Jo Beall - Director, Development Studies Institute, LSE
Ursula Grant - Research Officer, ODI
Sunil Kumar - Development Studies Institute, LSE
Rob Muggah - Research Director, Small Arms Survey
Julio Davila - Development Planning Unit, UCL
Jo Beall - Director, Development Studies Institute
Ursula Grant - Research Officer, ODI
Jo Beall - Director, Development Studies Institute, LSE
David Satterthwaite - IIED
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
Carole Rakodi - University of Birmingham
Ursula Grant opened the session and explained that the event was developed as an extension of a shorter Development Studies Association (DSA) conference panel from the previous week. She identified a short set of themes around cities, urbanization, and global insecurity, to frame the day:
- Is there something specifically urban about what we are considering, or are these spill-over effects of events at a broader level?
- What happens in different urban context? I.e. violence (current or past, cities at war or non-conflict violence); economic (boom economies or slump) and political (role of cities in nation state building, functioning of the State in cities).
- Are we able to find new spaces to raise these issues?
Jo Beall provided feedback from the 4th World Urban Forum (WUF), which had occurred in Najing, China the prior week, and took a dominantly positive perspective on cities, under the theme of ‘Harmonious Cities’. The 4th WUF looked at inequality more broadly than in terms of income alone with dialogue around spatial harmony and harmonious communities. She reflected that there was a large presence of Slum Dwellers International at the event and that she was also very concerned about the limited presence of DFID.
Session 1: The politics of governing cities in an insecure world
Sue Parnell spoke to her paper titled “Locating Urban Politics in National Urban Policy Reform, in a Context of Political Change. South Africa’s Urban Development Framework” and posed the following:
1. How are cities dealt with, and more specifically who deals with them?
2. When is a crisis really over in urban areas, where environments are constantly changing?
3. The sheer scale and variety of the urban context makes it difficult for urban policy to get embedded into development thinking.
4. Differences exist in linking the urban economy to overall economic contexts.
Sue acknowledged that South Africa had made significant achievements in urban development, but argued that it was not enough. The National Spatial Development Perspective (NSDP) recognized spatial elements but failed to address the spatial drivers of settlement patterns. She argued for a strengthened analysis of city economics and economic uses, as well as the power dynamics affecting the poor and other users of cities. South African urban agendas were ‘stuck’ in the past. She concluded:
i. There was a problem in the way urban policy was articulated, mainly related to its disconnection from wider drivers of simultaneous changes, such as economic and demographic dynamics. The government needed to be porous and open to thinking about the urban agenda and who should shape it. At a wider level, there is a need for greater understanding of urban dynamics and a drive to constantly re-frame the thinking about cities.
ii. In South Africa, there needed to be a paradigm shift away from a continual focus on racial segregation and towards a post-apartheid focus on urban policy. There needed to be a greater recognition of the big urban debates whilst engaging with its cities.
ii. South African urban policies were based on out-dated understanding of city populations and their economic aspects.
Carole Rakodi presented the idea of social ordering and urban management in African cities and the conception that there is something chaotic about the African city, both historically and in how some people view them today. Presenting her paper “Is inclusive urban politics possible in insecure cities in an insecure world?” she suggested the following:
i. The perceived conception of disorder in African cities did not recognize the multiple mechanisms - both traditional and democratic, which have evolved in African cities today.
ii. The very discussion of disorder, both socio-political and spatial, implied that the people viewing the city have their own definition of what is order and what is disorder.
Carole suggested that attempts to create politically ordered African cities had led to struggles between local and central government with local elections being strongly determined by patron-client and along party lines. However, reverting back to traditional / indigenous forms was not an option as they were too individual, unhelpful to non-indigenous poor and often break down. She suggested that the solution might be to evolve hybrid systems that would recognize informal, traditional and democratic systems and would be open to alternative forms of social ordering.
Michael Hooper presented his research on “Motivating Grassroots Participation: Lessons from Slum Dweller Mobilization in Kurasini, Dar Es Salaam” and asked what motivates urban slum dwellers to participate in social movements, who participates and why. His hypothesis was that the payoffs for participation in social movements in a select community in Dar Es Salaam worked in favour of renters and therefore explained their higher participation in the costly processes of being involved social movements. Unexpectedly, he found that the vast majority of participants in the Tanzanian Federation of the Urban Poor, a group that steps out to participate against forced evictions, were owners and not renters. This drives the question of why are owners more likely to pursue payoffs. Two possible explanations are; (1) their connection to place and long term thinking about the community and / or (2) a belief in the efficacy of action.
