Rio de Janeiro is facing a wave of attacks by criminal gangs challenging the government’s pacification strategy in the city’s favelas (slums). The introduction of Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympic Games received international praise as one of the most innovative urban security policies in recent decades. But the programme is under pressure both from gangs and due to diminishing resources for what is essentially an urban counter-insurgency project. 

This discussion panel analysed Rio’s security strategy ahead of the 2016 Olympics. It examined the lessons to be learned from the combination of robust law enforcement (including the use of the armed forces) with development policies in the effort to fight armed groups in one of Latin America’s largest cities.


Antônio Sampaio is Research Associate for Security and Development at the IISS. A former resident of Rio, he looks at criminal violence in Latin America and urban security polices around the world. Antônio has recently returned from conducting field research in Rio, where he interviewed key security authorities, including Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame, the main author of the pacification strategy. 

Christoph Harig is a doctoral researcher at the Brazil Institute, King’s College London. Christoph assesses feedback effects between Brazil´s contributions to UN Peacekeeping and internal deployments of the Armed Forces. His particular focus lies on scrutinising soldiers’ capability to execute police tasks during these missions. He has worked at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), among other places.

This meeting was chaired by Nigel Inkster, Director for Transnational Threats and Political Risk, IISS. It took place in the Trafalgar Room at  Arundel House, 13-15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2R 3DX.


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Event details

Discussion Meeting
Antônio Sampaio 
Research Associate for Security and Development, IISS
Christoph Harig 
Doctoral Researcher, Brazil Institute, King’s College London
Arundel House, London
Thursday 9 July 2015