Committee on Population and Development


Topic Summary

Topic: Informal Settlements and Urban Development

Stereotypes and mischaracterizations of the urban slum have prevailed for centuries. Often lacking key utilities and resources in the absence of government regulation, informal settlements also function as dense networks of commercial and social activity, featuring their own industries and economic hierarchies. In cities across the globe, past attempts to “improve the slums” have prioritized the interests of governments or developers interested in desirable urban land, uprooting its residents and infrastructure through destructive urban renewal projects. The results of these interventions include the displacement of low-income people from their close proximity to opportunity-rich urban centers, the disruption of key local industries, and the dissolution of urban communities with few, if any, nearby employment and affordable housing options.

How should we proceed in promoting justice for these communities through sustainable, inclusionary, and accessible urban development? Who are the key stakeholders, and how should they shape this initiative? We will consider examples from Bogotà, where market-rate developers have gained control over the affordable development of peri-urban land; from Mumbai, where community groups have lobbied for greater involvement in the planning of development projects; from Johannesburg, where a failure to define stakeholders and actors in redevelopment projects has stalled much-needed progress; and from other cities across the world. Important considerations will include models for possible collaboration between public and private entities, approaches to community participation in redevelopment planning, and the unique needs of the community that might influence principles of design and policy.

Director’s Letter

Dear Delegates,

Welcome to the Committee on Population and Development! My name is Piper Winkler, and I can’t wait to meet and work with you all as the Committee’s 2019 HMUN director.


I am currently a sophomore at Harvard College; my concentration is Social Studies—with a focus field in urban planning and affordable housing—and my secondary field is Comparative Literature (I speak and read French, and I’ve recently begun studying Hindi). I am originally from the beautiful state of Illinois, about an hour outside of Chicago. I moved to the metro Boston area in high school, so I’ve had the opportunity to observe and experience two major American cities, which sparked my interest in urbanization and housing affordability (housing prices make these two cities very inaccessible!). In high school, when I was not riding the T around the city with friends or poking around the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, I enjoyed coaching a local middle-school debate team and even did a little policy debate myself. Getting myself to contextualize international policy proposals with the perspectives of stakeholders around the globe may not count as real Model U.N. experience, but it definitely got me going in the right direction! I will also be bringing this committee to HMUN China 2019, as I have become more involved in Model U.N. at Harvard and enjoy being a part of its wonderful, lively community. Outside of Model U.N., I am a director at Harvard’s student-run homeless shelter and host a late-night punk rock show on the College’s radio station.

This Committee is extremely important to me, as I am very excited to hear your thoughts on the future of our world’s major urban centers through our focus on Population and Development. Billions of people are affected by the trends of development that you will learn about and discuss here. As preparation for the work that this Committee will do, I want to encourage you to think about your own observations of urbanization, or the lack of it, in the area where you live; to consider how that affects the resources and opportunities of your community; and to form some suggestions that might positively shape the trends of urbanization in that region, if necessary. This subject is very personal to all of us, and I hope that this realization will guide your work as you consider and debate the policies that might create more sustainable and inclusive cities in a diverse array of nations across the globe.

You are more than welcome to reach out to me with any questions that you have about this Committee. Until then, please know that I am very much looking forward to meeting you in person and hearing the wonderful conversation that you will bring to these very pressing topics.


Piper Winkler

Director, Committee on Population and Development

Harvard Model United Nations 2020