These findings imply that payoffs and ownership are likely to be key in participation in urban governance. The connection to ownership can be seen as a ‘grappling point’ from which to begin looking at the dynamics of participation. Michael argues that these dynamics of participation are often misunderstood by policy makers and need to be addressed.
Jo Beall, acted as discussant. She asked Sue if cities were too important to be left to the National government and if their role was too much responsibility for the National party alone, suggesting a role for municipalities in inter-governmental coordination? In relation to politics and cities, Jo wondered if the fact that opposition parties have a strong powerbase in most primate African cities had influenced rural policy focus of the ruling parties? This idea suggests that we need to look at how voting basis impacts inter-governmental relations and therefore urban policy at the national level.
Sue responded by asking how we introduce and balance the idea of state governance and regulation while expanding traditional urban debates? Part of this required understanding who the city is for, linked to voting patterns and their effects on policy. Where the state was poorly formed, was is also the case that state elites had opportunity to extend their powers into spaces, such as urban development, that are yet un-occupied by formal governance structures?
To Carole’s presentation, Jo asked if it is really a dichotomy between order and chaos? Or if it was more of a disjuncture between concepts of order and disorder when there is a breakdown in state delivery? And also what are the conditions under which hybrid governments can function? Carole commented that it is difficult to determine what conditions are needed for hybrid governance institutions to function there is not enough known about them to go beyond very generalized discussions. Sue commented that we do not directly talk about tradition as it operates in the urban context in African cities. We should be looking to understand what is traditional about urban life in Africa? Carole responded that:
a) The neglect of urban politic and power relations in discussion of African urban development, suggested that there has been a general avoidance of how traditional power relations shape the path of urban development
b) Globally dominant ideas of a ‘good city’ had become so internalized that they were not assessed in terms of how they could be used or adapted in different contexts.
c) Urban policy needed to be looked at from a wider lens than housing, with housing being just one of many interlinking aspects of the urban context and there needed to be some form of electoral democracy. Self-electoral democracy on its own would not be enough and there would be a need to critically analyze what was going on in the urban context, for example ‘partnerships.’ This would require thinking of alternative forms of stake holder democracy and voice.
Points raised in the open discussion included:
The question of livelihoods and the use of cities. Urban policy has been heavily focused on land and housing and now needed to broaden its traditional understanding of the urban debate.
The perception of cities within international policy debates and donors agenda. The ‘individual rights based agenda’ of the international community creates cities based on the ideological conclusion of the MDGs and other international development targets. Sue argued that it was time to move on from the fixation on tenure within urban development debates. Tenure is just one of many aspects of city governance. New thinking could include, for example, the idea of a ‘social package’ instead of just tenure.
Were payoffs more complicated in some senses than owner-tenant relationships? And might the idea of social movements and incentive gains, recognize that gains may be reduced to certain groups aiming to secure benefits for them selves? Michael responded that the Dar Es Salaam case showed poor owners were more likely to participate and that the idea that social movements can be organized to secure benefits for certain groups created a challenge for policy and the idea of private pay-offs. It was noted that households must make decisions about payoffs when they are often unsure when the payoff will occur or how much it will be.
The lack of understanding about African cities - the scale of growth or rates of economic, demographic and political change. This implies there is a need for greater information and for innovative approaches to getting this information. But, do we have enough capacity to use the information we have, which suggested we don’t embrace information on urban dynamics enough.
The current discussion is very similar to discussions held by the U.K and EU around the appropriate government structures for managing the drivers of urban change. The same debates about order and disorder presented by Carole were being discussed in the UK about two hundred years ago- the point being that discussion of the urban continuously raise the same issues.
Session 2: Environmental insecurity in cities
Key points from David Satterthwaite’s presentation “What do we know about cities and climate change and what should we know?” included:
(1) There are large and increasing risks from climate change to urban populations.
