April 5, 2011
Watch Habitat’s 2006 film “Favelas ”, a short tour through the slums of Sao Paulo.
After U.S. President Barak Obama’s recent visit to Latin America, Habitat for Humanity International CEO urged the President to make improving the lives of slum dwellers a top priority.
SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica (April 5, 2011) –In Barak Obama’s recent visit to Brazil, the President focused on the values that the two nations share, and the differences they can make together in lifting poverty, building social programs and improving security. He spoke about a shared history of progress, restored hope, changed attitudes and promising solutions.
During his trip, the President visited the well-known settlement, Cidade de Deus (City of God), an area that has emerged as a model for slum improvement. In his speech he highlighted a comment from one resident who said, “People have to look at favelas not with pity, but as a source of presidents and lawyers and doctors, artists, [and] people with solutions.”
On these terms, Habitat for Humanity CEO, Jonathan Reckford, appealed to President Obama, urging the U.S. government to make global improvement of slums a priority issue for the country. “I have visited similar settlements in Brazil and around the world,” said Reckford. “With each visit I am struck not only by the deplorable living conditions families must endure, but also by the creative solutions they find to solve many of their own problems.”
By the year 2030, according to Reckford, the number of slum dwellers globally is expected to double from 1 billion to 2 billion people. Habitat for Humanity’s work in over 80 countries is focused on building homes, but also on working through advocacy, housing finance and other innovative strategies to help resolve the problems of inadequate shelter, overcrowding, lack of basic services and a host of other issues reflected in the world’s slums. In Brazil, Habitat’s programs are supportive of many of the slum upgrade efforts taking place in the United States, including involvement in the “Right to the City” campaign that includes a heavy focus on the country’s key global priority of secure tenure.
Pointing out that the U.S. once led the promotion of policies and investments that improved the lives of millions of slum dwellers, but that the capacity within its civilian agencies to address housing and urban development has declined and the country now lacks a robust policy to address these growing challenges, Reckford urged Obama to make improving slum conditions a top priority. This includes support for two key policy objectives introduced in the 111th Congress: The Shelter, Land and Urban Management Act (HR 1702) and the Sustainable Urban Development Act (S 3227).
Representing Habitat for Humanity International, Reckford also asked that the President encourage embassies and government staff to visit slums in the cities in which they work, meeting with local community members to explore how U.S. foreign assistance could be more impactful. A multi-agency task force to focus on the challenges and opportunities of urbanization and the growth of slums, and including the topic in G8 and G20 meetings were additional pleas from the organization.
For more information about Habitat for Humanity’s involvement in advocating for public policy that supports access to adequate housing, please visit http://www.habitat.org./gov/public_policy/ .
About Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean
Habitat for Humanity  first opened its doors in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in 1979, and has since helped more than 100,000 low-income families to access adequate housing in the region. Headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica, the Latin America and Caribbean regional office coordinates the efforts of 16 national organizations, as well as unique partnerships throughout the region. For more information, visit habitatlatino.org . 
Learn more about Habitat for Humanity in Latin America and the Caribbean.