Cities Alliance, USAID and World Bank Present Photo Exhibit on Slums to US Public

Opportunity for debate and action on one of the most urgent development issues of our times 

WASHINGTON D.C., September 24, 2009: A major interactive photo exhibit on slums called The Places We Live recently opened to the US public. It is being hosted by the National Building Museum, one of the world’s most prominent venues for informed debate about the built environment and its impact on people’s lives.  Courtesy of a unique partnership between Cities Alliance, USAID, and the World Bank, the exhibit provide s US audiences with a first-hand look at slums and how slum dwellers live in the densely populated cities of the developing world.

Created by the Norwegian photographer, Jonas Bendiksen, and produced by Canon and Magnum Photos of Paris, The Places We Live is a multimedia photo documentary showcasing what it means to be an urban citizen in the developing countries of the world in the 21st century. The year 2008 will go down in human history as being the first time that more people were living in cities than in rural areas. One-third of these urban dwellers—more than one billion people—live in slums, mostly in fast growing cities in the developing countries of Africa and Asia. That number is expected to rise substantially: the United Nations projects that the number of slum dwellers will double to two billion people over the next 25 years.

Visitors to The Places We Live 'virtually' visit about 20 families living in slum shacks in four major cities of the south: in the ‘barrios’ of Caracas, Venezuela; in the depths of Kibera, Africa’s largest slum settlement in Nairobi, Kenya; in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum in Mumbai, India; and in the ‘kampongs’ of Jakarta, Indonesia.  Inside each ‘room’, the visitor sees a family in their home, hears the family talk about daily life in the slums, the dangers of the environment in which they live, their work,  their joys, sorrows, hopes and fears. Bendiksen also captures the enterprise and hard-work, hope and humor, and love and compassion that occur in these ‘homes’, found in some of the world’s most difficult environments.

“The neighborhoods pictured in the exhibition are some of the densest and poorest places on earth. My goal was to capture the vast range of ways their inhabitants experience their surroundings—from the destitute to the ambitious and surprising,” said Bendiksen.

The exhibit is scheduled to run to January 15, 2010. Cities Alliance, USAID, and The World Bank are also partnering with the National Building Museum on a variety of outreach and education activities. They are designed to help inform the American public about an enormous part of our built environment that is unsustainable for humankind, and the role of international development in working to alleviate the poverty.

“The Places We Live vividly captures the diversity of slums and the resilience of the people living in them," says Katherine Sierra, Vice President of Sustainable Development of The World Bank.  “The exhibit serves to inspire us, but also increases our resolve to work as partners with governments, slum dwellers, and concerned people everywhere.  Together, we must do all we can to eliminate the conditions that deny health, education, civil protection, and economic prosperity to the poorest citizens among us."

“For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas, and this shift will have a marked impact on international development efforts,” adds USAID’s Acting Administrator, Alonzo Fulgham.  “We hope that the powerful images in the The Places We Live exhibit will draw attention to this fact, and help highlight the unique development challenges facing the hundreds of millions of urban poor in the developing world.”

For Billy Cobbett, Programme Manager for the Cities Alliance, "Slum dwellers are just poor people trying to escape poverty, and build their futures - treat them as citizens, and they will help build cities."

The Places We Live is an official program of the 2009 World Habitat Day, an annual event established in 1989 by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). The official 2009 World Habitat Day ceremony is being held for the first time in a U.S. city, Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The ceremony will take place at the National Building Museum on October 5, 2009. A range of related public education activities will be held from October 1 through October 7 in Washington, D.C. and around the United States. World Habitat Day celebrations will also take place around the world.

A dedicated website - - has been created to promote news and information about the exhibit and the various outreach activities based on it. Further information is also available on the Cities Alliance website at


In Washington D.C : Chii Akporji
+1(202) 473 1935


USAID Press Office
+1(202) 712 4320  


Barbara Lipman
+1(202) 458 9691 



About the Artist:

Jonas Bendiksen was born in Norway in 1977. He began his photography career at 19 in London. He then worked extensively as a photojournalist in Russia for several years before receiving a grant in 2005 to work on The Places We Live.  Bendiksen’s works have been featured in international publications including National Geographic, Newsweek, Geo, Vanity Fair, and the Sunday Times Magazine. He has won numerous awards including the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, first prize in Pictures of the Year International Awards, and a National Magazine Award for his documentary of slum-life in Kibera published in the Paris Review.


About Cities Alliance:

The Cities Alliance is a global coalition of cities and their developing partners committed to scaling up successful approaches to urban poverty reduction. By promoting the positive impacts of urbanization, the Alliance supports learning among cities of all sizes, and also among cities, governments, international development agencies and financial institutions. For more information visit


About the United States Agency for International Development (USAID):

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent of the U.S. Government that provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States.
For more information, visit About USAID.


About the World Bank:

The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. Made up of two unique development institutions owned by 186 member countries—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank provides low-interest loans, interest-free credits and grants to developing countries for a wide array of purposes that include investments in education, health, public administration, infrastructure, financial and private sector development, agriculture, and environmental and natural resource management. For more information visit

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