(2) Regardless of any efforts in adapting to climate change, there is a need for large-scale greenhouse gas emission reductions.
(3) That the groups most vulnerable to climate change are not the same one’s driving it.
(4) Challenges in both the capacity to act and incentives for action to reduce vulnerabilities
David pointed out that adaptation policy often makes claims about improving infrastructures, to make them more disaster resistant. He argued that this was an irrelevant policy as one cannot adapt infrastructure that is not present in low-income urban communities in the first place. There was also a need for working local governance that responds to the needs of low-income communities for adaptation policies to be effective. For these reasons, he argued that international funding for adaptation, in the absence of infrastructure and good governance, was of no use.
He also asked whether the discussion of mitigation was relevant. Yes, but in countries with already minimal emissions outputs, the focus would need to be more on adaptation with the flip side being that in countries such as the U.S and Western European countries where the emission outputs are a huge proportion of the global totals, efforts should focus instead of mitigation with the reduction of emissions.
In conclusion, he asked “what about cities who don’t have the capacity to adapt?”. In these situations the international community must work harder to understand the holistic linkages across climate change and urban risks, and argued that the risks from climate change cannot be separated from other environmental concerns, such as water and sanitation or health.
BarbarKabir as discussant focused on environmental risks in Bangladesh, a country vulnerable to environmental disasters. He cited a recent finding that around 2050 at current global greenhouse gas emissions17-18% of the current landmass of the country will be inundated by the sea. What does this mean for the urban population? He concluded there would be a rise in internally displaced people as rural residents move toward the urban centres in the more central areas of the country.
He went on to explain that adaptation in Bangladesh had been mainly looked at from a rural perspective and therefore World Bank and other urban infrastructure projects had not taken into account the risks they create for the urban environment. The attitude seemed to be “build now and adapt to urban climate change vulnerability later”. He argued that the city and local municipalities needed more access and revenue to create a space for and act on adaptation. One of his core concerns was the tying of adaptation efforts only to post-disaster recovery and development aid. Adaptation should be occurring simultaneously with its own funding and separate objectives. The other core concern was that already the environmental consequences of climate change, such as flooding, have begun to reverse significant reductions in poverty across the country and is likely to continue to do so as Bangladesh faced more environmental disasters in the coming years.
Points raised in the open discussion included:
a) The politics of climate change in urban areas and the question of demands or incentives among low-income groups to adapt to the risks of climate change. David suggested that this question should be rephrased to look at the demand for investments in resilience. He also said that low-income groups often have very clear ideas of what they want and that they often add new possibilities to adaptation technologies.
b) The issue that abandoned mitigation agendas for lower income countries might excuse or justify the lifestyles of the upper middle classes and elites in developing countries and further add to climate change risks. David responded by saying ‘the best adaptation is mitigation’ but that now because of previous failures to mitigate we must adapt. He recommended that high-income countries should approach climate change risks through a mitigation lens while low-income countries should approach it from an adaptation lens. At the same time David argued that mega-cities cannot be divided into low-income or high-income groups and that everyone will need to combine mitigation and adaptation techniques. Barbar discussed the issue of carbon credits and escaping mitigation. He brought up the debate about why low income countries as well as Brazil, Russia, India and China should agree to reduce emissions when the now developed worlds has clearly got where they are now with even greater emissions.
c) There was a concern that it often seems that the development approach to mitigation more often occurs on the disaster recovery side, rather than as a preventive measure. David agreed and mentioned that previously the role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has had to focus on convincing governments of the threat of climate change and the need to act. Now though next round of the IPCC is focused on what governments must do to prepare.
Session 3: What are the implications of the security-development nexus for cities?
Deborah Fahy Bryceson explored findings on the evolution of Swahili culture in Mogadishu and Dar es Salaam in her paper “Serenity and Strife in Urban Swahili East Africa: Contrasting Creole Histories of Mogadishu and Dar es Salaam” with the aim of explaining their different trajectories in terms of urban centred violence and conflict. Her research stemmed from trying to understand the social history of urban economic and social change through a focus on two cities with similar urban Creole backgrounds.
