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I National Meeting on Slums

IBGE promotes event to discuss and review the concept of subnormal agglomerate

Section: IBGE | Jéssica Farias

October 03, 2023 04h00 PM | Last Updated: October 06, 2023 02h48 PM

Representatives from the IBGE, public offices, universities, organized civil society and slums and communities participated in the event - Picture: Jéssica Farias

The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) carried out the I National Meeting on the Production, Analysis and Dissemination of Information about Urban Communities and Slums in Brazil. The event was held from September 25 to 29 in Brasília (DF). Representatives from the National Secretariat for Outskirts of the Ministry of Cities, Single Slum Center (CUFA), Observatory of Slums, Observatory of Metropoles and Slum Museum, as well as researchers from universities, civil society organizations, Federal Government and Public Prosecutor.

The event aimed at discussing and reviewing the nomenclature and concept of the term subnormal agglomerate, as well as at checking and pinpointing the demands from public offices, civil society organizations and academia either involved or interested in the subject of urban communities and slums, and at creating a communication channel for the interaction of major players and institutions involved.

Participants attending the opening session - Picture: Jéssica Farias

Cayo Franco, coordinator of Geography, explains that the term subnormal agglomerate is in force since the late 1980s and it was used for the first time in the 1991 Census, though it is not appropriate for the current context. “We are in a moment in which we overcame the term subnormal agglomerate, as it brings some dated issues that do not represent the advances of the Federal Constitution (1988) and the Cities Statute (2001). Moreover, we need to build a more generous narrative for the areas that we are representing, overcoming the paradigm of absence and deprivation and incorporating the power dimension of these territories. Anyway, we have a limitation: at the same time we review it, we need to have a concept that represents what we collected in the 2022 Census operation. So our goal is to re-write it, we cannot change the criteria used in the field. It is a first step of a bigger process of revision of methodologies and concepts about these territories in the IBGE.” warned him.

Franco explained that the organization of the event aimed at opening a communication channel with the society, federal government, ministries and city administrations. “Among the changes, we aimed at removing value judgments, the way to see the area as irregular, illegal, that the persons were wrong, because we know it helps to build narratives. We decided to point out the rights issue: people do not have their rights guaranteed and they cannot be blamed for that.”

Letícia Giannella, researcher in Geographic and Statistical Information and member of the organizing committee of the event, highlight that the change in the nomenclature has been a collective construction. “To arrive here, we created a group and made some previous meetings to build a proposal for changing the concept and for writing the new criteria. That group includes scholars, researchers, social movements and representatives and leaders of slums. So we have a preliminary environment to arrive here and bring everybody, different audiences, users and other information producers, to talk with us. The IBGE opens to the society a very democratic perspective to discuss the concept, which brings many challenges, though it leaves us motivated for that construction with such a collective meaning,” said her.

Cláudio Stenner, director of Geosciences, believes that the effort to dialog is key. “Several sectors of the society are involved: representatives from the federal government, municipal administrations and civil society from the entire country. It is important to have the Brazilian regional diversity represented in this seminar, as well as the IBGE network itself. We have here all the superintendencies in order to reflect the society as best as possible in the concept, as whenever we release and study any indicator or geographic division of the society, it is important that this concept is well understood by the society. This seminar is part of the effort to improve our representativeness as the official Brazilian information producer based on a more multifaceted and democratic vision,” added him.

For Giannella, the event is a starting point for building ties with all the sectors of the society. “We strongly expect to build these ties, to build an articulation to follow up this discussion. This event is not a point of arrival, but rather a starting point. If we are now thinking about a new name, a new nomenclature, a new redaction for the concept, it also implies building articulations we would like to keep for the medium term, to deeply reflect on those territories, maybe thinking in other possibilities, other surveys.”

Plenary session

A plenary session was held on Thursday (September 28), in which a new nomenclature, new criteria and a letter of intent - a document guiding the IBGE actions in slums and communities over the next years - were proposed In this regard, Maikon Novaes, manager of Surveys and Territorial Classification of the Coordination of Geography, explained that changes in the text of the criteria are being proposed, though they have no impact on the criteria already used by the IBGE, aiming at the dissemination of the 2022 Census.

