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close this bookHabitat Debate - Vol. 6 - No. 4 - 2000 - Urbanization of Poverty (HABITAT - UNDESA, 2000, 52 p.)
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United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)

Opinions expressed in signed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views and policies of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat). All material in this journal may be freely quoted or reprinted, provided the authors and Habitat Debate are credited

Rasna Warah

Felicity Yost

Editorial Assistant
Martha Waiyaki

Editorial Policy Board
Daniel Biau (Chair)
Nefise Bazoglu
William Cobbett
Jochen Eigen
Axumite Gebre-Egziabher
Diana Lee-Smith
Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza
Paul Taylor
Rolf Wichmann

Regional Advisory Board
Alioune Badiane (Africa and the Arab States)
Lars Ludvigsen (Europe)
Roberto Ottolenghi (Latin America and the Caribbean)
Disa Weerapana (Asia and the Pacific)

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Message from the Executive Director


Half a century ago, less than 30 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Two decades from now, in 2020, 57 per cent of the world’s population will be urban. An increasing share of this population will live in urban areas of developing countries. Currently, nearly two-thirds of the world’s urban population is from the developing world. By 2020, three-quarters of the world’s urban dwellers will live in cities and towns of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

UNCHS (Habitat) estimates that the total number of urban poor in developing countries has reached one billion, if the definition of poverty incorporates not only income levels, but people’s lack of access to decent shelter, basic services and infrastructure.

Since the Habitat II Conference in 1996, the international community has made a significant effort to address the issue of urban poverty. But, as many articles in this issue of Habitat Debate suggest, these efforts are clearly not enough. Often, they are not even an integral part of the policies and strategies of international donor agencies and governments.

This is unfortunate as national and local governments in developing countries not only lack the financial capacity to deal with their rapidly urbanizing populations, they are also marginalized from global processes that exclude them from global markets and trade.

UNCHS (Habitat) is no exception to the rule and, like many other multilateral agencies, struggles to contend with obstacles that impede its efforts to reduce poverty. The Centre has recently attempted to address such limitations by launching Global Campaigns for Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance. Furthermore, it has established a partnership with the World Bank and donor agencies, known as the Cities Alliance, in an effort to improve the impact of international development cooperation in the area of urban poverty reduction.

At the national level, there is growing evidence that governments are beginning to tackle the issue of poverty seriously through the formulation and implementation of participatory and consensual poverty reduction strategies. High level government commitment to urban poverty eradication was also demonstrated at the recent Millennium Summit where Heads of State and Government endorsed the goal of improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

There is now an emerging international consensus that good governance is a crucial pre-requisite for poverty eradication. Good urban governance implies that city governments respond to and are accountable to all urban residents, including the poor. It implies inclusive and participatory approaches in which each group and stakeholder has adequate representation. It means empowering the poor and recognizing their right to the city. It means ensuring that everyone - especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged - has access to basic services, such as potable water, sanitation and affordable transportation. It means recognizing that urban poverty is not inevitable.

This issue of Habitat Debate provides a global overview of urban poverty and proposes solutions to what UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, calls "an affront to our common humanity". A common thread linking all the articles is the idea that the poor must have a voice and a choice in decisions that affect their lives. Poverty elimination starts with listening to the poor, fostering their initiatives and giving them a chance. Unless this is done, poverty reduction efforts will continue to remain illusory.

Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka
Executive Director
UNCHS (Habitat)

Urbanization of Poverty

by Dinesh Mehta

The rapid growth of the global urban population is one of the most striking features of the demographic shift taking place in the world. Only 233 million people lived in cities in 1900 (14 per cent of the world’s population). By 1950, 30 per cent of the world was urbanized; in 1980, the figure was up to 39 per cent and by 2001, it is estimated that 47.5 per cent of the world's population lives in urban areas.

This dramatic growth is unprecedented in human history. The level of urbanization will rise to 56.7 per cent within the next two decades, with all of the urban growth in developing countries. Numerically, this represents an increase of 1.5 billion people between 2000 and 2025.1 Another distinctive feature is that most of the urban growth will be a result of natural population increase and the structural transformation of formerly rural areas on the periphery of urban areas. Less than half of this urban growth will be a result of rural-to-urban migration.

Just as the world is becoming increasingly urban, there is also an increase in the number of urban poor. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s 1999 Human Development Report demonstrates that despite the significant advances in human development in previous decades, extreme poverty persists. In developing countries there are still 60 percent more illiterate women than men. An estimated 1.3 billion people live on incomes of less than $1 per day.2 In his "Millennium Report," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared that "extreme poverty is an affront to our common humanity," and called on the international community, "to adopt the target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty... by 2015."3

A number of recent inter-governmental meetings related to reviewing progress on commitments made at major UN conferences, including the preparatory process of Istanbul+5, have identified a range of concerns about the present urban context. Some of these are:

· The worsening of access to shelter and security of tenure, resulting in severe over-crowding, homelessness and environmental health problems;

· Large and growing backlogs in delivery of basic service to urban residents as demand outstrips institutional capacity, financial resources and environmental carrying capacity;

· Increasing inequality in cities, manifested in stark residential segregation, increasing violence impacting disproportionately on women, the poor, and more generally intensifying poverty; and

· Lopsided economic growth displayed in the simultaneous evolution of high-end investments to attract foreign investment and an expanding informal economy with poor labour conditions.

More poor people are now in urban areas than ever before. The process of urbanization, though stimulated by economic development, has also led to sharp divisions in growth between cities and among social groups. It is estimated that nearly one billion urban residents in the cities of the developing world are poor, and the next decade will witness increased urbanization of poverty if current trends continue.

Globalization, a dominant force in the 20th century’s last decade, is shaping a new era of economic growth of nations. It was anticipated that with high rates of economic growth, the incidence of poverty would reduce. But this has not happened. The global economy has also fragmented production processes, labour markets, political entities and societies. So, while globalization has positive, innovative, dynamic aspects - it also has negative, disruptive and marginalizing aspects.

A critical feature of globalization is new lines and forms of stratification between places, people and groups. In particular, it is manifested in much greater income inequalities. In all the regions, where the absolute number of poor has increased, a majority of them are in urban areas that have been the key drivers of the global economy. As the East Asian crisis demonstrated, the urban poor are the worst affected group when there is sudden decline in economic growth. The urban poor, unlike the rural poor, are the most vulnerable group because most national governments in developing countries do not provide any social safety nets for them.

Recognizing that traditional strategies to foster growth - macroeconomic stability and market friendly reforms - are necessary for achieving higher rates of economic growth, but not sufficient to impact on poverty levels, a more comprehensive development strategy is now advocated by the multilateral agencies. In its recent World Development Report 2000/2001, the World Bank recommends a three-pronged approach to poverty reduction - promoting opportunity, facilitating empowerment, and enhancing security.4 UNCHS (Habitat), through its global campaigns on secure tenure and urban governance also advocates more direct action for reduction of urban poverty.

Responding to poverty at the local level

The challenge for urban local governments is to provide sustainable livelihoods, safe and secure living environments and a better quality of life for the urban poor. There is an emerging international consensus that good governance is a crucial pre-requisite for poverty eradication.5 The Commission on Human Settlements, at its seventeenth session, identified increased urban poverty as a key challenge for sustainable urban development and stressed the importance of good urban governance. The 1999 Commonwealth "Durban Communiqustressed the importance of good governance. UNDP’s 2000 Poverty Report calls good national governance the "missing link" between anti-poverty efforts and poverty reduction. The report goes on to declare that programmes to reduce poverty often "by-pass and ignore" local government, hampering their effectiveness.6 The report also cites an important lesson learned by the UN Capital Development Fund: "institutional strengthening of local government would take longer than conventional targeted schemes to benefit the poor - but the eventual benefits would outweigh the costs."7

Improved urban governance implies that city governments will have to become responsive and accountable to the poor, and adopt an inclusionary and participatory approach in which the poor have adequate representation and voice. Empowering the poor implies recognizing the rights of the poor to live in the city, ensuring secure tenure and access to basic services, strengthening their participation in local decision making, and removing social barriers that result from discrimination due to gender, race, religion and social status. Urban local governments will also need to ensure that the vulnerability of the poor to ill health, economic shocks, natural disasters, and violence is reduced and support the coping mechanisms that the poor have evolved to minimize such risks.

Strategic Planning for Poverty Reduction at Local Level

Labour markets

· Support for small and micro enterprises
· Increased access to employment
· Facilitating "informal" enterprises - street hawkers, small manufacturing etc.
· Support to home based activities
· Safety nets

Land, housing and urban services

· Tenure security and property rights
· Flexible and relevant regulations regarding land and shelter development
· Easy procedures and permits

Financial markets

· Increase access to credit and saving schemes
· Linkages between the formal and informal finance institutions

Public finance

· Cost recovery and targeted subsidies
· Pro-poor participatory budgeting

Urban governance & capacity building

· Accountability and responsiveness to the public
· Anticorruption policies and practices
· Capacity building of local governments, community organizations, and NGOs

Adapted from: Deniz Baharoglu and Christine Kessides, 'Urban Poverty' in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers - A Sourcebook, (Draft), World Bank, September 2000

The decentralization process has been initiated in many developing countries. In these early stages of decentralization, the balance of power and distribution of functions between national/provincial and local governments is still evolving. Historically, poverty reduction has been the domain of national government, but this responsibility is being increasingly devolved to the local government. Urban local governments are often expected to ensure that a minimum level of basic services is available to all residents, particularly the urban poor.

In more specific terms, local governments, like national governments, need to prepare pro-poor urban development strategies and action plans. This is best done through a consultative process involving the poor. The focus of such strategies should be on policies and actions that have a direct impact on improving the living standards of the poor. Many cities around the world have successfully demonstrated this approach. These cities' experiences are well documented in the best practices databases and the documents of the Urban Management Programme (UMP), Sustainable Cities Programme (SCP), LIFE and other initiatives of the UN system. These experiences also demonstrate that it is possible to meet international poverty reduction goals at the local level.

With increasing urbanization of poverty, the action space for poverty reduction will need to be in urban areas. The urban poor have tried to cope, against all odds, to survive, build their own shelter, and earn a livelihood. They are an integral part of the urban economy and a partner in its development. The experiences of participatory pro-poor urban strategies evolved through contributions from all the stakeholders in a city demonstrate that positive institutional responses at local level do contribute to a significant reduction in poverty. As more cities around the world adopt such approaches, it will become possible to meet the international goal of reducing poverty by half in 2015.

Dinesh Mehta is Co-ordinator of the UNDP/UNCHS (Habitat) Urban Management Programme.


1 UNCHS (Habitat). 1999. ‘State of the World’s Cities.’ Nairobi. Available at:;

2 1987 purchasing-power-parity; See UNDP 1999 Human Development Report 1999, pages 25 and 28.

3 "We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century," paragraphs 70 and 73.

4 World Development Report 2000/2001- Attacking Poverty, September 2000

5 In addition to the examples that follow, see UNDP’s 1999 Human Development Report, the World Bank's 1999/2000 World Development Report and UNEP’s GEO 2000 report.

6 UNDP 2000 Poverty Report. See chapters 5 and 6 and the "Main Messages".

7 UNDP 2000 Poverty Report, p. 64.

Some Basic Poverty Definitions

Income Poverty

Extreme poverty: Lack of income necessary to satisfy basic food needs - usually defined on the basis of minimum calorie requirements. (Often called absolute poverty.)

Overall poverty: Lack of income necessary to satisfy essential non-food needs - such as for clothing, energy and shelter - as well as food needs. (Often called relative poverty.)

Human Poverty

Lack of basic human capabilities: Illiteracy, malnutrition, abbreviated life span, poor maternal health, illness from preventable diseases.

Indirect measures are lack of access to goods, services and infrastructure - energy, sanitation, education, communication, drinking water - necessary to sustain basic human capabilities.

The Multidimensional Nature of Poverty

One of the major deficiencies in the concept of "income poverty" is its inability to capture the severity of living conditions in many countries. The link between income level and the level of deprivation is often weak, as many with incomes above the poverty line suffer from serious deprivation and some below the poverty line do not.

In 1997, UNDP's Human Development Report introduced the concept of human poverty. It argued that if income is not the sum total of well-being, lack of income cannot be the sum total of poverty.

Human poverty does not focus on what people do or do not have, but on what they can or cannot do. It is deprivation in the most essential capabilities of life, including leading a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable, having adequate economic provisioning and participating fully in the life of the community.

As an alternative to income poverty measures, Human Development Report 1997 created the human poverty index. For developing countries it captures three dimensions:

· Deprivation in a long and healthy life, as measured by the percentage of people not expected to survive to age 40.

