In the 21st century we are experiencing the largest migratory movement in history: one in three people is leaving their place of origin. It is the biggest challenge we face as a species, in terms of sustainability or survival, along with climate change. Contrary to what the collective imagination has internalized, well-managed urban peripheries can become a platform for sustainability for cities and rural areas, and a growth engine for businesses.

What is the periphery? The peripheries receive an infinite number of names depending on the country where we are: suburbs, shacks, barriadas, pueblos jovenes, bustees, favelas, outskirts, deprived areas… They emerge and grow throughout the world, and all of them have a common denominator: they are the settlement place for people who are migrating from the countryside to the city looking for better living conditions. It is there where its integration into the city begins in its active search for solutions to poverty.

According to the UN, we are experiencing the largest migratory movement in history: one in three people is leaving their place of origin. It is the biggest challenge we face as a species, in terms of sustainability or survival, along with climate change.

Why can a periphery be a platform for urban development? Since the 1960s, theories have emerged that time has turned into proven facts. They agree that its inhabitants, often fodder for the social scourges of our era, are, at the same time, more innovative, enterprising, dynamic, persevering, capable, creative… Let’s remember the saying “hunger sharpens wit”: when one You have to “look for life” to broaden your horizons. Aren’t innovation and entrepreneurship important competitive differentials? Aren’t these the characteristics that experts define as necessary to create value and overcome the crisis?

The peripheries as a development platform go much further. Multiculturalism is another differential fact that provides immense value to societies. The ingredients of this cocktail are imported by immigrants from their homelands. The fusion time depends on mutual understanding between different cultures; some local, others of the newcomer, also in search of references and identity. The result, over time, is the creation of wealth, perspective, new cultural expressions… and, why not, business opportunities for the whole of society.

Numerous examples show that success does not depend on geographical factors. Montgomery County, in Washington DC. It is a concrete case of a suburb that weathered the crisis through social inclusion, innovation, entrepreneurship and multiculturalism. Half an hour’s drive from Montgomery County, in Herndon, the peripheries were socially excluded, their inhabitants left and the crisis is plaguing this region.

Why are the urban peripheries a lever for the rural environment? Money remittances have become a business segment for banks given their magnitude. In India, about 30% of migrants’ savings are sent to their families in their hometowns. There are many cases in which the harsh living conditions changed for the better due to the remittance of money from the peripheries. In Bangladesh, those who migrate to England, known as “Londonis”, come to support dozens of local families. In China, they are known as “hollow villages”, the villages inhabited by grandchildren and grandparents, who are maintained by absent parents. For many peasants, climate imbalances or market speculation with food no longer mean famine due to the capital coming from the peripheries. Even outside the harvest periods they can buy food, medicine, or books for schoolchildren.

Why is an urban periphery a platform for business? Experts such as Janice Perlman, president of the Megacities Project association, maintain that it would be positive to complete the process of integrating migrants in the space of a single generation. We find a good indicator of inclusion when the children of migrants attend school and identify with the local culture and their parents have a stable job. The more agile the integration process is, the faster green markets will be established. One observation: in these cases, development projects demand that concrete and measurable legacies be delivered to the communities.

In Brazil, where the migratory implosion occurred several decades ago, the famous new middle class, made up of 54 million Brazilians, lives almost entirely in the peripheries. This group gains consumption power and has the lowest delinquency rate.

There are also relevant indirect factors related to the positive contribution of multiculturalism. Tower Hamlets, an east London district with an active social inclusion policy, was hardly affected by the riots this summer. In this periphery, driven by the persevering spirit of their parents, the children of immigrants already have 15% higher results in school than their English peers, something that motivates English students to improve their performance.

What do the peripheries need to function? It is profitable for everyone to convert the peripheries into productive places with full citizenship. For this whole system to be greased and started, its social inclusion is necessary. Its inhabitants are sacrificed by nature and their needs to progress are basic. The process is developed from below or “bottom-up”.

The shortage, on the contrary, triggers the risks for coexistence. In Latin America, drug trafficking takes over the peripheries and finds its quarry there; in India, it is extremist nationalism; in Europe, religious extremism, in addition to the growing issues related to the irregular copper market, drugs, scrapping…

The current Government of Rio de Janeiro makes great efforts to pacify the favelas through the UPP (Pacifying Police Units) with innovative projects.

It is essential that people have facilities to undertake, with support to open their small businesses, pay their taxes and feel like citizens. “It is necessary for them to feel part of the city”, affirms Lula da Silva’s team, commenting on the success of her social policy De ella. Education, culture, housing, health, transportation and security are priorities. Well managed, the process is socially, economically and politically profitable. The current Government of Rio de Janeiro makes great efforts to pacify the favelas through the UPP (Pacifying Police Units) with innovative projects.

If attention is not paid to the new populations, there is a high risk that the peripheral neighborhoods of integration will become violent places. With proper inclusive management, the peripheries become an engine of sustainable growth.

Anywhere in the world, being coherent with the globalization that economically supports many countries, a society of the future can be built. The investment required is far less than the future economic, social and political costs. The conflicts in England or France are some illustrative examples of what happens when integrative measures are not addressed.

Likewise, we must prepare ourselves for the new organizational models that the globalized future will demand of us. As, for example, the intensification of migrations. The societies that best know how to manage the opportunity of social inclusion of the peripheries will be better positioned to face the now and the future. It is an inevitable phenomenon that we must be aware of.

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