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Local Agenda 21

URBAN GOVERNANCE | Democracy and Empowerment

This section includes the enhancing representation and participation at the local level, supporting community and neighbourhood self-government, the extension of local electoral registration, and innovative practices in deliberative democratic assemblies.

quick links

local level city level
  international level websites

local level

Appadurai, Arjun (2001) - "Deep democracy: urban governmentality and the horizon of politics" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol 13 No 2, IIED [pdf]

India - This paper describes the work of an alliance formed by three civic organizations in Mumbai to address poverty – the NGO SPARC, the National Slum Dwellers Federation and Mahila Milan, a cooperative representing women’s savings groups. It highlights key features of their work which include: putting the knowledge and capacity of the poor and the savings groups that they form at the core of all their work (with NGOs in a supporting role); keeping politically neutral and
negotiating with whoever is in power; driving change through setting precedents (for example, a community-designed and managed toilet, a house design developed collectively by the urban poor that they can build far cheaper than public or private agencies) and using these to negotiate support and changed policies (a strategy that develops new “legal” solutions on the poor’s own terms); a horizontal structure as the Alliance is underpinned by, accountable to and serves thousands of small savings groups formed mostly by poor women; community-to-community exchange visits that root innovation and learning in what urban poor groups do; and urban poor groups undertaking surveys and censuses to produce their own data about “slums” (which official policies lack and need) to help build partnerships with official agencies in ways that strengthen and support their own organizations.

Etemadi, Felisa U (2000) - "Civil society participation in city governance in Cebu City" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol 12 No 1- IIED [pdf]

Philippines - A high proportion of Cebu City’s population lives in informal settlements. This paper describes the range of partnerships between government and non-government organizations in the city which provide services targeted at low-income groups or at settlements with a predominance of low-income households. It also describes how a coalition of NGOs and people’s organizations seeks to ensure the election of mayors with pro-poor policies and to ensure these policies are implemented. It discusses the successes, which mainly involve improved service provision, and the limitations, which include very limited economic benefits for low-income groups despite rapid economic growth, the difficulties that such groups face in acquiring land for housing and the limited influence of NGOs and people’s organizations on the policies of city government.

Masud, Mohammad O. (2002) - Co-producing Citizen Security: The Citizen-Police Liaison Committee in Karachi - IDS [pdf]

Pakistan - Beginning in 1989, the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) has become an important component of policing in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan. Rooted in the business community, and dependent largely on private donations and on the volunteer labour of business people, it has taken on core police intelligence functions. The CPLC is an example of the kind of “hybrid” arrangement for the provision of public services that, we are beginning to realise, may be widespread where there has been a breakdown of conventional governance arrangements.

UN-Habitat (2002) - Best Practice - BRAC, Dhaka - [pdf]

Bangladesh - Two major goals of BRAC are to alleviate poverty and empower the poor. In response to these goals BRAC has defined its mission. BRAC works with the people whose lives are dominated by extreme poverty, illiteracy, disease and other handicaps. With multi-faceted development interventions, BRAC strives to bring about positive changes in the quality of life of these people.

UN-Habitat (2002) - Best Practice - Program on Community's Participation in Environmental Infrastructure, Batu [pdf]

Indonesia - 'Program on Increasing the Community's Participation in the Development of Environmental Infrastructure' is an effort to develop the community itself, as a process of democratization and regional autonomy. In this program, community is treated as the subject of the development process. The community has its rights and chance to actively participate in every step of development process, planning, implementing, and enjoying the result.

city level

Burra, Sundar (s.d.) - A presentation on Empowerment and Infrastructure - SPARC [pdf]

India - The focus of this paper on empowerment and infrastructure has been upon the importance of partnerships, the role of community based organizations and the obligations placed upon international financial organizations like the World Bank to go beyond strait-jacketed perspectives. Can we develop in this area, using the philosopher John Rawls's evocative phrase, an 'overlapping consensus' to involve communities of the poor in the production and maintenance of infrastructure? I am sure this forum will throw more light on this question.