· Deprivation in knowledge, as measured by adult illiteracy.

· Deprivation in economic provisioning, from private and public income, as measured by the percentage of people lacking access to health services, the percentage of people lacking access to safe water and the percentage of children under five who are moderately or severely underweight.

UNCHS (Habitat)'s Global Report on Human Settlements 1996 uses the concept of "housing poverty" i.e. "the individuals and households who lack safe, secure and healthy shelter with basic infrastructure such as piped water and adequate provision for sanitation, drainage and the removal of household wastes."

Attempts have been made to estimate the number of urban poor based on such a wider definition of poverty. The result is striking. In 1990, it was estimated that "some 600 million urban residents in developing countries live in 'life-and-health threatening homes' and neighbourhoods because of the very poor housing and living conditions and the lack of adequate provision for safe, sufficient water supplies and provision for sanitation, drainage, the removal of garbage and health care." If we take an optimistic approach, and assume that the situation has since stabilised, i.e. that the incidence of such living conditions has remained the same (43 per cent), this would imply that some 835 million urban dwellers in developing countries are currently living in poverty. If, however, a more realistic approach is adopted - assuming that only a third of the urban population growth is catered for in terms of shelter provision - the number of urban poor in developing countries may well have reached 950 million by the year 2000 (i.e. 49 per cent of the urban population). If industrial countries are included in this estimate, the total number of urban poor is currently 1.1 billion.

The World Bank's World Development Report 2000/2001 broadens the notion of poverty to include vulnerability and exposure to risk - and voicelessness and powerlessness. All these forms of deprivation severely restrict what Nobel Peace Prize winner Amartya Sen calls the "capabilities that a person has, that is, the substantive freedoms he or she enjoys to lead the kind of life he or she values".

However, the multidimensional nature of poverty raises the question of how to measure overall poverty and how to compare achievements in the different dimensions.

One approach, says the Report, is to define a multidimensional welfare function or a composite index. An alternative is to define as poor anybody who is poor in any one of the dimensions - without attempting to estimate tradeoffs among the dimensions - or anybody who is poor in all dimensions, and to define the intensity of poverty accordingly.


A quarter of the world's population, 1.3 billion people, live in severe poverty...

· Nearly 800 million people do not get enough food, and about 500 million people are chronically malnourished. More than a third of children are malnourished.

· In industrial countries more than 100 million people live below the poverty line, more than 5 million people are homeless and 37 million are jobless.

· Of the world's 23 million people living with HIV/AIDS more than 93% live in developing countries.

· More than 840 million adults are illiterate - 538 million of them are women.

· In developing countries 160 million pre-school children are underweight.

· 1.2 billion people live without access to safe drinking water.

Today's society has the resources to eradicate poverty...

· The net wealth of the 10 richest billionaires is $133 billion, more than 1.5 times the total national income of the least developed countries.

· The cost of eradicating poverty is 1% of global income.

· Effective debt relief to the 20 poorest countries would cost $5.5 billion - equivalent to the cost of building EuroDisney.

· Providing universal access to basic social services and transfers to alleviate income poverty would cost $80 billion, less than the net worth of the seven richest men in the world.

· Six countries can spend $700 million in nine days on dog and cat food.

· Today's world spends $92 billion on junk food, $66 billion on cosmetics and nearly $800 billion in 1995 for defence expenditure.

Extreme poverty can be banished from the globe in the early part of the 21st Century

· The proportion of human kind living in poverty has fallen faster in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years.

· Since 1960 child death rates in developing countries have more than halved, malnutrition rates have declined by almost a third, the proportion of children out of primary school has fallen from more than half to less than a quarter.

· Over the past three decades the population in developing countries with access to safe water almost doubled - from 36 per cent to nearly 70 per cent.

· The extension of basic immunisation over the past two decades has saved the lives of three million children.

· In 1960-93 average life expectancy increased by more than a third in developing countries.

Poverty is no longer inevitable and should thus no longer be tolerated.

Source: UNDP (1999)

Donor Agencies' Urban Agenda

by Isabelle Milbert

The Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) Conference, held in Istanbul in 1996, obliged a number of international development cooperation agencies to take a stand vis-is the growing urban population and the challenges it poses to sustainable urban development. Many countries set new frameworks for their strategies and formulated priorities in the year preceding the Conference, and have been working on issues related to urban poverty since then.

A variety of urban priorities

A relatively small number of bilateral and multi-lateral donor agencies had begun to work on projects in the urban sector as early as the 1950s and 1960s. They addressed issues such as housing, urban planning, transport and infrastructure. These projects were underlined by the belief that the informal sector components within cities had to be destroyed and replaced with more standard and formal types of buildings and infrastructure. Optimism prevailed among specialists who were convinced that poverty, slums and insufficient infrastructure were only a transitional problem, which could be resolved through investment. Examples include work undertaken by France in Western Africa, by the United Kingdom and Belgium in Central and Eastern Africa, by the United States mainly in Latin America and the Middle East, and by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in various regions.

The 1976 Vancouver Conference played an important role in changing attitudes with respect to human settlements and urban development. Urban intervention became more diversified in the 1970s, when a distinction emerged between those agencies that explicitly placed urban affairs at the top of their agenda and drew up specific policy area documents, and those that merely expanded their activities in urban settings, responding on a case-by-case basis to requests from developing countries. The most well-known strategy is, of course, the integrated urban development strategy, widely used by the World Bank and the IDB since the 1970s, which exerted a strong influence on bilateral (e.g. UK, France) and multilateral donors (e.g. Asian Development Bank) during the 1980s.

Some agencies have worked in the urban sector by contributing substantially to the economic development of individual towns and cities, without ever developing a genuinely "urban" policy. In the case of Japan, Sweden and Finland, projects have been primarily oriented towards a technical area such as in infrastructure (ports, airports, roads, bridges). Although a large number of projects have already been carried out in this sector since the 1970s, those concerning the supply of drinking water and the urban environment have once again become a priority in recent years.

Another group of agencies has built up its work around the promotion of regional development. For instance, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have focused on the need to develop market (or medium-sized) towns during the implementation of rural development projects, particularly when guided by a regional, land-use planning policy, aimed towards integrating rural and urban areas.

Urban management is another area that has been receiving greater attention, notably through the impetus of the UNDP/UNCHS (Habitat) Urban Management Programme but also as a result of the global emphasis on governance, decentralization and enhanced local democracy. The concept of good governance gained increasing importance among cooperation agencies in the 1990s, which is partly due to the demands emanating from civil society in developing countries, for greater accountability, transparency, democracy and decentralization. Fighting corruption, strengthening local governments, diminishing the state apparatus, providing technical training, and "empowering" the informal sector, have been at the core of many efforts carried out by development assistance agencies.

A few agencies have been bold enough to launch housing schemes (e.g. Germany, the IDB, United Kingdom, USAID and the World Bank, in addition to France and Switzerland, in some cases). A substantial number of agencies have also set up neighbourhood projects which occasionally involve housing (e.g. France, Spain, Sweden) - many of them with success.

In most cases, new urban strategies have stemmed from working groups which brought together various stakeholders of the agency’s country: officials from most of the administrations involved, researchers, NGO representatives, and at times, a few representatives from developing countries. As was the case, for instance in the Netherlands or France, these working groups have typically been organized around the existing competencies at the national level (such as water management, engineering, decentralization policies, teaching and research) and/or around some existing projects, taking their performance into consideration. The policy documents were therefore built around existing capacities inside and immediately around the agency. Some other documents are more elaborate, taking into account the analysis of the needs of Third World cities in the upcoming years, primarily in terms of the environment.

Urban poverty reduction as an issue

Most donor agencies have developed and implemented policies on poverty reduction during the last few years. Agencies often distinguish between direct and indirect benefits to the poor: on the one hand, targeted poverty activities directly address the poor, as a specified target group, in order to improve their welfare. In such a case, key interventions are designed to promote sustainable livelihoods and to broaden participation of the poor in society. On the other hand, poverty focused activities are meant to benefit the poor but do not imply working directly with them. They include building capacity of organizations which work with the poor, supporting institutional change, targeted research, and, even more broadly, policy interventions.

Surprisingly, urban poverty per se is not clearly distinguished as a priority. It has taken time to demonstrate that the city is more than its wealthy, productive, energy-consuming image and that the urban poor are permanently subjected to two kinds of hazards: threats typically engendered by poverty (e.g. malnutrition, diseases such as tuberculosis), and modern dangers tied to urban development, such as traffic accidents, environmental hazards, industrial pollution and social risk.

As a consequence, most documents produced by the agencies have first been elaborated for internal purposes, since their preoccupation was to overcome internal obstacles. The "ruralist" lobby in several bilateral agencies (e.g. Canada, Denmark, Finland and Norway) has been so strong that, although poverty alleviation is clearly at the heart of these agencies' mandate, urban poverty has been hardly recognized as such, until recently. Even the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), in spite of its impressive record in the field of urban slum upgrading, took several years to recognize that "the urban poor often live in great squalor reminiscent of conditions in our cities at the beginning of our industrial revolution (...). In order to achieve the International Development Targets by 2015 we must do better at helping the urban poor to improve their lives".1

Which priorities for the poorest groups?

"Empowering the poor" and "poverty reduction/alleviation/eradication" are a leitmotif in the official documents of numerous agencies. Yet, the biggest investment projects are targeted towards infrastructure or programmes for middle-level income groups. In fact, few cooperation programmes take into consideration the two lowest deciles of Third World urban populations, which they often consider to be the task of humanitarian aid.

Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom now consider it vital to reach out to the poorest urban dwellers. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNCHS (Habitat) and the World Bank have also set this priority. Yet, helping the poor calls for specific policy instruments, such as grants, cost recovery schemes and community participation programmes. Other agencies also endeavour to alleviate urban poverty through projects although they are implemented in such a way that they target all low-income groups, not just the most deprived and vulnerable.

This leads to the question of the relevance of projects to the needs of primary beneficiaries. It is often assumed that municipal authorities are the best placed to identify the needs of their poorest citizens. The "primary beneficiaries" referred to in most projects are the urban poor, while secondary beneficiaries are usually local governments and institutions that serve the public interest. In quite a few programmes, one of the underlying assumptions has been that strengthening the overall capacity of local governance and at the same time improving the transparency, accountability and level of popular participation would result in a better quality of life for the urban poor. Yet, these projects' benefits to the target population ¾ the urban poor ¾ remain difficult to measure and assess.

Isabelle Milbert is Deputy Director of Research at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies (IUED) in Geneva, Switzerland. She is co-author of "What Future for Urban Cooperation? Assessment of post-Habitat II Strategies", published by IUED in 2000.


1 Clare Short, 26 January 2000, U.K. Department for International Development.

Economic Growth Alone Will Not Reduce Poverty

by David Satterthwaite

Statements about the positive links between economic growth and poverty reduction are generally based on definitions of poverty that are based on income. Take for instance the US$ 1 per day poverty line widely used by the World Bank and other international agencies. It only measures income-poverty and so fails to recognize the other aspects of deprivation. But it even fails to measure urban income-poverty since it makes inadequate provision for the high non-food related expenditures that most urban households need to avoid poverty. And by using a single poverty line, it assumes that the income needed to avoid poverty is the same throughout a nation and so understates the scale and depth of poverty in areas where living costs are particularly high (especially in the larger and/or more prosperous cities).

Reducing urban poverty without economic growth

The almost exclusive focus on income-poverty by most governments and international agencies obscures the many ways that urban poverty can be reduced without economic growth. Take the case of infrastructure and services. It has become unfashionable for international agencies to invest in these, in part because of their failure in the past to increase local capacity to manage the new infrastructure they funded. However, the provision of good quality water and sanitation can increase incomes directly through reducing expenditure - households that previously paid 10-30 percent of their income to water vendors or kiosks and pay-as-you use toilets can get better quality provision which also takes up less income. Good quality water and sanitation can also increase real incomes by greatly reducing the income previously spent on health care and medicines from water-related diseases or that was lost as income earners were ill or had to nurse other ill family members. It also reduces the huge physical effort of fetching and carrying water from distant standpipes or wells. Housing schemes that really respond to the needs and priorities of low income households can also reduce poverty - again reducing the health burden from infectious and parasitic diseases and accidents and also providing security, a larger asset base and space for income-earning activities.

