Environment and Urbanization aims to provide an effective means for the exchange of research findings, ideas and information in the fields of human settlements and environment among researchers, activists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in low- and middle-income nations and between these and researchers, international agency staff, students and teachers in high-income nations.
<p>A paper in the latest issue of the journal Environment & Urbanization highlights how urban plans for adapting to climate change often leave out migrant populations living in informal settlements. Guest bloggers Eric Chu and Michael Kavya call for a rethink.</p>
A paper in the latest issue of the journal Environment & Urbanization highlights how urban plans for adapting to climate change often leave out migrant populations living in informal settlements. Guest bloggers Eric Chu and Michael Kavya call for a rethink.
As cities across the global South grapple with climate change, many are designing plans to deal with escalating climate impacts including erratic precipitation and unpredictable shifts in temperature. And in response to global agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, these plans seek to integrate basic development priorities while improving access to basic services including water, sanitation and health.
Many approaches encourage decision-makers, scientists, and NGOs to participate in the planning process. However, ‘participatory’ processes often leave marginalised groups out of the picture.
This is particularly true in the global South where high levels of economic inequality, absence of effective leadership, and prevalent political corruption hinders socially accountable and sustainable processes to manage the impacts of climate change.
Both cities have progressive plans for adapting to climate change and managing growing climate risk. Still, previous research notes that these cities’ plans tend to favour certain politically important groups, and economically important assets such as buildings located in central business districts.
Why are supposedly participatory adaptation plans exclusionary or inequitable? How do we make sense of this contradiction?
Case study: Bengaluru
In the southern city of Bengaluru, studied under the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project, we explored how migrants living in flood- and diseases prone informal settlements are coping with exposure to climate change. Precarious living circumstances are compounded by exposure to heat stress often experienced during manual labour such as waste-picking.
Added to these climate vulnerabilities, long standing social constructs deepen migrants’ challenges. Given their status as unskilled, landless labourers, migrants are regarded as ‘out-of-state’ citizens. This includes members of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) – a term used by the Indian government that encompasses educationally, economically and socially disadvantaged groups.
These groups do not have access to formal public services such as state-based health schemes and subsidised rations of water, foodstuffs and basic supplies. In the event of a disaster, migrants are the most prone to illness and death.
However, subsequent plans to implement adaptation programmes focused on the needs of local business, leaving out the city’s migrant population.
Eventually, plans began to target flood protection for businesses and insulation for formal housing. In the name of ‘urban development’ or ‘climate resilience’, many informal settlements were razed to make way for building flood protection measures and to reinforce embankments.
Having been left out of the plans, migrant communities were forced to relocate. Their increasing exposure to climate risks and lack of political representation led to their displacement, breaking the valuable social and economic networks they need to survive.
Our study shows that city planners persistently fail to recognise migrants in urban adaptation plans and policies. In Bengaluru and Surat, political ideologies, social values, and access to economic opportunities combined work against marginalised groups, excluding them from these plans and processes.
We need a new vocabulary around social justice that recognises the interests, needs and voices of historically marginalised groups.
Adaptation plans must intentionally allow spaces for recognising class, caste, gender and age-related implications of proposed actions. Planning processes must take the inclusion of all urban residents seriously – not only those who are privileged, knowledgeable or powerful. This will help to promote plans that bridge the vast inequalities in economic and political power across the global South.
<p>How far can ‘co-production’ improve the lives of the one in seven of the global population living in informal settlements without secure tenure or adequate access to services? Authors of the October 2018 issue of Environment and Urbanization (E&U) tackle this question by analysing the potentials and shortcomings of co-production.</p>
How far can ‘co-production’ improve the lives of the one in seven of the global population living in informal settlements without secure tenure or adequate access to services? Authors of the October 2018 issue of Environment and Urbanization (E&U) tackle this question by analysing the potentials and shortcomings of co-production.
Co-production most often refers to the joint delivery of services between residents (both individually and/or collectively) and another agency, typically the state. It now takes place through regular service provision or poverty-reduction programmes.