The initial nomenclature proposed for discussion to replace “subnormal agglomerates” was “slums and popular settlements.” During the meeting, however, the term settlement was not very well received, due to the frequent association with the state action and because it is seldom used and known among residents in the communities. The IBGE´s workgroup on urban communities and slums is now studying the possibilities discussed in the meeting to establish the new name. Concerning the redaction of the criteria, all the items were well assessed by the audience through a query previously sent to every participant.

Maikon Novaes, manager of the Coordination of Geography, presented the results of the query on new name and concept - Picture: Jéssica Farias

Larissa Catalá, from the Coordination of the Computer-Aided Telephone Interviews Center, suggested to redesign the criteria that identify areas currently named subnormal agglomerates. Among the changes, it was proposed to change “irregular occupation of property belonging to others” to “predominance of households with different degrees of legal security of ownership.” For the second criterion, it was proposed to change “lack of essential public services” to “incomplete or precarious supply of urban public services from competent institutions.” For the third criteria, the proposed change is from “irregular urban pattern” to “predominance of buildings, street arrangement and infrastructure that are usually self-constructed or are guided by urban and building patterns different from those established by public offices.” Concerning the fourth criteria, it was proposed to complement “location in areas with restriction to occupation” with “…established by urban or environmental legislation, such as land strip of highways or railways, energy transmission lines and protected areas […].”

After this, Cayo Franco presented a letter of intent, containing the goals and major guidelines of the subjects discussed in the event. Besides changing the concept of subnormal agglomerate, the letter established other commitments: disseminate the results, improve and strengthen a network of institutions and collective organizations to support the conceptual and methodological design, establish a permanent communication network with leaders and users of statistics and geospatial information on urban communities and slums, carry out planning and awareness meetings with the communities, develop a dialog and consultation process with users of statistics and geospatial information and assess the demands to raise specific information on the reality of urban communities and slums, among others.

Next steps

For Cayo Franco, the highlight of the meeting was the participation of persons from the academia, public offices and, mainly, persons who live in urban communities and slums in Brazil, who provide a new perspective to the discussions. “We improve and manage to perceive issues that are not traditionally captured by the IBGE surveys. It places a challenge for us, especially thinking in the 2030 Census, as well as in the sampling surveys, surveys that the IBGE usually does in the inter-census period.”

He added that the term subnormal agglomerate will not be used in the dissemination of the 2022 Census. “Now we will collect all the inputs from the meeting and previous steps. We will gather our advisory group to discuss them and take them to the IBGE board of directors in order to approve that name and the new criteria and concept to be used in the dissemination of the results of the 2022 Census,” explained him.

Cayo Franco, the coordinator of Geography, presenting the results of the plenary session. - Picture: Jéssica Farias

Giannella stated that the event placed a demand to form an advisory group to follow up the IBGE´s work. “We aim at expanding the network of partners and players, and we plan to carry out a big event again in the future.”

Camila D’Ottaviano, USP´s researcher and representative of the Observatory of the Metropoles, pointed out that the IBGE should promote meetings about this subject in a regular basis. “I think that it would be very important to have another meeting before the formulation and application of the next Census in order to discuss the advances produced by this first meeting,” said her.

Cayo Franco believes that the event showed that the IBGE is able to encourage the participation by means of a wide consultation process. “We saw that with the traditional communities and peoples. Now we are doing this with urban communities and slums. So I think that we can improve such consultation structure, do it more frequently. We know that it brings a lot of work, but it pays off.

The next steps of the meeting involve the construction of a work program with the interaction of several IBGE areas. “We received clear demands on addressing, which involve the National Address File for Statistical Purposes (CNEFE). We received demands for specific surveys, for supplements that address those territories, which are demands that we should direct to the Directorate of Surveys. We received demands that involve the mapping of those territories and other possibilities of making territorial representations, perhaps using social indicators. We should also discuss this within the Directorate of Geosciences together with the Directorate of Surveys,” concluded him.


The event was broadcast through the IBGE channel on YouTube and the recorded material is available. Watch:

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