Our research1 on poverty reduction in urban areas has shown how many poverty-reducing measures depend on local institutions that can deliver to the poor one or more of the other aspects of poverty, that work with them and that are accountable to them. The form of local institutions that can do so varies a lot with context; they can be community organizations, federations of community organizations, local NGOs, local foundations, municipal authorities or even on occasion national government agencies or local offices of international agencies. All include improved provision of infrastructure and services while most address one or more of the other aspects of poverty.

Reducing urban poverty has political implications since it has to include strengthening the bargaining power and the potential to act of low-income or otherwise disadvantaged groups. This includes a greater capacity to negotiate for resources, to get more appropriate responses from local agencies (for housing, land for housing, water, sanitation, drainage, garbage collection, emergency services, schools, electricity, police etc.), to successfully oppose anti-poor measures and to demand civil and political rights, rights to public goods and services and their rights to unpolluted environments respected.

Stronger, more stable, economies should bring important direct and indirect benefits for poorer groups, especially in countries where political and legal systems protect their rights and ensure their interests influence government orientations, policies and resource allocations. However, far more attention needs to be given to reducing the other aspects of poverty which do not necessarily depend on economic growth.

David Satterthwaite directs the Human Settlements Programme at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London, U.K.


1 IIED series of case studies of urban poverty reduction funded by DFID and SDC.

Advocacy, Human Rights, and Urban Poverty Reduction

Preliminary Reflections on Habitat's Global Campaigns and the Cities Alliance

by Szilard Fricska, Raf Tuts, and Chris Williams

As described elsewhere in this edition of Habitat Debate, international development cooperation agencies confront several problems in their efforts to reduce urban poverty. They address the technical and managerial elements, but with less focus directed to the politics that underlie these. Thus they view development interventions more as projects to be executed than as long-term processes requiring lengthier, more innovative investments. Similarly, development agencies confine their support to governments without also engaging women's groups, the organized poor and their respective alliances with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local governments. External interventions are based on the priorities of development agencies, rather than also on the existing, demonstrated efforts of local actors. Further, development agencies compete rather than collaborate with one another. They lack mechanisms to consolidate disparate interventions and to link these effectively to the initiatives of the urban poor.

UNCHS (Habitat) is no exception to the rule and like other multilateral agencies, struggles to contend with obstacles that impede its efforts to reduce urban poverty. The Centre has recently attempted to address such limitations by introducing Global Campaigns and by establishing a partnership with the World Bank and other development agencies, known as the Cities Alliance. The Global Campaigns and the Cities Alliance are in their infancy. However, a preliminary review of these emerging initiatives indicates possibilities for fostering inter-agency coordination.

Towards a Normative, Rights-Based Approach to Urban Poverty Reduction

At its Seventeenth Session in 1999, the Commission on Human Settlements adopted a New Vision Statement for UNCHS (Habitat). Crafted to orient a wider process of re-vitalization, it charts a new course for the Centre by articulating a normative, rights-based approach to urban poverty reduction. Member States reinforced their commitment to the Vision Statement by endorsing three new initiatives linked by their common goal to reduce urban poverty: the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure, the Global Campaign for Urban Governance and the Cities Alliance (launched in partnership with the World Bank).

The Global Campaign for Secure Tenure promotes the security of tenure of the urban poor. The absence of the threat of eviction stimulates incentives for investment -- of slum dwellers, public authorities, and private individuals and corporations. Security of tenure improves access of slum dwellers to urban basic services and credit. It can as well formalize government's recognition of slum dwellers including their right to organize and make claims on and negotiate the use of public resources. The Global Campaign recognizes that, in many cases, the urban poor are not passively waiting for solutions from the Government, the private sector or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They are finding their own solutions ¾ solutions that the Global Campaign seeks to learn from and support.

The Global Campaign for Urban Governance promotes inclusive decision-making as a strategic entry point to urban poverty reduction. Firmly grounded in human rights, the Global Campaign promotes the right to development and the civil and political right of participation. In practical terms, inclusive processes of decision-making are recognized as the best means for the effective use of scarce development resources, for the equitable distribution of the benefits of development, and for ensuring the sustainability of hard-won benefits. The Global Campaign is committed to working with local governments and their associations to explore mechanisms for involving the urban poor, particularly women, in the decisions that affect their lives and their city.

The Cities Alliance aims to improve the impact of international development cooperation efforts to reduce urban poverty. It is recognized that there is not enough to show for the money invested to date in urban development, and that correcting the past is about engaging and learning from the urban poor and from their partnerships with government at all levels. The Cities Alliance regards such engagement as necessary for improving the quality of living and working conditions of the urban poor. The Cities Alliance is focusing its operational efforts on two vehicles: slum upgrading and city development strategies, which are linked to the Global Campaigns and to the twin mandates of UNCHS (Habitat) -- "Shelter for All" and "Sustainable Urban Development."

New Actors, New Political Forums

On 16 July 2000, in Mumbai, India, 3,000 members of the National Slum Dweller Federation (NSDF), and a support NGO, SPARC, organized together with UNCHS (Habitat) the Inaugural Launch of the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure. Three months later, on 1 October, 7,000 members of the South African Homeless People’s Federation (SAHPF) and a support NGO, The People’s Dialogue, organized with UNCHS (Habitat) a similar launch in Durban, South Africa. Participating in the events of the slum dwellers in Mumbai and Durban were the respective central government ministers, provincial officials, mayors, dignitaries of Member States, and representatives from the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral agencies. The events culminated in the signing of memoranda of understanding between UNCHS and the respective slum-dweller federations in terms of which the latter will promote the Global Campaign in partnership with all levels of government.

As political forums, the two launches of the Global Campaign provided important opportunities for addressing urban poverty. Because the events were organized under the auspices of the United Nations by the slum dwellers (most of whom are members of women's saving associations), the role of the government and the external support organizations was re-oriented. The policy-maker and professional practitioner were participating in a process that was organized by the urban poor with United Nations blessing. Debate about how best to improve basic services, generate income, secure tenure, etc. took place on a level playing field. Women in particular, and slum dwellers generally, were recognized political players.

The presence of large numbers of slum dwellers created the conditions for a different kind of discussion among external support agencies. As participants in a process organized by slum dwellers, representatives of different external support agencies found themselves responding, rather than controlling. Importantly, their attempts to respond engendered cooperation, and a level of solidarity necessary to speak in one voice about how they intended to contribute, financially, politically, and substantively.

Linking Norms and Practices

Under the auspices of the Global Campaign for Urban Governance, UNCHS (Habitat) and its partners are developing universal norms of good urban governance, including sustainability, decentralization, equity, efficiency, transparency and accountability, civic engagement and security. Each norm is responsive to the issues of the urban poor and the element of inclusiveness permeates them all. To begin to translate the norms from concept to reality, the municipal authority of Hangzhou, China, hosted an international meeting in October 2000. Cities from wide-ranging socio-economic and cultural contexts demonstrated how they apply governance norms to improve the quality of urban life. Successful outcomes of innovations in areas such as participatory budgeting (Porto Alegre), legal empowerment for effective citizen participation (Naga City) and inclusive approaches towards preventing urban violence (Dar es Salaam) were showcased. The meeting also initiated the establishment of a network of illustrative cities that are committed to advance urban governance and share their experience with others facing similar challenges.

Several countries are now determining in which normative areas the campaign can add most value to their efforts to develop their cities. A tool kit is being produced to support these local commitments and to facilitate the integration of technical cooperation activities in the Global Campaign. This tool kit is linked intimately to the governance norms and will bring together a wealth of practical methods to realize sustainable urban development.

Consolidating Political Commitment and Practical Innovation

On 13 June 2000, in Montreal, Canada, the Consultative Steering Group of the Cities Alliance adopted a new "Vision Statement." Representatives from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the USA agreed to commit the members of the Cities Alliance to support new forms of partnership between governments, cities and organizations of the urban poor. Examples of such partnerships in Johannesburg, Colombo, San Salvador, Mumbai and Phnom Penh were presented on 12 June 2000, at the first ever Cities Alliance Public Policy Forum. The examples highlighted the importance of the political dimension of city development strategies and settlement upgrading.

At the recent Millennium Summit, Heads of State and representatives of Government endorsed the goal of achieving "a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020." High-level support of this kind demonstrates the political will that exists to prioritize slum upgrading and to mobilize resources for urban poverty reduction.

Financial support of donor countries to the Cities Alliance provides an opportunity for innovative programming for slum upgrading and city development. While the Cities Alliance is only approving its second set of proposals, the criteria used to evaluate the proposals are encouraging. The criteria include among others: involvement of the organized poor and local government in project design, implementation and evaluation; prioritization of women, women's issues, and women leadership; and demonstrated inter-agency cooperation.

Opportunities and Challenges Ahead

The Global Campaigns and the Cities Alliance mark the beginnings of a new chapter in the efforts of UNCHS (Habitat) to reduce urban poverty. As instruments of advocacy and human rights, the Global Campaigns address directly the politics of urban poverty and exclusion, particularly evictions, relocations, political patronage, and the rights of the poor to the city. The Global Campaigns are led by the United Nations, but are not run by it. The organized poor, support NGOs, and local governments and their associations organize launches and follow-up actions "in the name of the Global Campaigns." Devolution of this kind, de-centres multilateral and bilateral agencies, forcing them institutionally to respond to the priorities of local actions, rather than to control the terms of development.

Despite signs of optimism, however, these initiatives have much further to go. The Global Campaigns have created norms, political spaces and political will, but there is uncertainty as to how the rhetoric of human rights will meet the financial reality of basic needs. The political umbrella of the Global Campaigns has been effective in drawing a wide range of partners. Indeed, a pattern of widespread endorsement is emerging, coupled with practical implementation measures with distinct regional and national flavour.

However, there is need to understand better the ultimate impact of secure tenure and urban governance on urban poverty reduction, and to identify practical tools for settlements and cities to measure progress, preferably tools designed through a consensus among slum dwellers and urban managers. There is need to institutionalize mechanisms for sharing innovative slum upgrading and governance practices, building upon existing peer-learning networks of federations of slum dwellers and associations of local governments. Strategic choices need to be made to strengthen the capacity of key change agents, including development agencies, the organized poor, and associations of local governments.

In summary, the Global Campaigns and the Cities Alliance suggest the emergence of a powerful, two-step vehicle for coordinating multilateral and bilateral development agencies and directing their support to the urban poor. Potential support for slum upgrading and city development strategies based on partnerships between the organized urban poor and government at all levels signals a possible departure from "business as usual."

Szilard Fricska
is Associate Officer
in UNCHS (Habitat)'s Urban Secretariat.

Raf Tuts
is Acting Coordinator
of the Urban Governance Unit
and Coordinator of
the Localizing Agenda 21 Programme
at UNCHS (Habitat).

Chris Williams
is Policy Coordinator
of UNCHS (Habitat)'s
Global Campaign for Secure Tenure.

Operational Tools for Reducing Poverty in Cities

by Jean-Yves Barcelo

In contrast to the relative homogeneity of rural areas, urban areas are characterised by competition for access to resources and services, as well as to employment and income. The urban poor are often relegated to the outskirts of the economic, spatial and social urban sphere. Decisions influencing their lives are often taken by various urban actors who do not consult them, with the result that the decisions are rarely fair to them. The poorer they are, the lower advocacy capacity they have, including for sharing scarce and over-burdened services with their immediate wealthier neighbours. In short, as they are often part of the newest urban population, their right to access the city is often denied.

From the city's perspective, there is a growing understanding that persistence of high rates of poverty hampers productivity, economic development and competitiveness to attract private investment. Epidemic diseases, an unhealthy and unqualified labour force, overcharged services, insecurity and commuting difficulties due to poor mass transportation systems and inadequate urban planning are among the comparative disadvantages of many cities.

Poverty reduction strategies and operational tools derive from these two analytical points.

Building Consensus

The first set of tools focuses on consensus building at the city or metropolitan level i.e. developing pro-poor City Development Strategies (CDS) addressing socio-economic and spatial development. The participation of all categories of actors in the CDS formulation, implementation and monitoring process is essential to identify priorities, strategies and programmes and improve institutional frameworks and arrangements for participatory strategic planning and monitoring, and for technical management.

The impact of policies on poor people should be systematically assessed, as they are now assessed for the environment, and their interests considered in all strategies and programmes, particularly regarding forced evictions. The poor are among those urban groups who contribute the most to city development. Yet they reside in illegal settlements which are the result of weak capacities and lack of political will of local and central governments.

As mentioned above, poverty reduction should be a priority among all urban groups and actors and should be put at the forefront of the urban agenda. Access to all basic urban and social services, development of related infrastructure, access to employment and education, security of land tenure, protection against forced evictions, and safety and justice are among the priority issues identified by the poor through consultative city-profile surveys conducted by UNCHS (Habitat) in countries such as Cambodia, Madagascar and Morocco.