But it can also be informally negotiated through, for example, street-level council workers and local residents, or take place when state agencies catch up with and want to support community delivery efforts.
Co-production can be multi-faceted, including design, planning, financing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. However, it can also be the specific part of a programme – for example, retailing water through community-managed water kiosks.
‘Co-production of knowledge’, where practitioners and academics share knowledge and produce research is emerging as a concept, while co-production as a term is being used more broadly. But as discussions in E&U highlight, definitions matter!
Not all multi-agency or multi-partner collaboration is co-production. Experiences from Kenya (described by Lines and Makau) show that joint programming may not even be needed to achieve co-production. Government staff have changed the way they see their role in service delivery having observed how the social movement, Muungano waWanavijiji works with state agencies. Over two decades, interactions between local and national government in Kenya have shifted practices in both government and civil society.
Does co-production enhance urban development programming?
Urban programming in Afghanistan, Chile, Malawi and the Philippines demonstrate the potential of co-production. In Muntinlupa City (the Philippines), community mappers found that when local barangay (ward-level) officials are drawn in to map and profile informal settlements, their data is more likely to be accepted by government, making it easier to negotiate the provision required to address residents’ needs.
Co-production in fragile states such as Afghanistan highlights the significance of relationship building in post-conflict urban areas. These and other examples emphasise that co-production may help most by strengthening dialogue between residents and officials, alongside material improvements in services.
But efforts are constrained by other factors. In Lilongwe (Malawi), good community management of water kiosks is compromised when the partnering utility cannot provide a regular supply of water. Rules that define entitlements within a programme can also limit potential.
In Chile, some residents facing resettlement following a fire were able to develop new housing alternatives through co-production while others, including tenants and those without a substantiated land claim, had to relocate.
Changed relations that emerge from co-production bring significant advances in quality of, and access to, services. In this context, people are the ‘change process’ or catalyst that leads to more equitable development.
This can be seen in the Community Organization Development Institute (CODI) in Thailand with the upgrading of 2,557 local neighbourhoods (assisting 105,000 families). Through co-producing housing development and upgrading informal settlements, those in state and citizen organisations learnt about each other’s realities, enabling deeper relationships and more effective collaboration – resulting in a more joined-up service delivery.
Social movements and citizen groups have learned to be cautious in their engagement with the state: there are many ways that governments seek to co-opt such groups to their own agenda. However, co-production can empower residents’ groups to challenge constraints and negotiate improvements.
Within any particular programme, E&U authors agree that getting in early to help plan the process is important.
A first step is to move beyond interested individuals to institutionalise the process. Experience of the research programme Mistra highlights the importance of securing such gains. Deepening and broadening the engagement is critical.
Many groups use co-production as a strategy to develop in both scope and scale. For state authorities, this is working with multiple communities, leaders and activists. For community organisations, this is having the change to work with more local authority departments, and across local and national government.
The reshaping of urban processes within and beyond co-production
Exploring the current interest in co-production as a measure to secure urban transformation brings its strengths and weaknesses into focus – and with that, insights into further steps needed.
In Windhoek, the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia secured a co-productive approach to upgrading informal settlements, but failed to engage officials responsible for the overall city planning. Hence, low-income settlements remain in the north-west quadrant with new settlements increasingly distant from central areas (Chitekwe-Biti).
Both immediate material improvements and longer-term strategic positioning are relevant here; if and when community organisations negotiate their way into high-level planning, new opportunities may open up. At the same time, tools and tactics must be sensitive to the local context.
Co-production is frequently criticised by those campaigning for better state provision, arguing that low-income households and communities should not have to contribute to service provision as this is not expected of more affluent residents. But an all-or-nothing approach – fully state-led provision or nothing – does not realistically represent of the options facing low-income urban residents given state agencies’ neglect and inability to provide appropriately designed and sensitively delivered services.