Her findings indicated main differences between the present day Mogadishu, which is an on-going state of conflict between Islamic terrorism and clan war lordism, and Dar es Salam, which is still a strongly Creole society. In Mogadishu, the city’s location has been key to the current contestation between warlords, religions, international intervening powers and other groups - a situation which is not new for the city. In Dar es Salam, questions of serenity and strife linked to the relationship between capital city and nation-state building and to the role of ethnicity in urban politics, rather than warlordism. In Mogadishu there has been a fusion of groups, while in Dar es Salam there has been more cohesion, leaving Mogadishu in more of a fight between city and nation-state.
Polly Wilding presented a framework for looking at gender and urban violence she developed in Brazil and discussed its potential application to urban violence in the UK. Her paper was titled “Overshadowing Gender in the Debate on Urban Violence: Comparative Notes on Brazil and the UK)”. Her framework drew on the distinction between private gender violence and public gender violence and suggested that urban violence often focused on the public dimensions of violence through the police, media, urban institutions. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Polly found a systemic neglect of gender based violence. Polly concluded that acknowledgement of the role of girls and women in analysis of urban violence may change notions of masculinity in violence, it may also be necessary to broaden our understanding of violence.
Nasser Yassin’s presentation “The Thorny Road to Sustainable Peace: the mutation of violence in post-conflict cities”addressed the difficultly in differentiating between war and peace in post conflict cities, whereby the move from conflict to peace is not linear but ‘zig-zags’ from conflict to violence and mutates into new forms. He argued that this mutation of violence allowed for a continuation of violence from periods of war to post-war. In these post-conflict phases, violence changes as previously well identified groups from the conflict change into more fluid groups, such as gangs.
Nasser outlined a typology for urban post-conflict violence:
1. Cities as targeted because of their position offering maximum impact through fear and security
2. Social and economic aspects of the city- i.e. post conflict institutions are weak and limited in their capacity to control violence
3. Violence as communal and continuing through competition between gangs
Nasser’s research begun to address what is specific about violence in cities in comparison to other violent processes? Scale is one of the most obvious responses to this. In conclusion he highlighted four myths of current interventions in post-conflict cities:
i. States make peace and cities are marginal. Generally cities are ignored while states are considered vital to nation building. Nasser argued that cities need to be seen as more central in these peace building projects.
ii. The commitment to markets with super scale projects. He argued that a focus on market reconstruction does not equate with creating peace.
iii. A focus on wall and physical borders when in reality it is often non-physical boundaries that define conflict in cities.
iv. The assumption that fractured communities will self-heal. Nasser highlighted Lebanon as one of many key example where this assumption has failed to hold in post-conflict society.
As discussant, Robert Muggah, reviewed the emergence of the securitization agenda, which connects development and security in post-conflict contexts. He argued that this agenda was central to neo-liberal forms power and governance and raised these practical issues:
1. The assumption that security is an essential step toward development
2. Merging consensus that under-development is dangerous. This has led to a belief that development can be applied instrumentally without recognition of historical context or norms.
He saw these papers presented as deepening the agenda in two main ways; first, through further exploring definitions of violence and second, through the discussion of spatial elements of violence. All the papers, he argued, struggled to define violence. Nasser’s paper on the mutation of violence, for example, offered a good challenge to thinking on the post-conflict environment but needed to unpack the urban violence typology a bit further. Literature and social science in general had not yet created a set of definitions of violence, but it was at least hopeful that this and other new research that was coming out would begin to unpack the definition of violence through examination of different variables involved in violence.
Each of these papers also looked into spatial classifications of where violence occurred and who perpetrated it. For example, Polly’s polarization of visible violence as public and invisible violence as private had geo-spatial implications for urban violence. In response to Rob’s comment, Polly elaborated on the definition of violence by explaining that her binary definition as public or private was based on how urban residents themselves view violence. By using the simple binary framework she hopes to highlight the complexity of the topic.
Rob also commented that Nasser’s paper also drew on violence that was spatially particular to cities, more so than to violence in war itself. Rob suggests that Nasser’s paper did not address the embedded characteristics of cities in the spatial dynamics that shape violence enough. Deborah’s paper most clearly presented these spatial elements through discussion of two geographically segmented populations and a look at the boundaries which included or excluded certain populations.