The first step in a City Development Strategy is building consensus on the process itself: who should participate at which level, how should the consultation be organized, what are the objectives and outputs and how detailed should it be, how long will it take, etc.?

Local governments are the logical leaders of the overall process. However, although decentralization has begun in many developing countries and leadership in socio-economic planning is very new for many local governments. Participation of civil society, including various categories of the private sector, is also very new and representatives are not usually prepared to endorse such a new role. The CDS process should then be complemented by a strong parallel capacity-building component with training sessions and study tours on participatory strategic planning and consensus elaboration.

While central governments and institutions should not take the lead in such a process, participation of local representatives of line ministries and institutions is essential to link integrated territorial planning and centrally controlled sector policies (health, education, security, etc.). In addition, jointly with associations of local governments, ministries in charge of urban development and local government have clear responsibilities to document demonstrating cases and facilitate replication throughout the whole national urban network.

Building Confidence

Another key point relates to the facilitation of effective participation of urban poor representatives to the process, particularly the poorest groups and women’s representatives. Being relegated to the fringes of the urban world, they are usually not empowered to efficiently participate in decision-making process at city level. This requires arrangements and activities at the neighbourhood and community level; that is also the level at which key priorities should be defined. Hence, a complementary set of operational tools for urban poverty reduction policy targets the neighbourhood and community level.

Building community capacities and self-confidence starts by recognizing and supporting initiatives and forms of organization of the concerned people, who are often already supported by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and locally elected people. Establishing credibility and effectiveness to support a participatory planning process at neighbourhood and community level requires access to minimum resources for capital investment. Operational activities are also the most efficient tool to identify leadership capacities, promote community organization and develop planning capacities.

Where do we start? Is it more efficient to start participatory planning activities in poor neighbourhoods or to give priority to consensus-building at the city level? Considering that there are always self-organized activities in poor settlements, sometimes supported by NGOs, both levels should be simultaneously addressed and carefully articulated. Previous successful experiences in neighbourhood participatory planning and consensual sectoral policies at city level are important points to be noted within the initial city-profile survey. There is also a need for pre-existing common understanding among key institutional partners that poverty reduction should be a strong component of the CDS and that resources should be invested in poor settlements according to community priorities.

UNCHS (Habitat) has developed, on the basis of long and extensive field experience, a wide set of knowledge dissemination tools for organizing such processes at the city and neighbourhood levels, complete with training instruments for local leaders and urban practitioners.

Jean-Yves Barcelo
is UNCHS (Habitat)'s
Inter-regional Adviser
on Urban and Housing Finance.

Alleviating Poverty Through Housing Development

by Rainer Nordberg

Research has clearly demonstrated that in most regions housing has the potential of becoming an engine of economic growth because of its high yield on invested resources, a high multiplier effect, and a host of beneficial forward and backward linkages in the economy. However, while the economic benefits of housing have been widely recognized, housing is rarely used as an element of poverty alleviation strategies. This article attempts to redress this deficiency by examining practical approaches to poverty alleviation through housing development. As a great part of the urban poor live in informal settlements, and derive their livelihoods from the informal sector, policies aimed at alleviating urban poverty must focus on promotion of the informal sector. Based on lessons learnt from UNCHS (Habitat)'s projects implemented over the past decade, the following eight points are presented as a tool kit for poverty alleviation through housing and construction.

I. Upgrading informal housing

Despite the fact that the informal housing sector produces the majority of all new housing units in the cities of developing countries, it is rarely appreciated or supported. On the contrary, the houses and the economic activities in informal settlements have often been destroyed by public authorities, thus aggravating, instead of alleviating, poverty. However, governments are gradually realizing that informal housing can, indeed, become a solution because it requires minimum public investments. Informal settlements, regardless of quality, provide affordable housing for the poor. Destruction of informal settlements decreases the housing stock, increases poverty and only shifts the slums into another location. As governments are unable to build houses for all the needy, they should support the efforts of people to provide housing for themselves. This implies the acceptance of informal settlements as legitimate forms of urban housing which should be improved rather than demolished.

II. Providing land for informal housing development

However, slum improvement does not solve the housing problems of the new urban migrants as it does not generate new housing stock. Therefore, governments should designate special areas for informal housing development where people can build their houses over time with whatever building materials are available and affordable to them. Building sites should be offered to the urban poor with the same conditions as land in existing informal settlements, that is, without infrastructure and services. The reason for this is simple: if infrastructure is provided, the urban poor cannot afford the price of land because it has to include the cost of infrastructure in order to achieve cost recovery. Yet, in contrast with the existing informal settlements, the government-sponsored informal settlements schemes should offer security of tenure. This will stimulate investment in housing, even in areas that are not serviced with infrastructure. In exchange, people will have to build the infrastructure themselves according to plans and technical advice provided by the local authorities. If employed under a purposeful master plan of the city, allocation of planned land for informal settlements would direct informal housing into prescribed sections of the city, and reduce the growth of slums. In addition to increased employment, the designation of informal housing areas will contribute directly to poverty alleviation by providing access to housing for the urban poor.

III. Supporting community-based construction and management of infrastructure

Public agencies should provide licences and/or contracts to informal bonafide firms and community associations for the execution of specific tasks in the construction of infrastructure and provision of services. The community-contract system for the provision of infrastructure and services has proved to be an effective tool for poverty alleviation as it uses unskilled and semi-skilled labour. However, the use of a community-based approach to infrastructure provision requires training of both public authorities and community groups in participatory approaches and effective technical supervision and assistance.

IV. Supporting informal sector contractors

Small-scale contractors can play an important role in poverty alleviation because they use unskilled labour, local materials and labour-intensive techniques. However, their growth is constrained by many factors, such as lack of access to markets, finance, vocational training, equipment and information. Public agencies tend to favour large-scale public or private enterprises through various practices and procedures such as tender conditions that call for large financial capacity, machinery and equipment, cheap credit, preferential pricing, building material concessions, specifications calling for high-tech building techniques and materials. Strategies to support the small-scale formal and informal sector contractors include:

· development of mechanisms to make credit available to small scale contractors;

· targeted procurement, e.g. instead of minimum financial capacity, the procurement conditions could exclude the contractors above a certain financial capacity;

· revision of regulations on preferential pricing and building;

· splitting large contracts into several smaller contracts;

· creating a revolving fund for equipment procurement;

· provision of training in tendering and contract management;

· facilitating access to credit.

V. Supporting small-scale building materials producers

Due to the high employment content and low capital costs, production of building materials have been successfully combined with poverty alleviation in many countries. Experience has shown that small building materials producers are often very viable in comparison with their industrial counterparts. Yet, their growth is often constrained by lack of access to credit, government policies that favour large-scale suppliers, barriers to register and compete for tenders and lack of appropriate standards for local building materials. Strategies to support small scale building materials producers include:

· simplifying registration procedures;

· development of specifications and quality standards for local building materials;

· facilitating participation in tenders through targeted procurement by considering employment aspects besides financial and technical aspects;

· specifying local materials for the construction of public buildings.

· provision of training and technical assistance, especially in the development of production lines and quality control; and

· facilitating access to credit;

VI. Supporting informal and community-based financial systems

In most developing countries, the formal housing finance institutions provide services mainly to the upper and middle-income groups because the urban poor lack collateral, regular income and savings. The urban poor depend on informal credit sources, such as family members, rotating credit societies and savings clubs. These are often successful because they are based on social ties. They require little paperwork or no collateral, they are not regulated by the government, and they use peer pressure to prevent default. They are constrained, however, because they can offer only limited capital for a short term and because they do not have a wide enough base to diversify risk. Rotating credit societies are major players in informal housing, and they can become important tools in poverty alleviation. The challenge is to link them to a wider, national housing finance system. This can be achieved, for instance, by developing bridging organizations that will assist in streamlining the administrative processes related to the servicing of the loans. Successful examples include the Zimbabwean building societies that lend to low-income households through cooperatives. The active presence of a technical support NGO has proved to be crucial in linking the cooperatives and building societies.

VII. Supporting low-cost rental housing

For many of the urban poor, including small households, young couples and newly arrived migrants, rental housing is the only practical form of tenure. Urban poor tenants often use a large part of their income on rent, even for grossly inadequate housing. Research has shown that the proportion of income spent on housing is highest for the poorest. After paying the rent and buying daily food, the poor often have nothing left for savings. Thus, many low-income households find themselves in a vicious circle of poverty: lack of steady income forces them to rent accommodation, and high rents keep them poor.

The availability of cheap rental housing is a vital element in any poverty alleviation strategy. However, many developing countries lack a policy to support the low-cost rental housing sector. In many cases, planning and building standards discourage or even forbid low-cost rental housing. In addition, banks often offer loans only for ownership housing. Yet, there is an increasing demand for rentals. By providing incentives to private sector investors to invest in rental housing, especially at the lower end of the market, governments can reduce shortage of housing and alleviate poverty through employment generation. Studies show that rental housing could be used as a method to finance housing for the "no-income group" who cannot service a loan.

Support activities to stimulate rental housing include:

· developing loan systems for the construction of rentals;

· provision of land for low-cost rental housing development by small-scale developers;

· revision of planning and building standards to facilitate rental housing;

· tax exemptions for rental housing construction and rental incomes;

· integrating rental rooms in low-income housing schemes as a method to finance housing for the urban poor;

VIII. Revision of building regulations and codes

In many countries, building regulations and codes prohibit the use of the only building materials the poor can afford: mud-bricks, compressed earth blocks, hand-made roofing tiles, or soil-cement flooring, etc. As the urban poor cannot afford to buy officially recognized building materials, they are obliged to build in informal areas where the building code is not enforced. However, as there are no standards for locally produced building materials, banks do not provide loans for houses built with local materials. Besides impeding access to adequate housing for the urban poor, prohibitive building codes hinder the development of the small-scale and informal building sector which could play an important role in poverty reduction. Revision of building codes and establishment of technical norms and standards for local building materials will contribute indirectly to poverty alleviation through increased low-cost housing construction and employment.

Rainer Nordberg
is in charge of coordinating activities
in the area of low-cost construction
in the Housing Policy Unit
of UNCHS (Habitat)

Feminization of Poverty

"Re-Thinking Poverty Reduction from a Gender Perspective"

by Chris Williams and Diana Lee-Smith

One of the alarming trends emerging from reviewing progress on the implementation of the Habitat Agenda is that legal and policy measures are not having much effect in reducing the gender poverty gap. The different national and regional reports struggle with explanations and formulations that will solve this problem. This article suggests that to address the "feminization of poverty" we must go beyond simple remedies to address fundamental questions of a social, economic and political nature.

The term "feminization of poverty" was first coined in 1978, to describe trends in the United States, where it was argued that two-thirds of the poor over the age of 16 were women. Similar claims over the years have drawn on data from regions as diverse as Africa and Europe. There has been controversy over the magnitude of claims such as "70 percent of the world's poor are women"2, but critics have nevertheless concluded:

"That the gender bias in poverty does not always reach the levels sometimes attributed to it, does not mean that the bias is not real or not growing. Indeed it seems to be both, although unequally across countries and places."1

If it is real and growing, and policies and laws are not sufficient to reach it, the gender gap is obviously not yet properly understood. Understanding it is clearly a necessary condition for the reduction of poverty. The feminization of poverty is more than a slogan: it is a marching call that impels us to question our assumptions about poverty itself by examining how it is caused, manifested and reduced, and to do this from a gender perspective.

Endowment Failures

Endowments are the rights and entitlements that people have in any society. Limited realization of endowments lowers the capacity for productive activity and therefore causes poverty. Women and men attempt to realize basic rights, entitlements, and degrees of citizenship, but women face a greater likelihood of experiencing "endowment failures." For example, in many societies they lack the right to inherit or own land, to use land as security to access credit, or to own and operate a business. Within households, communities, cities or countries, women who cannot get the entitlements enjoyed by men experience second-class citizenship status.

Endowment failures also help explain the limitations women face in the labour market. Women's labour is not valued as much as is men's. The domestic activities of child rearing and managing the home are not valued, although this labour often subsidizes men, enabling them to work and employers to profit. Furthermore, "worldwide, women earn on average approximately 50 per cent of what men earn."2 The ability of women to produce is also hindered by endowment failures. Considerable transaction costs are involved as women try to compensate for their inability to obtain land, to borrow, and to transact business. Where women cannot inherit rural land for example, they lack the collateral necessary to undertake urban economic activities. Lower productivity and higher transaction costs can translate into business failure.