UN-Habitat (2002) - Best Practice - Affirmative Action for Women's Economic Independence, Para [pdf]

Brazil - Instances of social exclusion and poverty among women of Brazilian Amazon region that were prevalent before 1996 gave rise to social and economic empowerment initiatives. These initiatives by feminist organisations from Belem were important in the implementation of the popular democratic government's first management experience in the largest city in the Amazon State - Belem.

UN-Habitat (2002) - Best Practice - Participatory Management System, Municipality of Quito [pdf]

Ecuador - The proposal seeks to promote the involvement of the community in local government; to enforce a comprehensive, decentralised and deconcentrated administration throughout the territory of the District; to build public-private alliances for priority development projects; to enforce transparency, accountability and control by the community, and to establish strategic agreements with Universities, NGOs, CBOs and other urban actors.

international level

Barten, Françoise; René Perez Montiel, Eduardo Espinoza & Carlos Morales - "Democratic governance – fairytale or real perspective? Lessons from Central America" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol 14 No 1 - IIED [pdf]

Central America - This paper examines the concept of democratic local governance and its relevance for health development in Central America, a region which was torn apart by conflict in the 1980s. Peace-building has been taking place since the 1990s in a difficult macro-level context, as stabilization and structural adjustment policies in the postwar period have led to drastic state reforms with high social costs for the marginalized population. Innovative experiences and strategies in health have also developed in the region over the last decades, based upon local participatory governance, contributions to public health policy, development and peacebuilding at the local level. This article describes two of these municipal health development processes, the SILOS (Local Health Systems) in the northern zone of San Salvador, El Salvador and the municipal health process in León, Nicaragua. The paper examines the relevance and sustainability of these local initiatives and the importance of democratic local governance for (health) development.

Benevides, Maria Vitoria (2002) - Texto da palestra proferida durante o painel “Quais são os fundamentos da democracia e de um novo poder?, dia 26 de janeiro, Eixo I - World Social Forum [pdf]

É uma grande satisfação e uma grande honra participar deste Fórum Social Mundial. Nesta conferência vou discorrer sobre quais seriam os fundamentos da democracia e de um novo poder. Vários aspectos poderiam ser abordados, e eu escolhi falar sobre a democracia como soberania popular e tocar em algumas questões por meio das quais poderíamos pensar sobre o que poderia ser feito no Brasil para obtermos avanços em termos de novas formas de democracia direta.

UNDP (s.d) - Thematic Trust Fund - Democratic Governance - UNDP [pdf]

The United Nations Millennium Declaration represents the strongest unanimous and explicit statement to date of UN Member States in support of democratic and participatory governance. The declaration clearly articulates that the Millennium Development Goals must be achieved through good governance within each country and at the
international level. It also states that member states “will spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law” and goes on to resolve “to strengthen the capacity of all countries to implement the principles and practices of democracy and respect for human rights…”

UN-Habitat (2001) - Women and Urban Governance, Policy Dialogue Series: No.1" [pdf]

The main part of the paper presents a discussion and analysis of the questions relating to women and urban governance. The analysis suggests some directions for policy action by governments, local authorities and international agencies, including UNCHS (Habitat). These are summarized in the seven policy issues at the end of the paper. The format used for the policy issues is intended to provide the basis for a policy debate or dialogue among stakeholders. It addresses the background, possible courses of action and constraints surrounding the issue.

UN Habitat - Local Democracy and Decentralisation in East and Southern Africa: Experiences from Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania and Ethiopia Global Campaign on Urban Governance, UN-Habitat [pdf]

The overall region-wide project, of which this study is a part, focuses on one of these broad norms, i.e. decentralization. Several countries in Eastern and Southern Africa have, over the last two decades or so, initiated reforms on decentralization of local authorities, while others are considering new local government legislation or amendment of existing legislation. One of the main purposes of these reforms has been to accommodate new and emerging realities, including: (i) the transformation towards more democratic governance that has characterized many African countries during the last decade or so...

Olowu ,Dele (2001) - Decentralization Policies and Practices under Structural Adjustment and Democratization in Africa - UNRISD [pdf]

Africa - This paper focuses on African countries—without precluding occasional references to other developing countries—in order to make the discussion more manageable. While the relationship between adjustment and democratization, and the institutionalization of local government in Latin America and the Eastern European countries has been the subject of systematic research and analysis, decentralization policies have remained poorly analysed and developed in African countries.

