogued with the mainstream and alternative press to engender a more accurate picture of favelas, their contributions to the city, and their perspectives.
2010: RioOnWatch’s Original Call To Action
After three decades of stagnation, Rio de Janeiro is now one of the Americas’ fastest growing cities. Pricier than New York, recently receiving more than twice the international investment of São Paulo, a city marked by decades of poor governance and disinvestment was intent on taking advantage of recent offshore oil discoveries and having been selected to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, to reconstitute itself a “global city.”
Yet despite initial positive press for policies intervening in the city’s favelas, beginning in 2009, and significant work on the part of the city administration to engender a positive image in the face of international public opinion, the tide changed in 2013 with escalating debate and conflict over policies which have proven only to exacerbate Rio’s infamous inequality. Known as the “Marvellous City” for its geographic beauty, Rio is also known as the “Divided City” by locals, who often live side-by-side rich and poor, yet face significant disparities and historic segregation in access to public services, with low-income cariocas being stigmatized, rather than supported, in their pursuit of opportunity.
How will Rio’s “coming of age” unfold? What will the fate be of the city’s world-famous favela communities, numbered at over 1000 today? How is the city currently handling these communities? What can we foresee? Will Rio take advantage of this moment to grow and consolidate its economy without compromising its unique cultural heritage, and in a way that reduces inequality?
This is the subject of RioOnWatch.
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