Cultural Norms, Institutional Structures, and Interpersonal Behaviour

If endowment failures impact negatively on the ability of women to exchange labour and to produce, what brings about endowment failures? Why are women denied basic rights enjoyed by men? It has been said that gender is a social institution with features that are universal as well as features that vary in time and space. The differences and relationships between men and women are continuously elaborated by every society and can be observed in things such as family structures, inheritance patterns and cultural practices. This is done culturally through beliefs and ideologies, institutionally through laws and organizations, and interpersonally through family and community. These are not always coordinated and the process of social change operates through all of them.

Let us take the social patterns which prevent women from inheriting property in many parts of the world. There is a useful example from Europe, where, in the Albanian highlands which lie partly in Kosovo, women could traditionally not inherit or own property even though statutory laws of the 1970s granted them that right. The "Kanun," a customary law text from the 15th Century instilled in men and women the belief that property rights were a male privilege. Women who exerted their legal rights risked social exclusion for contravening cultural norms as well as interpersonal pressures from family and neighbours.3 Similar processes still prevent women from inheriting property in many other societies, based on oral tradition, unwritten or even unspoken understandings about the way things should be done.

The cultural norms, institutional structures, and interpersonal behaviours that reinforce male dominance are based upon a social principle that has been summed up by the word "patriarchy". It is a principle that needs to be subjected to widespread social scrutiny, and thence to the scrap-heap of history if the gender poverty gap is to be eliminated.

Global Trends: Economic Restructuring and Democratization

Since 1972, the world has witnessed a change in the way goods and services are produced, accompanied by a shift in how people govern and are governed. What impact have these shifts had on poverty from a gender perspective? How has the new global economy impacted on endowment failures and patriarchy? The forthcoming third Global Report on Human Settlements (2001) argues the impact is mixed:

"On the one hand (women) are constituted as an invisible and dis-empowered class of workers in the service of the strategic sectors constituting the global economy.... On the other hand, their access to (albeit low) wages and salaries, the growing feminization of the job supply, and the growing feminization of business opportunities brought about with informalization, do alter the gender hierarchies in which they find themselves."4

Thus women's endowment failures are a kind of double-edged sword. Lacking rights, entitlements and full citizenship, women feed a strategic sector of the new economy. Yet these same limitations give some women increased access to this economy, which helps them alter systems of patriarchy. Women's regular wage work affects gender relations in the household. They can gain autonomy, financial control, decision-making power, spouse's agreement to share domestic work, and participation in the public sphere. Women's participation in decision-making processes, whether at home, at work or in public life, in turn impacts the democratization process.

We can identify three separate elements of democratization: representation, rights, and redistribution. The first is the shift in many regions of the world towards representative forms of national democracy. The second is the legal establishment and enforcement of human rights. The third concerns instruments of national government used to redistribute resources democratically; these include taxation, state transfers, subsidies, investments in education, health and housing, and the promotion of labor-intensive industry.

How do women, particularly women living in poverty, fit into these elements of global democratization? Representative forms of government may seem to present the possibility of more women in elected positions, but in and of itself democratization has not brought this about in the absence of augmenting legislation and quota systems. As for addressing the feminization of poverty, elected women representatives also need capacity building for their impact on legislation to be effective.

Governments that implement human rights instruments have contributed most to addressing the gender poverty gap. A comprehensive overhaul of law and governance in Uganda has made an impact on gender inequalities. In neighboring Tanzania, a coalition of parliamentarians, NGOs, and women activists secured national legislation designed to ensure women's right to land and property. When people living in poverty have the right to organize, form alliances and make claims on public resources, there is an increased likelihood that women can correct endowment failures. As with representation in national government, however, the advancement of rights per se does not necessarily translate into gender equality, nor reduce poverty. Again, capacity building is a vital ingredient that helps people realize their rights.

Few governments effectively redistribute resources democratically and those that try often unwittingly reproduce systems of patriarchy. The new economy discourages redistribution, especially in agrarian and newly industrialized countries. Progressive taxation, state transfers, subsidies and labor-intensive industry run counter to policy prescriptions for government downsizing and deregulated foreign investment. Simply put, such governments cannot afford to redistribute resources. Where subsidies and state transfers exist, they are rarely considered from a gender perspective. They tend to reproduce hierarchy in family structures and do not address women's endowment failures, seldom reflecting the realities of poverty as it impacts on women.

Re-Thinking Poverty Reduction from a Gender Perspective

Endowment failures and resulting limits to women’s productive capacity are ultimately about systems of patriarchy. Although the roles of men and women are dynamic and not static, the legacy of patriarchy in all societies remains to this day in cultural norms, institutional and family structures. Its persistence and tenacity mediates all forms of social interaction, including poverty reduction strategies. This suggests that we need first to examine our strategies to ensure they do not reproduce gender inequality. We are then challenged to help women lobby for progressive national legislation and translate it into practical reality. Advocacy must be augmented with support mechanisms for women.

The new economy, in "privileging" women, exploits their endowment failures, but potentially empowers poor women to address exploitative manifestations of patriarchy, at work, at home and in the public domain. Where this trend appears we would do well to orient poverty reduction strategies to it, but in the interests of both women and men, without male dominance.

Democratization creates the space for women to improve their representation in government, to attain rights and full citizenship, and to redistribute resources in ways that promote gender equality. The realization of gender equality and women’s empowerment, however, depends on the ability of women and men to mobilize, occupy and deepen the democratic space. Implementing the gender goals of the Habitat Agenda means addressing head-on the endowment failures and systems of patriarchy that so clearly characterize the feminization of poverty.

Chris Williams
is Policy Coordinator
of UNCHS (Habitat)'s
Global Campaign for Secure Tenure.
Diana Lee Smith
is Coordinator
of UNCHS (Habitat)'s
Women and Gender,
Norms and Policies Unit.


1 Marcoux, Alain, "The Feminization of Poverty: Facts, Hypotheses and the Art of Advocacy," Report of Women and Population Division, FAO, Rome, 1997.

2 Women Watch, Fact Sheet No.1, Prepared for Beijing+5, New York, June, 2000.

3 Benschop, Marjolein, unpublished, "Women's Equal Right/Access to Property in Kosovo: A Provisional Assessment," UNCHS (Habitat), 2000.

4 UNCHS (Habitat), "Cities in a Globalizing World: Global Report on Human Settlements, 2001. Chapter V. Background paper prepared

Reducing Urban Poverty in Africa

Towards a New Paradigm?

by Mohamed Soumarnd Jme Grd

Poverty in Africa has long been associated with rural societies. However, most studies (using economic indicators or human development indexes) reveal that, depending on the countries and towns, between 15 to 65 per cent of African city dwellers are living in poverty, with very little or absolutely no access to an entire set of social and urban services which constitute decent living conditions. This suggests that urban poverty in Africa is growing faster than rural poverty.

Urbanization in Africa is a product of a wide range of factors, including colonialism, rural-to-urban migration, weak rural economies and a poor industrial base which cannot absorb the unskilled labour from rural areas. Issues such as corruption, inequitable distribution of land and nepotism further weaken the economic base of cities. Urban poverty is, therefore, a very complex phenomenon in Africa.

Despite the complex nature of urban poverty in Africa, most poverty reduction policies, programmes and approaches are very sectoral and remain mainly oriented to the interests and priorities of donor institutions, practices and programmes.

Sectoral approaches, diverse actors

For instance, unemployment has often been perceived as a key feature of urban poverty, and the economic approach to poverty reduction has led some African States and governments to set up job-creating or income-earning programmes. Confronted with the dramatic rise in the number of unemployed in African cities, governments have attempted to implement policies and programmes with more immediate effects by developing labour intensive public works which tend to be more visible and have immediate effects. However, as many studies remind us, this approach does not attack the root causes urban poverty. Nor does it address the structural causes of underemployment or unemployment.

In an effort to address extreme poverty or vital aspects of poverty, several African countries have implemented programmes directly designed to correct the most serious inadequacies suffered by the most deprived populations. The main feature of this approach is that poor families are provided with funds or services. Like the fight against unemployment, providing basic services (community urban infrastructures or social services) constitutes a key element in the struggle against urban poverty. In Africa, nearly all the development actors, from the state to the NGOs, have invested in this sector due to the high demand for these services among urban dwellers.

The most innovative approach, but also the most recent, is the approach that combines access to micro-credit with local economic development. The pertinence of this approach is that it takes more serious consideration of urban poverty realities, in addition to existing local potential. Its originality resides in its recognition of the growing informality of African cities and urban economies. In that respect, this approach runs somewhat counter to that of national employment policies like those outlined above.

Since urban poverty in Africa is an extremely complex phenomenon, it is becoming more and more evident that only integrated methods can bring about sustainable solutions to the problems of the most destitute groups and individuals in Africa. This calls for a strengthening of main economic, social and political assets of the poor, through generation of resources and income-generating opportunities, and access to various basic services and infrastructure.

Emergent in some national strategies, but difficult to apply in the field, this integrated approach, based on community participation, is being tested more extensively at the local scale by NGOs in different African countries. For instance, the Integrated Holistic Approach ¾ Urban Development Project ¾ launched in Ethiopia in 1989, following detailed research by the Norwegian Save the Children Fund, targeted four of the poorest districts in Addis Ababa through an integrated approach covering health, training, education, shelter and sanitation. The problem with this initiative, with other NGO-led initiatives on the continent, was its weak capacities to scale-up the initiatives, and the poor involvement of the local authority in its implementation.

Towards a new paradigm

Despite the multiplication of programmes and projects developed on the continent and the growing number of stakeholders who are taking up the fight against poverty, results remain limited and indicators do not show a significant drop in poverty. On the contrary, between 1990 and 1998 the number of poor in Sub-Saharan Africa increased from an already high 217 million to 291 million.1.

Before we come up with more new ways and means of eradicating this injustice, it is imperative that development actors commit themselves to rationalising existing programmes which are not yielding the expected results. Before soliciting more outside resources, all partners must make the best use of the resources already invested in this endeavour and render them more effective. The impact of strategies must be measured. Those that have proved to be ineffective should be eliminated. The most promising ones and those that have worked should be strengthened through a more co-ordinated commitment.

In order to achieve this, poverty eradication strategies should focus on the promotion of effective good local governance, including the necessary state and public policy reforms. This will lead to the establishment platforms and frameworks which will allow all stakeholders of the city or neighbourhood to identify and implement critical issues and strategic development plans. This shared responsibility will then ensure that activities undertaken are sustainable, and will constitute a key indicator to assess the efficiency of poverty eradication policies at the local level.

Combating urban poverty in Africa is a major challenge for all development partners, from the international community down to community-based organizations. It is important to open debate and decompartmentalise poverty eradication programmes which have a tendency to operate autonomously and on their own, and to conduct comparative analyses of the programmes and projects in progress.

Mohamed SoumarB>
is Coordinator
of ENDA Tiers Monde/ECOPOP,
based in Dakar, Senegal.

Jme Grd
is Programme Officer
at ENDA Tiers Monde/ECOPOP.


1. World Development Report 2000/2001, World Bank, 2000.

Algeria's Poverty Alleviation Strategy

by Farouk Tebbal

Two major events have sharply slowed down the growth of Algeria's economy during the last two decades and have resulted in an increasing incidence of poverty:

· the fall of oil prices, which cut export income of the country by more than half;

·a decade of violence and social unrest which has impacted negatively on the economy, especially in rural areas.

Other factors have impacted negatively on the situation of lower income group, including:

· the Structural Adjustment Plan, adopted in the early 1990s by the Government, which has adversely affected the labour market;

· the transition toward a market driven economy;

· and natural environmental phenomena such as periodic and long lasting droughts.

To alleviate this situation, which is seen as a major source of social instability, and to provide a new impetus for sustainable economic growth, the Government of Algeria has prepared a strategy and an action plan for the period 2001-2005. This strategy was submitted for discussion at a conference of all stakeholders, including NGOs representing civil society, public and private business, government representatives at central and local levels and elected representatives. This conference, held in October 2000, improved, enriched and, eventually, approved the strategy.

Objectives of the conference and content of the strategy

The basis of the strategy is the assessment of poverty ¾ its different aspects and its evolution during the last decade. This assessment has made large use of official figures derived from the last censuses (1987 and 1998) as well as specific and updated studies on household revenues as conducted by public or private consultants. Preliminary results show that poverty has sharply increased in less than a decade (extreme poverty has increased from 3.6 per cent to 5.7 per cent of the population between 1988 and 1985). It has also been clearly outlined that these figures can change dramatically when gender or regional factors are considered, showing, for instance, that women are more vulnerable to poverty due to illiteracy.

