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The Chart of Belém


The citizens of Belém do Pará, a city in the Brazilian Amazon that will host the World Social Forum in 2009 and is also one of the candidates to host the football World Cup in 2014,, through four national social movements Confederação Nacional de Associações de Moradores, Central de Movimentos Populares, Movimento Nacional de Luta pela Moradia e União Nacional por Moradia Popular (the National Confederation of Residents’ Associations, the Centre of Popular Movements, the National Movement for the Fight for Housing, and the National Union for Popular Housing).


1 the city’s status as an Amazonian metropolis, resulting from its location on the estuary of the world’s greatest river, make Belém a true City of the Waters. The city is based at the confluence of six major rivers and several smaller tributaries, and is located on a chain of more than forty islands, surrounded by major rivers and crossed by smaller channels, the igarapés, and minor tributaries. Rivers form the backdrop to the daily activities of the city’s population, but today they are used principally for the disposal of household and solid waste. The aspects of the riverscape that could allow it to contribute to the city’s beautification are neglected;

2 Belém is a tropical city, with a hot and humid climate, very low daily temperature ranges and no obvious seasonal changes. The maximum temperatures occur in July and November, with an average of 26 degrees, a maximum of 38 degrees and a minimum of 20 degrees centrigrade. ‘Winter’ – the season with the most rainfall – runs from December to May (and will therefore coincide with the timing of the World Social Forum, to be held in January). However, it also rains virtually every day, throughout the year, in the afternoon – so frequently, indeed, that these daily showers are a characteristic part of city life;

3 the city was built within a few metres of sea level, creating problems for the human population and the environment, underlining the importance of environmental concerns such as air pollution and the pollution of water courses as well as problems with the disposal of refuse and household waste, linking environmental problems to social questions, environmental vulnerability to social vulnerability;

4 in addition to the housing built above the city’s water courses, found throughout this region, the inland areas are occupied by informal settlements located in the floodest parts of the built-up area, the product of a model of urban management characterised by conflict and contradiction, with the ill-defined limits of the city marked by a type of urban development that concentrates real-estate opportunities and access to information in protected and exclusive social islands, where upper middle class families live in a state of siege, with their guard-dogs for company, in closed condominia, leaving the poor with a non-city, distant, built on stilts, poorly serviced and, above all, stigmatised as non-spaces and non-places.

5 in addition, despite its cosmopolitan pretensions, the Belém middle class, which live in a city with a population of 1.5 million, live according to a set of values that are still clearly provincial, leading for example to serious congestion problems in the already-chaotic traffic flows, when they double-park their cars outside the city’s private schools. This shows just how far the city continues to be, in effect, the private property of its ‘hereditary captaincies’, leading to stalemates such as those that have dogged discussions about reform of the Urban Master Plan, where the representatives of the Belém elite promote rapid ‘verticalisation’ (skyward growth) in the city’s most affluent areas, despite climatic conditions that clearly argue against such monstrosities;

6 the same considerations should in our opinion (and this is our main concern) guide the ‘beautification’ of the city that will precede the two big events to be held here, mostly because the cities’ management and infrastructure will not be able to cope, as they are already struggling to do so with a current hotel capacity of just 8,000 bedspaces;

that an Observatory of Public Policy should be established in Belém, bringing together research projects assessing the influence by Belém’s distinctive characteristics on political values, attitudes and behaviour and on the way these shape possibilities for the exercise of citizenship, and developing research that goes beyond the quantitative analysis of the social impact of public policies to include a qualitative analysis of the implications of these policies for the lives of Belém’s citizens.

We will aim to develop coordinated strategies linking the different organisations involved in this process, seeking to bring together existing knowledge into a new and user-friendly database, on the basis of a shared methodology guiding the research and the individual projects to be carried out by the institutions and agencies involved.

We will encourage the monitoring and evaluation of funding, mechanisms for social distribution and control, the definition of priorities and the social impact of public policies in each and every planning intervention in preparation for these two international events, be they already under way or still on paper, with methodologies and procedures that will emphasise skill-sharing and training the city’s population in the implementation of citizenship solutions embodying the Right to the City.

Belém, State of Pará, Amazônia, Brasil

5 March 2008