Convened by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office in conjunction with The New School Graduate Program in Design & Urban Ecologies.



Following hard-won liberation struggles against various forms of colonialism, India, Brazil, and South Africa have now emerged as power players on the global stage. While their governments are imbued with the history and rhetoric of past left movements, these countries’ major cities are spaces of contestation, pitting the need for universal housing, water and electricity access and employment against the realities of global austerity in the neoliberal age.

This tension is brought closer to home through mega events such as Brazil’s upcoming World Cup (2014) and Olympics (2016), as well as South Africa’s World Cup (2010) and India’s Commonwealth Games (2010). These events seek to transform urban centers of the Global South into cosmopolitan world cities, at the expense of retracting public spaces and services, displacing hundreds of thousands, and further marginalizing the urban poor. How do left governments in these countries address the contradiction of fighting for social justice in a neoliberal world?

Urban Convergences will take this framework as an opening for a series of discussions on how activists, government actors, and academics are confronting these new realities for a vision of a socially just city in the 21st century.


Friday, 9/27

6:00-6:30pm Registration at The New School

6:30-6:40pm Welcoming Remarks
Stefanie Ehmsen, Co-director, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office
Miguel Robles Duran, Director, Design & Urban Ecologies Department, The New School

6:40-8:00pm Keynote Addresses
Leda Paulani, Municipal Secretary for Planning, São Paulo, Brazil
Miloon Kothari, Former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing

8:00-9:00pm Opening Reception

Saturday, 9/28

9:15-9:30am Welcoming Remarks

9:30-11:00am The World Cup, Spectacle Capitalism, and the Attack on Fair Housing

The upcoming Brazil World Cup has drawn much attention of late. Billions in taxpayer money have been spent, while the rights and needs of the urban poor have been ignored, leading to mass protests around the country. Indeed, with the World Cup shortly followed by the 2016 Olympics, Brazilians must grapple with a form of spectacle capitalism that privatizes the gains and socializes the costs of mega events – at the expense of the poor and the working class. In this context, what lessons can be learned from South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, as well as India’s 2010 Commonwealth Games, both in terms of what to expect and how we can fight?

Patrick Bond, Director, Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Eloisa Varela, Associação Potiguar dos Atingidos pela Copa (APAC), Natal, Brazil
Paul Divakar, General Secretary, Dalit Human Rights/NCDHR, New Delhi, India
Samuel Queiroz, People’s World Cup Committee, Fortaleza, Brazil
Moderated by Ayşe Çavdar, Istanbul, Turkey

11:00-11:30am Coffee Break

11:30am-1:00pm Focus on Brazil

Brazil’s favelas are known the world over. Painful reminders of the human cost of capitalist exploitation, these shanty towns are nonetheless vibrant with culture, economic activity, and political power. The militarized state treatment of favelas, combined with the retraction of basic services and displacement of its population, threatens to quash this character and further isolate and marginalize the country’s urban poor. What should we know about the struggles in Brazil’s favelas and how they connect to other battles over housing justice and the right to the city?

Joanna Barros, Federation of Organizations for Social and Educational Assistance, Rio de Janeiro
Benedito Barbosa, Union of Movements of Moradia, São Paulo
Cosme Felippsen, Federation of Organizations for Social and Educational Assistance, Rio de Janeiro
Moderated by Gerhard Dilger, Director, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—São Paulo Office

1:00-2:00pm Lunch

2:00-3:30pm Focus on India

India has a greater population than the whole of the Americas; it has more distinctive cultures and living languages than Europe. Amidst this great size and diversity is a proud left tradition; there is a variety of socialist and communist parties, some of which have governed whole municipalities or regions for decades. India also has some of the world’s largest housing challenges, with slums like Dharavi, in Mumbai, housing close to a million people on less than one square mile. How have different municipal governments dealt with the multiple housing crises of the urban poor? What can we learn particularly from the actions of left municipal governments?

Manisha Verma, Joint Secretary, National Advisory Council of India, New Delhi
Amita Bhide, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Jayshree Satpute, Director, Nazdeek Alliance for Socio-Economic Rights in South Asia, New Delhi
Moderated by Ethan Earle, Project Manager, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office

Sunday, 9/29

9:15-9:30am Welcoming remarks
Rachel Laforest, Executive Director, Right to the City Alliance, New York

9:30-11:00am Focus on South Africa

The African National Congress broke South Africa’s apartheid, brought democracy to the country, and became an international symbol of proud, successful resistance to colonialism. Today, the ANC retains much of its power but little of its original revolutionary anti-colonialism, instead actively dispensing austerity policies. Nonetheless, the ANC continues to employ leftist rhetoric, and many open socialists work actively within its ranks. How do social movement groups seeking transformative change in today’s South Africa relate to the ANC? In what ways does the party’s left-wing past create opportunities as well as obstacles in the quest for greater housing justice?

Muziwakhe Gerald Ndlalose, President, Abahlali baseMjondolo, Durban
Najuwa Gallant, Tafelsig People’s Association, Cape Town
David Ntseng, Church Land Programme, Durban
Aly Karam, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Moderated by Rachel Laforest, Executive Director, Right to the City Alliance, New York

11:00-11:30am Coffee Break

11:30-1:00pm Workshops (more details forthcoming)

Gentrification in the Global North: New York and Berlin
Water & Electricity: Organizing for Access to Basic Human Rights
Security for whom? Gated communities, police ghettoization, and the real fight to live safe

1:00-2:00pm Lunch

2:00-3:30pm Housing Justice and Left Governments: Opportunities and Obstacles

In this concluding session, panelists will reflect on the previous days’ conversations, with a specific focus on the chances and limits of left governments. Which characteristics are shared between Indian, Brazilian, and South African housing conditions and the movements that struggle to improve them? How can the Left come to terms with the contradictory nature of governing in a neoliberal environment?

Josette Cole, Development Action Group, Cape Town, South Africa
Miloon Kothari, Former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, India
Leda Paulani, Municipal Secretary for Planning, São Paulo, Brazil
Moderated by Albert Scharenberg, Co-director, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office

3:30-5:00pm Closing Reception

Location: The New School
Friday and Sunday: 55 West 13th Street, Arnhold Hall (2nd Floor), The New School
Saturday: 65 West 11th Street (enter at 66 West 12th Street), Wollman Hall (5th Floor, Room B500), The New School