Unequal access to infrastructure, education and public services, along with massive losses of jobs due to the structural adjustment of the economy, are the most important causes of poverty increase. Other factors identified as having contributed to poverty include low managerial capacity to administer at the local level; lack of decentralization; and large-scale displacement of rural populations as a result of terrorism.

Strategy for the period 2001-2005

The objectives of the strategy are: (a) creating adequate conditions to reduce poverty and exclusion on a sustainable basis; (b) eliminating extreme forms of poverty by 2005; (c) integrating the productive potential of the poor in the development process; and (d) devising and putting in place an institutional and political framework favourable to the poor. This strategy is in accordance with the ongoing macroeconomic reforms and targets priority actions such as:

· development of agriculture in order to boost exports other than oil products; and
· investment in small- and medium-size enterprises.

The strategy is based on multiple components to be developed as sub-strategies. It proposes an effective poverty and living standard monitoring system to ensure accurate assessment of the situation of the poor and propose necessary adjustments to the actions taken.

Along with the implementation of the strategy, it is proposed that the Government take decisive measures in four major sectors which represent the key to the struggle against poverty. These include:

· launching a wide-ranging programme for agricultural productivity and diversification,
· setting a micro-credit institution for the poor;
· launching a participatory housing programme targeting the poor and the excluded; and
· devising and implementing a global training programme for unemployed youth.

Five communities in rural and suburban areas have been selected to participate in the programmes A National Compact containing a statement of commitments by all stakeholders about their participation in the implementation of the strategy was signed during the conference.

Farouk Tebbal
is the new Chief
of the
Shelter Branch
at UNCHS (Habitat)

Poor, or Excluded

Some Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean

by Yves Cabannes

Profile of the Poor in the Region

Cities are expanding and so is poverty. However, new trends are emerging and the profile of poverty is different today from what it was ten or twenty years ago. These recent trends have to be taken into account when adjusting policies and programmes to intra-regional differences.

The emerging trends in Latin America and the Caribbean indicate that the profile of the urban poor is changing:

· A majority of the urban poor in the region comprises afro-descendents. For instance, most of the 70 million Afro-Brazilians are urban and poor. Less than 2 percent of them attain university-level education.

· Despite the fact they represent about 8 percent of the region's population, the indigenous population constitutes 25 per cent of the poor. Those that live in cities are "invisible" to official statistics and policies. It is estimated that about 500,000 indigenous people, who still speak over 50 different languages are living or surviving in Mexico City, the region's largest city. Out of a total of an estimated one million Mapuches who live in Chile, 400,000 live in the capital city of Santiago.

· There is an emerging class of "new poor" ¾ people who once had a formal job and a middle class life, but now exist outside the formal and welfare systems. Recent reports indicate that Argentina, which was once a model welfare state, now has at least 10 million poor people. This massive exclusion resulted from dramatic modernization and privatization processes. Many of the "new poor" have lost the solidarity networks which could provide sustenance.

The excluded are getting organized and have a voice

Despite the deepening of the economic crisis and the crisis which struck hard on people’s organizations, the excluded have never been so organized, both at the local and at the global levels. Some drastic changes are occurring, not only in terms of numbers, but also in terms of concrete proposals, resistance processes, or forms of organization. Moreover, there is a radical questioning of the notion of poverty by the people themselves. Some of the most autonomous and powerful voices from the excluded include:

· The Continental Cry of the Excluded. (Grito Continental de Los Excluidos)

The most powerful and innovative initiative in the region is The Cry of the Excluded. It started as a Brazilian initiative in the mid 1990s from a national campaign supported by the Church. It has gained a growing following since then. The countries where national committees for the "Cry" exist are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, and the USA.

The movement is a very decentralized "articulation" of organizations. One of its most innovative features has been to unite diverse organizations with different areas of focus under the same motto: "Work, justice and life". This broad based union of urban people, peasants and indigenous groups has managed to mobilize no less than 12 million people. In Brazil alone, the National Consultation Against Debt mobilized 6 million people.

· The Continental Front of Community Organizations (Frente Continental de Las Organizaciones Comunales - FCOC)

The urban force of the "Cry of the Excluded" is FCOC, born in 1987 and which has been able, though ups and downs, to maintain a communication among the grassroots of the region. Representatives from most Latin American countries meet every two years to share experiences, analyze recent trends and define platforms for struggle.

· The Latin American Secretariat for "Peoples" Housing (SecretarLatino Americana de Vivienda Popular - SELVIP)

SELVIP is another initiative of the mid-1990s which focuses on access to housing and access to land. It comprises housing and tenants' movements from mainly large cities such as Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Bogota. It gathers a large variety of members with a long history of "social production of housing" in the region such as FUCVAM, The Uruguayan Federation of Housing Cooperatives, FEDEVIVENDA in Colombia or the Union of Housing Movements (UMM) from Sao Paulo. SELVIP meets regularly, and acts as a forum for exchange, definition of lines of action and lobbying.

· The Habitat International Coalition (HIC).

HIC members have been particularly active in the region since the Vancouver Conference in 1976. In the region, HIC has gone beyond its original focus on housing and land to expand its action at city level. Another innovative change is that it is a mix of NGOs and CBOs, in which the CBOs have a voice and power. HIC acts as a forum and links up the NGOs and the social movements.

· Echoes from the World Assembly of Urban Dwellers

In October 2000, in Mexico, 300 representatives from 33 countries, mostly from Latin America, met to "Rethink the city from our perspective and to have our voice be heard".

In addition to the lively exchanges, visits to neighbourhoods, dances, and bursts of laughter, this meeting was very different in style from conventional international conferences in that it provided urban poor leaders a forum to present ideas from their own perspective.

Exclusion, poverty and participation

One of the key issues discussed with representatives of the social forces of the region is that most of them reject the term poverty and prefer to speak of exclusion. As Martin Longoria, from the Cry of the Excluded states: "the difference is quite clear: poverty for us refers to a level of access to goods and exclusion refers to a level of access to our rights". This mass movement doesn’t put as their first priority the struggle for a piece of land or a house, but for their "citizens rights" as a whole. However, individual members are generally active in one or more specific dimension of exclusion. They fight for the voice of the excluded to be heard and to be listened to, especially when policies at local or national levels are defined. Martin continues: "You know what is the opposite of exclusion for us? It is not inclusion, but participation. Active participation is what makes you a full citizen."

Participatory urban governance to tackle urban exclusion

The Urban Management Programme (UMP), executed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNCHS (Habitat), has developed a set of activities in order to secure an active participation of the excluded. Some highlights:

· Participation in the Regional Consultative Forum.

Movements and organizations representing the interests of the excluded and of the urban poor such as FCOC, HIC, SELVIP, The Cry or GROOTS (collective of grassroots women) sit on the Consultative Regional Forum of UMP along with the Association of Housing and Urban Development Ministers, the Assembly of World Parliamentarians, the International Union of Local Authorities, the Confederation of Credit Unions, the main union of housing financial institutions, UNIAPRAVI, UN regional commissions such as ECLAC, the regional association of Universities, UDUAL and the most active regional networks of NGOs and researchers.

The Regional Consultative Forum guides the Programme and discusses its activities. UMP reports to it. Interestingly, all partners have underlined the importance of this unique forum, because of the diversity of views expressed.

· "Urban Pact"

In each of the 40 city consultations and other projects, such as implementation of local urban observatories, organized expressions of the urban poor are a formal part of the inter-partner agreements. This kind of "urban pact" defines the objectives, the activities and the obligations of the local governments, the peoples’ organizations and other partners which may vary from city to city. As examples, FUCVAM (Uruguayan Federation of Housing Coops and member of SELVIP) signed the Montevideo inter-partner agreement and the Communal Nicaraguan Movement; an active member of FCOC, did the same for the Leon City consultation.

· Finding concrete entry points.

The joint objective is to explore, legitimise and strengthen concrete examples of participatory urban governance as a means to defining policies and formulating projects which attack poverty and exclusion. So far, through dialogue both at regional and at city levels, concrete entry points and solutions have been established, such as:

· setting up of an inclusion and exclusion map in Santo AndrBrazil) as a management tool for reducing social and physical inequities;

· co-managed funds for micro-credit at city level in Quito, Belem and Maracaibo, leveraging municipal resources;

· land management and regularization in cities with a high proportion of migrants or displaced people, such as in Leon or Belize city;

· multicultural and pluralistic action plans including indigenous people (e.g. in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala), or youth (as in Cotacachi, Ecuador, and Barra Mansa, Brazil).

· Service institutions as regional partners

Various service and professionals NGOs such as FEDEVIVIENDA from Colombia or CEARAH PERIFERIA in Brazil that have been actively involved with grassroots organizations and communities to tackle poverty have become the "regional anchors" of UMP in the region. The role of UMP is to strengthen their capacities, give legitimacy to their common practice and widen their dialogue with local governments.

Learning from practice

Results obtained so far are promising and clearly indicate that poverty elimination starts with listening to the poor, fostering their initiatives and giving them a chance. Results also indicate that the sustainability of processes relies on the people and upon the strength of their organizations.

This article draws from practices and proposals from a number of regional initiatives and active organizations that are among the most echoed voices of the urban poor and of the excluded. It results from a number of interviews and informal discussions with some of its most active leaders.

Yves Cabannes
is Regional Coordinator
Urban Management Programme
in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mobilizing Local Partnerships in Morocco

by Monceyf Fadili

Poverty in Morocco, notably in urban areas, has been the object of sustained attention from the state over the past few years due to the size of the problem.1 Poverty is increasing in a context of accelerated urban growth (2.8 per cent) caused by natural population growth and rural exodus (220,000 people per year), economic and social shortcomings (in education and employment, health, housing, community facilities, etc.), and the effects of structural adjustment policies implemented during the 1980s. Out of a mainly urban population of 26 million inhabitants,2 one million live in a state of absolute poverty in the urban environment whilst six million are living in poverty in the broader sense of the term (people who are vulnerable to poverty). This represents 45 per cent of the urban population.

The recognition of this social scourge has led to the integration of poverty reduction as a priority area of development intervention3 within a number of pilot programmes at the national level. One of these is the pilot programme to combat poverty in urban and peri-urban areas.4

Beyond mobilization in favour of disadvantaged populations, these pilot programmes, particularly those initiated in urban areas, have made it possible to devise and test a new approach to development that is based on:

(a) The creation of multiple partnerships with all the players in local development;

(b) The setting up of areas for dialogue and coordination between the different players;

(c) The development of community-based work, for which the associations provide essential links;

(d) The conception and implementation of participatory operational projects, whose visibility and demonstration effects may allow them to be replicated elsewhere.

Governmental Services

Partnership initiatives involving non-state actors are still on the whole dependent on being supervised by the central administration. There has, however, been a progressive change of behaviour with the setting up of collective operational projects. Governmental services that were essentially focused on ad hoc operations, restricted to their field of intervention and cut off from one another, are learning to integrate exchanges with other local players and to adopt a more enabling perspective in their conventional and centralized approach. While there is still some reluctance regarding, for instance, the delegation of power, financial autonomy, inter-ministerial coordination and capacity-building, these institutional structures are now responding to urgent social needs and are able to cooperate amongst themselves within a concerted framework.


The municipality is certainly the most appropriate framework for tackling the question of urban poverty and guiding local players. As the forum for urban management par excellence, the municipality is progressively practising partnership by creating areas for coordination and dialogue which involve local players in development projects in areas such as income-generation, social integration and better access to housing and basic services.

For councillors, the most important need is to work in a different way, by contributing directly to the struggle against poverty. They are aware of the growing problems that face their municipalities, such as inadequate infrastructure, shanty-towns, illiteracy, underemployment and delinquency, as well as increasing poverty. Partnership activities offer them an opportunity to achieve greater visibility on a town-wide scale, to form bonds with communities and neighbourhoods and to strengthen of relationships of trust, which helps them to carry out their mission to the best of their mandate.

NGOs and beneficiary populations

Local partnership and the fight against poverty are mobilizing themes for non-governmental organizations and associations, as they can now operate within a political context that is open to civil society and social development. For those endowed with know-how, guidance and operational community-based activities, they allow them to evolve from charitable type of activities towards concerted projects aimed at social integration and sustainable human development.

The NGO associations make up a key element of the local partnership, owing to their position as links to destitute populations and their leadership role in the supervision of projects. There is, however, some question regarding their ability to tackle the many challenges posed by poverty.

Lessons Learned So Far

The impetus created by community activities has changed the position of beneficiary groups from one of distrust to one of trust, the intermediaries being neighbourhood leaders and NGOs. In this regard, for target groups, the growing participatory approach and the creation of partnerships represent a credible facilitation framework for development projects that produce tangible results.

