Tuesday, 9 March 2010


AI : Bringing dignity to Cairo's informal settlements?

  • Tuesday, 9 March 2010
  • Fouad GM
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  • With high birthrates and never-ending immigration from the countryside to the city, Cairo quickly became a megalopolis engulfing four major cities. It's population more than quadrupled in half a century to reflect the general increase in Egypt's population.

    However, as Cairo continues to monopolise political and economic power and investments nation-wide, Egypt's millennia-old capital reflects two contradicting tendencies: the development of gated, up-town communities for the rich, and the expansion of informal and unregulated settlements. Simultaneously, Cairo's fin de siécle Downtown and its medieval Old city are both booming with fishy purchases as well as preservation works.

    However, the rise of fanaticism, sectarianism, domestic violence and illicit economic activities in Cairo's informal settlements have all drawn attention to this phenomenon more than others in Cairo's contemporary urban history. These agencies' work has focused on capacity-building, raising awareness, building infrastructure and fighting domestic violence and illegal activities.

    Since the adoption of neo-liberalism in the early 1990s, the Egyptian state itself has done little more than crack down on illegal activities and has promised nothing but a (re)negotiation of its boundaries with informal networks and gangsters in informal settlements. That's not to deny that the state has - in at least a couple of occasions - sought to relocate the inhabitants of informal settlements struck by a natural disaster or (according to some) if their plot is of economic value or needed for a major investment of some sort or another.

    To me, however, the work of national, international and state agencies remains incapable of convincing me that it has meaning, direction and coordination. Where are they aiming to go with informal settlements? Are we reforming informal settlements? Relocating its inhabitants? Or are we simply silencing a brewing problem and postponing its explosion? How are we planning to develop their conditions and allow them dignity and equal opportunity?

    Here's Al-Masry Al-Youm's account on AI's work on some of these informal settlements. Perhaps it can offer more insight and answer more questions that it shall raise.

    Click here for the source.

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