As this collection shows, there are no simple answers. While co-production builds capabilities, it has limitations. But a key point emerging is that co-production deepens and strengthens citizen engagement, enhancing provision of urban services that are essential to the well-being of these citizens.
In so doing it opens up new political opportunities and deepens and strengthens state engagement, increasing the capability of officials to work with low-income and disadvantaged citizens. As a result, politicians see there may be effective strategies beyond state-led delivery.
<p>There is a new way to finance community-driven development, working with local funds set up and managed by grassroots organisations. This can work well at scale with local governments to meet basic needs and reduce urban poverty. David Satterthwaite explains why it’s time external agencies took note of this. </p>
There is a new way to finance community-driven development, working with local funds set up and managed by grassroots organisations. This can work well at scale with local governments to meet basic needs and reduce urban poverty. David Satterthwaite explains why it’s time external agencies took note of this.
Aid is not working well in most urban areas in low- and most middle-income nations. Nor are most urban governments. Nor are the global agendas, including the Sustainable Development Goals. Provision for water and sanitation is actually getting worse in many urban areas.
But what is working well across many African and Asian nations are local funds that support community organisations – especially where these are formed by savings groups led by women living in informal settlements and the slum/shack dweller federations these groups form.
Why the international financial framework is flawed…
What we need is an international financial framework that supports such community organisations and federations, allows them to make decisions and set priorities – and makes funding management accountable to them.
Funds they have set up support them to act – and help them change their relationships with local governments – and to work as co-producers of cities and towns. Bilateral and multilateral aid agencies and international and local NGOs legitimise their work on the basis that it is addressing unmet needs (water, sanitation, health care….).
But these agencies set priorities. They choose what to fund (and what not to fund). With local funds, it is the people with unmet needs that set priorities, take action and ensure funding is well spent.
…and local funds work
Setting up such local funds is what was demanded 30 years ago by the Argentine urban specialist, Jorge E Hardoy. Hardoy advocated for local funds that directly support grassroots organisations and are accountable to them. How this could happen was detailed in the book Squatter Citizen published in 1989.
Very little has changed in terms of what communities need. But what has changed dramatically is the growth of representative grassroots organisations that form federations – now active in over 30 nations.
What has also become apparent is that the conventional ‘urban’ agendas pushed by the UN, including Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda, are far too focused on national government. Too little attention is given to urban government – and almost none to community organisations and federations.
Amazingly, the New Urban Agenda (PDF) that is meant to guide governments’ urban policies for the next 20 years does not mention mayors or local democratic processes.
At least global discussions recognise the right of these grassroots organisations and federations to be there – as seen in their contributions to discussions in the World Urban Forum in February 2018 and previous global forums.
Representatives from these federations bring many fresh insights to these discussions. They are praised and applauded when they make presentations at public events. All participants feel better for hearing their stories and insights.
But how many professionals leave these forums with a commitment to support them? Or if they do want to support them, how many allow the grassroots organisations to make choices and set their priorities?
Local funds: going global
But there is a new way to finance these organisations’ priorities – through the funds that they have set up and manage, such as the Urban Poor Fund in Cambodia and the Funds in Zimbabwe and Namibia mentioned above.
Community-designed and managed funds in Cambodia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand have 11,690 local savings groups working in 6,689 settlements in 497 cities. Grassroots federations in India have provided lower-cost access to good quality sanitation for more than 163,000 households, supported the construction of affordable housing for 44,397 households and improved tenure security for 42,068 households.
The Akiba Mashinani Trust, in Kenya, supports the savings schemes and housing programmes of the Kenyan federation of slum dwellers (Muungano wa Wanavijiji). It has provided project loans and grant capital worth US$1.7 million in recent years to savings groups, in addition to consumption and livelihood loans.
So now external funders have local finance institutions managed by grassroots organisations that they can fund. That provide accountability and transparency to their members as well as to external funders. That can do much of the local management that external agencies find difficult. That work well with local governments to meet basic needs and reduce urban poverty.
It is time for external agencies to take note and act.