Points raised by the participants in the open discussion included:
The particular indications of the difference in violence of women between Brazil and the U.K. Polly responded by describing the role of women in gangs as either direct or through sexual relations with other male member of the gang, such as girlfriends. Most of the girls / women in Brazil who influence urban violence do so through the second method, through sexual relations with gang members whereas in UK there was a higher rate of direct involvement with the prominence of girl and mixed gangs.
Session 4: Functioning urban markets in contexts of economic insecurity
Topher McDougal presented his paper titled “Production firms in civil war: the case of Liberia”and began by considering why production in conflict is an important question. Conflict economists tend to frame this issue in terms of Pareto efficiency. Cities normally hold great concentration of economic activity, with economies of scale, and power holders during conflict have to make decisions of whether to loot or to tax (i.e. decision of Liberian fighters as they neared Monrovia) – to become stewards of economic growth?
In long-term war and conflict Topher reminded us that insecurity becomes the new status quo, challenging firms to adapt. Topher’s research illustrated how people continue to function economically rationally during war. Ignoring any economic adaptations or dispersions created to minimise predation during conflict in post-conflict economies (e.g. restarting mines, reopening ports) can be problematic. Cities are subject to increasing returns to scale, especially due to knowledge spillovers, and if war disperses economic activity it can start to look like a causal factor in the conflict trap. If a city is vibrant, jumpstarting the post-conflict economy may be easier – but it may actually be that a vibrant city is sucking resources from countryside and sowing seeds for conflict.
Samuel Boakye’s paper“Sustaining urban farming: Explaining why farmers make investment in the absence of secure tenure with new evidence from Ghana” asked the question “how has urban agriculture evolved”, and Samuel examined debates around security of tenure and urban agriculture (UA). He found that there has been an evolution from community to statutory land holdings, and that urban Agricultural had evolved from purely subsistence to market gardening, taking up every small space of land. Informal land access for farming, even when regime was formalised, included ‘end of service benefits’, inheritance etc.
His research discovered that among both farmers with leases to their land as well as those without, 40% of households invested in land – this was determined by prevailing the economic environment and profit maximisation, with tenure playing little or no role.
Denis Hellebrandt’s research, titled “Urbanisation, global markets and illegality – a case study of small-scale fisheries in Southern Brazil” asked how the fisher folkin Southern Brazil built social networks to gain, maintain and control access to resources. And, more specifically, how did this ‘command’ over resources translate to secure livelihoods?
The results of Denis’s research highlighted the stages of the process, from permission to fish, to fishing, storing and selling the fish – both informal and formal mechanisms, and the specific beneficiaries at each stage. From this, Denis created a flow diagram of the relationships between different traders and then was able to map the links to national and global markets, mainly via factories, which has huge effects on community economy.
Julio Davila as discussant, identified some of the key themes across the divergent set of papers presented. These were:
§ The definition of insecurity – Denis discussed the overexploitation of resources and issues of long-term sustainability. Samuel focused on tenure, but also jobs and income generation; and Topher’s examined violence and war.
§ The different scales of the studies – All the studies were locally focused but with clear regional, national and international (e.g. US from Rio Grande) linkages
§ Production and income generation: how people as producers adapt to change? (Adaptation as a feature of insecurity).
§ Denis’ paper identified the environmental sustainability of long-term change; 1,500 migrants who continue to fish rather than take on other jobs
§ Topher’s paper provided an understanding of policy dimensions – e.g. aid went to restoring basic infrastructure; producers rarely focused on; where are external agents in this paper?
§ Regulation and relations to the state. Denis examined formal regulations and barriers that should be avoided. Samuel was asked about gender implications of land leases in Tema, as commercial systems tended to exclude women; state ‘better’ in this paper as there are clear rules.
The following issues were raised during the open discussion:
“Stop & go” production: did different types of conflict affect different processes of changes? Topher responded that he couldn’t not generalize to conflicts outside Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, but that when the Monrovia port was taken over there was a switch to an Import Substitution (IS) model in which production mimicked import tariffs. He explained that larger political contexts are largely ignored in this paper, partly in order to build generalization-ability rather than idiosyncratic Liberia case.