Pont, Raul (2002) - Representative democracy and participatory democracy - World Social Forum [pdf]

The central theme of this seminar has been present in humanity’s political debate for at least two centuries. The roots of political systems of representation are found in the constitutional regimes of Modern States. The ancient and medieval political regimes, being slave or serf societies, cannot be identified with the situations which began with the Modern State. Even with Absolutism, where the idea of a ‘contract’ already appears, and the subject holds certain rights, his situation is far from the qualification of ‘citizen’.The origins of representative systems were born from liberal conceptions which expressed the development and maturing of mercantilist societies and the objective conditions for the rise of capitalism – the accumulation of capital and the existence of freedom of labour.

Rasimelli, Giampiero (2002) - Democrazia Partecipativa, Associazinoismo del Cittadini, Globalizzazione (introduzione al focus su "Democrazia Partecipativa") - World Social Forum [pdf]

Se si vuole affermare la faccia positiva della globalizzazione, quella delle opportunità, dei diritti di cittadinanza, delle solidarietà e delle responsabilità, il tema della democrazia partecipativa è fondamentale.

Saramago, José (2002) - From Justice to Democracy by Way of the Bells - World Social Forum [pdf]

And what of democracy, this age-old invention of a few ingenuous Athenians for whom, in the specific social and political circumstances of the time and according to the standard expression, meant government of the people, by the people and for the people? I often hear it argued by sincere people of proven good faith, along with others with an interest in feigning an appearance of goodness, that although the state of catastrophe most of the planet is in constitutes irrefutable proof, it is precisely within the framework of an overall democratic system that we will be most likely to attain human rights fully or at least satisfactorily.

Westendorff, David (2002) - From Unsustainable to Inclusive Cities - UNRISD & Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation [pdf]

The five core chapters of this volume are country/city case studies written from the perspective of urban development practitioners assisting in efforts to achieve dignified living and working conditions for some of the most vulnerable groups in large cities of the South. The authors were asked to reflect on actual content of sustainable development as practiced in their cities and how they personally would envision sustainable development for her/his city? What efforts, official and unofficial, are being made in the name of achieving sustainable development there? What are the shortcomings of the actors and institutions that are expected to partake in realizing this goal? What steps need to be taken to move forward? The remaining articles are by researchers who have worked closely with or studied efforts by the international community to influence urban development in developing countries.

Yash Ghai (2001) - Human Rights and Social Development: Toward Democratization and Social Justice - UNRISD [pdf]

This paper aims to assess progress toward the objectives of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development (referred to as "the Declaration") and Programme of Action by using a human rights strategy. The Declaration seeks to make human rights the framework for policies to achieve the goals of the World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen in 1995. This strategy assumes that the norms and machinery of human rights would inform decisions on development policies.



Habitat Agenda:
Paragraph 45

We further commit ourselves to the objectives of:

(a) Enabling local leadership, promoting democratic rule, exercising public authority and using public resources in all public institutions at all levels in a manner that is conducive to ensuring transparent, responsible, accountable, just, effective and efficient governance of towns, cities and metropolitan areas;


Documents highlighting DFID's published work in support of democracy and empowerment in urban areas:

"Community Decision-Making for Basic Services" (2001) - Implementing the Habitat Agenda: In Search of Urban Sustainability - DFID / DPU [pdf]

India - This initiative by the West Bengal Government set out to improve the environmental conditions of two suburban towns in Calcutta Metropolitan Area.
Infrastructure facilities have been extended to the slums to reduce environmental health hazards and make the city fabric more cohesive. With the decline of the local jute industry over the last two decades, the economic condition of Titagarh, a
town within Calcutta Metropolitan Area in India, is poor.

"Sustainable Initiative Penang" (2001) - Implementing the Habitat Agenda: In Search of Urban Sustainability - DFID / DPU [pdf]

Malaysia - The Sustainable Penang Initiative aims to incorporate popular consultation into a more holistic and sustainable type of development in the State of Penang, Malaysia. It is an example of a process that draws together many stakeholders to shape a common vision for the future of the community and to monitor achievements and progress over time.

2003 Development Planning Unit | Sikandar Hasan | Anna Soave | Khanh Tran-Thanh || Tina Simon