With reference to the fishing communities in Brazil, was there any evidence that women were further along in the value chain which meant that they benefited more? Denis responded that although they add value, they don’t necessarily garner that value more or less than the men. He also mentioned the complexity of women’s use of time in the Rio Grande ‘fisherfolk’ household and that although people moved to Rio Grande from more rural areas to focus on the fisheries that they also have very diverse livelihood strategies, complementing fishing with other activities such as construction for the men and domestic servant for the women.
How does the debate around what determines security of tenure for urban agriculture affect investment in different infrastructure? A suggestion was made that Samuel measure and compare the span of security of tenure and investment – for example was a focus on investments necessary to get enough cash crop within period of tenure?
Final wrap up
To conclude the event, the organisers reflected on the objectives for the day. They reasserted the overall importance of topic itself and reflected that the event’s popularity was testament to this. Additionally, the day aimed:
(1) To reinvigorate DSA urban policy studies group and ODI interest as well as to welcome Ursula Grant’s take over of the urban studies group of DSA with Sunil Kumar.
(2) To determine where to next. The objective of DSA is to support publications of such rich papers and that there might be a possible book series or a special journal issue
(3) To begin a brainstorm among participants on the key themes from this ‘Cities and Insecurities’ topic and to think about the future of the urban studies group. Participants were asked to email any ideas to one of the sessions convenors.
Some of the most intractable and enduring challenges of development are concerned with reducing insecurity. Early and very current development debates have been concerned with issues of food security.
Ensuring sustainable economic development and livelihoods in the context of volatile global markets is another enduring preoccupation of development, as are efforts to guarantee social security or protection. Concern about the relationship between national and human security has been at the centre of recent development debates.
All these aspects of security have particular implications for and manifestations in cities. Urban economies and livelihoods are inextricably tied into or bypassed by global economic forces. The food riots sparking off in cities around the world are testimony to the fact that urban food security is a critical issue for developing countries. And increasingly modern warfare is impacting on cities directly through contemporary combat or indirectly through displacement of people from conflict zones in the countryside.
These insecurities now accompany more familiar dimensions of urban vulnerability such as irregular or inadequate access to urban services such as water and sanitation and poor environmental conditions, resulting in health insecurities; vulnerability to violence and fear of violence as cities become increasingly subject to violent crime and rule by gangs and mafias; and other forms of physical insecurity related to natural and man made disasters, including climate change and extreme weather conditions to which cities and their vast populations are particularly vulnerable, especially in the absence of strong and effective urban governance.
Ursula Grant and Jo Beall
What are the implications of the security-development nexus for cities?
Jo Beall (Director, Development Studies Institute, LSE)
Overshadowing Gender in the Debate on Urban Violence: Comparative Notes on Brazil and the UK (Polly Wilding)
The Thorny Road to Sustainable Peace: the mutation of violence in post-conflict cities (Nasser Yassin) Serenity and Strife in Urban Swahili East Africa: Contrasting Creole Histories of Mogadishu and Dar es Salaam (Deborah Fahy Bryceson)
Rob Muggah, (Research Director, Small Arms Survey)
Environmental insecurity in cities
What do we know about cities and climate change and what should we know? (David Satterthwaite, IIED)
What are the challenges of an insecure world for urban health and urban environments?
Functioning urban markets in contexts of economic insecurity
Ursula Grant (Overseas Development Institute)
Urbanisation, global markets and illegality – a case study of small-scale fisheries in Southern Brazil (by Denis Hellebrandt)
Sustaining urban farming: Explaining why farmers make investment in the absence of secure tenure with new evidence from Ghana (Samuel Boakye) Production firms in civil war: the case of Liberia (Topher McDougal)
Julio Davila (Development Planning Unit, UCL)
The politics of governing cities in an insecure world
Sunil Kumar (Development Studies Institute, LSE)
Motivating Grassroots Participation: Lessons from Slum Dweller Mobilization in Kurasini, Dar Es Salaam (Michael Hooper)
Are city governments up to the task of addressing multiple and intersecting insecurities and them in this? Have decentralisation policies helped or hindered in this?
Is inclusive urban politics possible in insecure cities in an insecure world? (Carole Rakodi, University of Birmingham)
- Discussant: Jo Beall (LSE)
Final wrap up
Ursula Grant/Jo Beall