The reaction from women, who are often the heads of households, has been positive in regard to projects that address their needs. In addition to their solidarity in a difficult social environment, women demonstrate willingness to move into sustainable forms of organization such as micro-businesses and cooperatives.

The first results are not, however, free of questions regarding such factors as the change from small-scale, local-type experiments to the regional or national level and the involvement of other partners such as the private sector. In the context of urban crisis where one of the greatest problems is urban poverty, maintaining what has been achieved and moving towards bigger and more durable interventions depends on the strengthening of institutional and financial instruments. Local players in development, particularly the state, need to establish the foundations for these instruments, with a view to their durability.

Monceyf Fadili
is the National Coordinator
of Morocco's pilot programme
to combat poverty
in urban and peri-urban areas.


1 The indicator for human poverty as defined in the Human Development Report 1997 indicates that 41.7 per cent of the Moroccan population suffer from human poverty. United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), 1998 - 2001, Rabat, May 1998, page 16.

2 1994 census. Estimate for 1999: 28.2 million; estimate for 2010: 33.2 million.

3 Kingdom of Morocco National Strategy Note, 1996 - 2000, Morocco/United Nations, Rabat, February 1996, page 31.

4 Programme co-funded by the Ministry of Employment, Professional Training, Social Development and Solidarity and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with technical support from the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements UNCHS (Habitat).

Kenya's Urban Tragedy

by Jane Weru

In Kenya's capital city of Nairobi, there are over 100 slum communities that are home to 2 million people. The residents of Nairobi's informal settlements constitute 55 per cent of the city's total population and yet they are crowded onto only 1.5 per cent of the total land area in the city. And even that land is not theirs. The residents of the informal settlements live in constant fear that their homes will be demolished or destroyed in a forced eviction.

The root of this crisis is a government policy that refuses to recognize the urban informal settlements as inhabited areas. The government views the public land on which the poor reside as vacant land that can be alienated at any time to political elites and private individuals for commercial development. In the last decade, Kenya has witnessed the rabid privatization of public land as a means to reward political loyalty. The residents who occupy this land are simply thrown off the land. The result is that a large number of Kenyans are living as refugees in their own country. They have been rendered landless, homeless and denied even their most basic human rights and dignity.

The Historical and Current Situation

Historically, the squatter community emerged with the advent of colonialism in Kenya. At the turn of the century, the British colonial government declared vast tracts of land in the colony, including land occupied by indigenous Africans, to be Crown Land, property of Her Majesty, the Queen of England. It also created "native reserves" in which indigenous Africans were forced to live in order that the best arable land could be farmed by white settlers. As European settlers continued to expropriate more and more land during the second half of the nineteenth century, colonialists rapidly displaced the vast majority of Kenyans from their homes. It was this injustice that fueled the Mau Mau struggle for independence.

Unfortunately, the new post-colonial government failed to address the land issue and millions of Kenyans who had been kept on reserves after they lost their land to settlers remained landless squatters. Moreover, due to poverty in the rural areas coupled with a dramatic population growth, a large influx of landless people migrated to urban areas in search of jobs. Since the state provides virtually no housing for the poor, over the years and until the present, this population has been forced to build one room shacks on vacant government land using temporary materials ranging from plastic, polythene and cardboard to mud and wattle as their only means of shelter.

The informal settlements in Nairobi and other Kenyan cities like Mombasa and Nakuru are severely overcrowded, insecure and unsanitary. An average of 5 to 6 people stay in a room that has an average size of 3 to 6 square meters. One-room shanties are sandwiched together so that the densities average 250 units per hectare versus 25 units in a middle class area and 10 units in high-income areas. The only walkways are narrow dirt paths that frequently flood and are impassable during the rainy seasons.

Urban infrastructural services are virtually non-existent in thesw informal areas. Residents have no access to electricity. Potable water must be purchased from vendors at prices up to ten times higher than the rate charged by local authorities. Over 95 per cent of the residents do not have access to proper sanitation. People are forced to pay to use a pit latrine shared by approximately 50 people per toilet or use open areas. The city has long since stopped collecting refuse, so garbage lies permanently in stinking heaps, often blocking the drainage channels. The lack of sanitary facilities to dispose of human waste and garbage has led to serious environmental and health hazards, including a higher incidence of diseases like typhoid, cholera and tuberculosis.

Corruption is rampant in the informal sector. The vast majority of people living in this sector are tenants who are forced to pay exorbitant rents to local chiefs and wealthy absentee landlords. The local chiefs and their henchman have created a mafia-like system where residents are required to pay a bribe just to get an audience with the chief. In some cases, residents are forced to pay a bribe of 3,000 Kenyan shillings (about US $40) in order to get permission to repair a leaking roof.

In addition, the chiefs regularly deny residents the right to meet and associate. As a result, the residents are unable to organize themselves to resist this kind of repression and to develop programmes that could improve their housing, living conditions and livelihoods. The chiefs often arrest and flog residents as a means of control and intimidation. This system of extortion breeds a high level of insecurity and violence that undermine social and community structures.

Land Grabbing and Forced Evictions

In the last decade, public land has become a commodity used by the ruling elite to buy political patronage. Such land, on which most of the squatter villages are located, is often allocated or sold to individuals and organizations that have proved their loyalty to the state apparatus. Because most of the squatter villages are located on government land that is close to the city centre, the informal settlements are situated on potentially some of the most valuable land in the city. The communities, which have been living in those settlements for generations, have subsequently been forcefully evicted to make room for "development".

Unfortunately, in Kenya, politics play a much more important role than the rule of law in the area of housing and land disputes. The judicial process, which was intended to provide the necessary safety valve to protect the rights of Kenyan citizens, has totally collapsed under the massive weight of corruption. As a result, the courts have turned a blind eye to both the unlawful and forced evictions of residents of the informal settlements and have sanctioned the rabid land grabbing that is endemic in Kenya today. Virtually every case filed in court seeking to prevent an eviction or claim ownership has been decided in favour of the party holding title and against the slum dweller.

As a result of this crisis in the informal settlements, in the early to mid 1990's, the slum dwellers of Nairobi and Mombasa organized themselves into federations called the Muungano wa Wanavijiji (Federation of Slum Dwellers) and the Ilishe Trust respectively. Their aim is to organize and unite all slum dwellers so that they can resist forced evictions and land grabbing. In addition, the Muungano and Ilishe are engaged in raising the awareness levels of the poor about their housing and land rights so that this sector can advocate for land law reform. The Muungano and Ilishe have also begun daily savings programmes as a means to more closely unite its members and strengthen its leadership.

On 1 July 2000, the Muungano launched an urban land rights campaign in order to highlight the plight of slum dwellers. The Muungano launched the campaign to emphasize the plight of the slum dwellers that do not have a place to live with dignity in Kenya ¾ a country that boasts one of the highest disparities of wealth in the world. In that manifesto, they demand, in part, for:

· A moratorium on demolitions and evictions that is implemented with the full protection of the law.

· Official recognition of the right to the land on which the urban poor live.

· Secure and permanent tenure to the residents of the informal settlements.

The Muungano is working to unite not only the slum dwellers, but all sectors of society to advocate for land law reform. It has successfully received public support from the leaders of the major religious denominations, the professional associations and the civil society in Kenya. This movement is particularly important at this time in Kenya's history because the government, having been pushed by its citizens, has reluctantly agreed to review the constitution. The Muungano believes it is fundamental that they be given an opportunity to dialogue with the state as it examines and hopefully revises property and land rights so that all Kenyans can enjoy the full benefit of land in this country.

If you would like to express your support for the Muungano wa Wanavijiji's Urban Land Rights Campaign, please email:

Jane Weru
is Director
of Pamoja Trust,
a non-governmental organization
that works with slum dwellers in Kenya.

Stitching Coats that Fit

Supporting People's Processes is a Risk Worth Taking

by Sheela Patel

The following article is based on notes prepared for a presentation made at the International Meeting of the World Bank on "Community-Driven Development," in Prague, Poland, on 22 September 2000.

The World Bank now has a stated commitment to support development that is driven by poor communities. Having appropriated the words, and having begun to make investments in programmes such as social funds, clearly the Bank has made a dramatic shift. But is that enough?

On behalf of the coalitions and alliances of the urban poor that I represent, we say it is not enough! Powerful institutions such as the World Bank and other international development organizations that are presently driving the development agenda need to also examine the nature of how poor communities presently survive, and track their progress when they get resources, space and leveraging capacity.

The World Bank needs to "put the money where its mouth is". Simple ideas and concepts are the hardest to execute in this complex world of traditions and rituals that have patronized the poor for time immemorial. The real big idea is that in the world of tomorrow, poor people, when given opportunities, can work with others and create solutions. Transformation can come out of communities which design solutions and manage resources.

For instance, in Thailand, the Urban Community Development Office (UCDO) manages a fund of over several million dollars provided by the state, and managed by a board of community non-governmental organizations and state officials. The state and numerous community-based organizations have established a partnership-driven programme. Together they manage millions of Thai Bhats worth of funds that are directly lent to federations and networks of community organizations to undertake whatever investment communities elect to make. These resources then leverage further funds from cities and local authorities, communities and the private sector. What makes this partnership unique is that the UCDO community federation takes the lead, not the State or the organizations. That is truly a just vehicle.

In Cambodia, the City of Pnom Penh and the Slum and Urban Poor Federation (SUPF) has begun a city fund that is a joint venture between the community and the municipal authorities. Two of the first relocation projects there have been conceived, designed and executed by the communities.

Whether it is in India, the Philippines, Thailand or Cambodia, the international aid consortia have great difficulty dealing with such simple arrangements. The goals and rhetoric of the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral development actors are great. But they are still locked in the prescriptions by everyone else but the people living in poverty. The international development community still measures the cloth (read resources) and still stitches the coat. And if communities are lucky, their measurements can be taken.

Top-down programmes are not sustainable and they begin to die when the external agencies leave. Such problems have made everyone sit back and reflect and this, in turn, has provided space for the communities to demonstrate their own alternatives. These alternatives may be messy and confusing but they work because they are located in real time and in real life. These processes have inspired many individuals within the national State and local levels of government to experiment with partnerships with communities. In many instances, they are the beginning of unique partnerships between international agencies, national and local governments and communities.

UNCHS (Habitat)'s Global Campaign for Secure Tenure has made a huge leap forward. On 16 July 2000, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) of India in the presence of the Government of India (national, provincial and municipal). The agreement between UNCHS (Habitat) and NSDF is written in terms in which NSDF will promote the Global Campaign in partnership with cities, with the support of all levels of government in India. The NSDF will negotiate with the cities and the state and already many cities have begun to explore providing tenure to slums through this process. The UN's endorsement of the process is important as it helps the NSDF to remind the Government of India of its obligations.

In India, the World Bank and UNCHS (Habitat) have set up a programme together with other international development agencies known as the Cities Alliance. In discussion and dialogue the commitment to partnerships are very strong, but in practice the process still distances the communities from being beneficiaries. Although the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF), SPARC (an NGO) and Mahila Milan (a women's initiative) are called "partners," the multilateral and bilateral agencies are still not clear how to drive this partnership forward. They still have that need to measure and stitch...There remain many people within various donor organizations who feel very fearful of making this risky journey.

But again, why is it so hard for the development establishment to let go? Let us take all the programmes and let us ask some simple questions:

· Who designs these projects?
· Who controls the resources?
· Who determines the criteria?
· Whose institutional capacities are being developed?
· Who will own the history of that experience?

It is crucial for development agencies to take the time to understand more deeply how very poor people can get organized. In cannot be a project activity ¾ it must span10 to 20 years. In India, South Africa, and other countries, it takes 3 to 5 years to create a national federation and another 5 years for these federations to establish workable, balanced relations with governments and international agencies. But with the crucial investment of time, engagement by international development agencies is far more viable and worthy. 20 years is not a long time when we consider the limited outcomes of conventional development projects implemented in the 1970s and 1980s. Supporting the creation of strong people’s processes is a risk worth taking, and it needs a new way of envisioning the future.

But how do we collectively address this issue of risk, of complacency, of not wanting to challenge convention? We need to create a path to build local and global institutional capacities of community-driven networks to take over projects, or at least the thinking inherent in a "project-based" approach. This begins with those who are ready and can help develop new joint ventures that truly build the capacities of communities ¾ institutionally. Change of this kind also entails creating opportunities that help both national governments and international development agencies to link proactively and in partnership with the communities and their processes and institutions.

Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is a growing network of local and grassroots initiatives in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It is ready to engage with governments and international donor organizations. It has a huge pool of experience and talent that can really move the process of engagement. But they need to measure and stitch the cloth of that movement themselves.

We must now create mechanisms to encourage egalitarian joint ventures between communities, government and international development agencies. All partners in the process must also have the right to debate their own roles and responsibilities, which will enable them to revisit the questions and assumptions on which the collaboration is based.

Sheela Patel
is Director
of the Society for
the Promotion of Area Resources Centre (SPARC),
based in Mumbai, India.
She received UNCHS (Habitat)'s
Scroll of Honour Award in 2000
for her efforts at promoting participatory
urban governance and security of tenure in India.

'All I Wanted Was a Toilet!'

Why Voices of the Poor Matter

by Rasna Warah

It was a typical seminar, like many held in cities around the world. A group of government officials, academics, non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders, donor agencies and United Nations officials sat on an elevated podium to discuss the problems of the poor. The audience comprised representatives of the various sectors.

At the back sat a group of slum dwellers who were invited to participate in the proceedings. However, as the language used by the panelists was foreign to them, and the sentences lofty and verbose, they sat in numb silence, counting the minutes to when they could leave and attend to the many chores they had left behind at home.

Suddenly, the leader of the group of slum dwellers ¾ the only one who had been invited to address the gathering ¾ stood up and declared that she had only one comment to make to the illustrious group: Being a woman, she had to observe some standards of modesty in her slum and, unlike the men, could not use open spaces to relieve herself. Confronted with this dilemma, she had gathered a few like-minded women who had managed to collect enough money for a community toilet. Her request was simple ¾ she wanted toilets for her people. Nothing more, nothing less. A simple facility that would save women in her slum from constant humiliation.

Lana, the leader of the group, is not a beneficiary of any government or donor-aided programme. Her only claim to fame is her determined activism, which led NGOs to recognize her as a crucial partner in their efforts to reduce poverty in her slum. She runs her own charcoal-selling business and is a devout Church-goer. As a result of her activism, she has gained a large network of women who now form the core of her self-help group. Recently, she caught the attention of an international donor agency and was sent on an exchange programme visit to a slum in another part of the world. She is now a celebrity of sorts, being the only one in her community who has a passport and who has traveled abroad by air. Despite the accolades, her fight for toilets continues. Many listen and applaud, but few have made an effort to ensure that the toilets are built.

Lana is no ordinary woman. Yet, for many development practitioners, she is just a statistic - one of the growing numbers of "urban poor". However, if you asked Lana who she is, she would probably say that she is a businesswoman, a mother, an activist and a Catholic (not necessarily in that order). Poverty is just a circumstance she finds herself in - it does not define her. She is sad, yes, that her children cannot go to the best schools, that her back aches from constantly carrying water from the municipal tap or that she cannot afford new shoes. At some levels, though, she counts herself as lucky. She is admired and respected by her community and her small business saves her from the worst degradations of slum life - at least she is not a prostitute or a criminal, the worst fates that can befall people in her slum. Lana may be bordering the international poverty line, but her determination and social networks (also known as social capital) have saved her from crossing the line into absolute poverty.

Recently, a group of government officials and Council staff visited Lana’s slum and announced that they would soon "bring development" to the area by demolishing the slum and putting up high-rise housing units - complete with shared bathroom and toilet - which slum residents could own. The only snag was that the payment per month for owners of the new units would be five times the amount of rent they were paying now.

Lana cannot afford to buy into the scheme. She doesn’t want to move to another (affordable) slum either. She has now mobilized her self-help group to fight against the government plan. "All I wanted was a toilet," she says. "Now they want me to buy a house I cannot afford."

The New Rules of Development Cooperation

Lana’s case illustrates how even the most well-intentioned projects can fail if they do not incorporate the real needs and opinions of those they seek to assist. However, international development cooperation agencies and governments are now beginning to see that urban poverty reduction strategies that do not take into consideration the opinions of the poor are bound to be ineffective.

This fact was recognized by the 1996 Habitat II Conference which became the first UN Conference to engage civil society in Conference deliberations and which provided a space to local authorities and NGOs to participate in conference proceedings, either as part of national delegations or through "Hearings".

Even traditionally hard-line institutions such as the World Bank are beginning to incorporate poor people’s views in their strategies. The Bank’s Voices of the Poor study, conducted as background for the World Development Report 2000/2001 (1), is based on the realities of more than 60,000 poor women and men in 60 countries. The study found poor people tend to measure their poverty not only by their level of material deprivation, but also by the level of vulnerability in their lives, especially to events and institutions outside their control. These include institutions of state and society that treat them badly and the lack of a voice and power in those institutions. Hence, while poor people are often willing to be active agents of change in their own lives, they are often powerless to influence the social and economic factors that determine their wellbeing.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Poverty Report 2000 (2), proposes the reform of governance institutions and the shifting of decision-making power closer to poorer communities so as to make pro-poor policies more effective. Instead of targeting a few donor-aided projects at the poor, says the Report, anti-poverty plans need effective coordination by a government department or committee with wide-ranging influence.

For this to happen, accountability in the use of public funds is crucial. "If corruption were cleaned up at the same time that the poor organized themselves, many national poverty programmes would undoubtedly ratchet up their performance in directing resources to people who need them," it says. "Many problems of targeting are, at bottom, problems of unaccountable, unresponsive governance institutions...Most critical, (poverty reductions plans) should be nationally owned and determined, not donor driven."

Shifting the Global Economic Balance

However, in a world where access to global opportunities and resources are not equally shared, poor countries have very little bargaining power in determining how anti-poverty programmes are implemented. Past experiences with colonialism coupled with inept leadership within some developing countries have contributed to ensuring that poor countries remain poor and that the ideological, political and economic interests of wealthy countries continue to dictate global policies.

With increased competition for dwindling international aid, the rules of development cooperation have also shifted to suit the domestic and international priorities and agendas of wealthy donor countries. (In 1996, for example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries’ resources for development cooperation fell to their lowest ever level - to just 0.25 per cent, or a quarter of 1 per cent -- of GNP. An average of 22 per cent of donor aid is actually given on the condition that it be used to purchase goods and services from the donor country.(3))

This scenario is compounded by the recent trend towards liberalization, privatization and globalization, which has led some people and countries to believe that the global market will soon replace development cooperation because it will ensure economic growth and development in all countries. Others believe that allowing market forces to direct the fate of all human beings will lead to a situation where the economy will determine the rules and ethics in society, when it should be the other way round. Globalization has also had the net effect of concentrating power and wealth in a select group of people, nations and corporations, while marginalizing others. For instance, OECD or industrialised countries, with 19 per cent of the world’s population, currently account for 71 per cent of global trade in goods and services, 58 per cent of foreign direct investment and 91 per cent of all Internet users. (4)

In its World Development Report 2000/2001, the World Bank admits, "in a world where political power is unequally distributed and often mimics the distribution of economic power, the way state institutions operate may be particularly unfavourable to poor people." But it does not address the issue of how political and economic power can be shifted or balanced at the global level so that poorer countries have a greater choice and a voice in how they manage their affairs.

A stronger and more coherent United Nations could provide the global leadership needed on issues of equity and justice. However, there is still a need to understand why, despite intense anti-poverty programmes in the last decade, poverty is still a key problem facing developing countries. The World Development Report 2000/2001 indicates that from 1987-1998, while the share of population in developing and transition countries living on less than a dollar a day fell from 28 per cent to 24 per cent, because of population growth, the number of people in poverty hardly changed. In fact, except for East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, the number of people living in poverty in other regions has actually increased.

One explanation for this rise could be that present poverty reduction efforts actually work against the interests of the poor. As the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, indicates in his Millennium Report (5): "The gross disparities of wealth in today’s world, the miserable conditions in which well over a billion people live ... make the present model of development unsustainable, unless remedial measures are taken by common agreement." If the UN is to become "a global public trust for all the world’s peoples", as proposed by Mr. Annan, then it must ensure equitable management of global processes. And it must hear and take into account the voices of people like Lana.

Rasna Warah
Habitat Debate.


1. World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty, published for the World Bank by Oxford University Press, 2000.

2. Overcoming Human Poverty: Poverty Report 2000, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York, 2000.

3. The Reality of Aid: An Independent Review of Development Cooperation (1997-98), Earthscan Publications Ltd, London, 1997.

4. Human Development Report 1999, published for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), by Oxford University Press, 1999.

5. Annan, Kofi, We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century", United Nations, New York, 2000.

Habitat News

Tibaijuka Urges Women to Play a Greater Role in Urban Governance

In his message on the occasion of World Habitat Day, which was celebrated in Kingston, Jamaica, on 2 October, 2000, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, called for the greater involvement of women in the governance of urban neighbourhoods. The message was read on behalf of the Secretary-General by Anna Tibaijuka, the new Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat).

"In theory, the poor are excluded from governance regardless of gender. In practice, it is women, even more than men, who must confront the consequences of other peoples decisions," said the UN Secretary General. "That is why this year’s World Habitat Day is dedicated to enhancing the role and presence of women in urban governance."

In her opening address, Mrs. Tibaijuka thanked the Government of Jamaica for hosting this year’s observances. She called upon the assembled delegates, the UN system and other partners to honour the commitments made in Beijing to ensure women’s right to equal representation, particularly in the field of urban governance.

"In a rapidly urbanizing world, where over 2.5 billion people live in towns and cities, the concerns of half of this population are not represented. Yet we know that the urban needs of women are different from men’s," said Mrs. Tibaijuka. "I therefore call for the greater participation of women decision makers in local authorities. This is the best way to address urban issues which are important to women."

Each year, the United Nations’ World Habitat Day is held on the first Monday in October; celebrations are organized all over the world. The theme for the year 2000 was Women in Urban Governance and the global celebrations were hosted by the Government of Jamaica. Delegates came from all over the world and included participants from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

The international and local delegates were welcomed by the Mayor of Kingston and St. Andrew, Her Worship, Marie Atkins, who is one of the few women mayors in the world. In her opening address, the UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Gillian Lindsay-Nanton supported the call for greater participation of women in urban governance. In his welcoming address, Honourable Seymour Mullings, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Land and Environment of the Government of Jamaica, noted that, given the theme of the year 2000 celebrations, it was fitting that the new Executive Director at the helm of Habitat should be a woman.

UNCHS (Habitat), which is the UN agency responsible for cities and other human settlements, is prioritizing the needs of women and their participation in urban governance. Habitat’s campaigns for Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance are committed to changing the circumstances of women in poor urban areas. The increasing urbanization of poverty and the high proportion of women headed households in informal settlements makes it important to address their concerns. Evidence from projects from all over the world suggest that when women are included in the policy making process, this brings about the "politics of care".

To highlight the importance of the role of women in urban governance, the year 2000 Habitat Scroll of Honour was awarded to projects that have helped increase the influence and participation of women.

"These awards send a signal to the world that increasing the role and participation of women in urban governance is not just a question of social justice and the fulfillment of basic rights, but is also a question of efficiency," said Mrs. Tibaijuka. "Including women in urban governance will make cities and urban neighbourhoods work better."

The Habitat Scroll of Honour Award Winners for the year 2000 were:

Mr. Charles Keenja (Tanzania)
for his successful leadership in making Dar es Salaam a safer and sustainable city.

Ms. Mmatshilo Motsei (South Africa)
for having succeeded, as Director of ADAPT, in fighting violence against women by not only involving female survivors but male offenders too.

Ms. Sheela Patel (India)
for continuously promoting participatory urban governance and security of tenure in India.

Ms. Mary Jane Ortega (Philippines)
for advocating the empowerment of women and drawing support for her city’s sustainable development strategy.

Mrs. Jacqueline daCosta (Jamaica)
for her outstanding contribution to the development of shelter strategies both locally and internationally.

Ms. Caroline Pezzullo (U.S.A.)
for her work in nurturing the development of global networks of community based women’s groups, and bringing their voices into policy debate.

Ms. Ana Vasilache (Romania)
for her dedication to improving urban governance in Romania and Central and Eastern Europe.

Women and Peace Network
for reaching out to women’s organizations in war-torn societies and promoting their participation in reconstruction programmes.

International Union of Local Authorities
for its lead role in championing the role of women in local government worldwide.

For more information, please contact:
Mr. Amrik Kalsi, Coordinator
World Habitat Day
UNCHS (Habitat), P.O. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-623124, Fax: 254-2-624060

Millennium Summit Pledges to Improve Lives of 100 Million Slum Dwellers

The 150 Heads of State and Government who attended the Millennium Summit in early September 2000 at the United Nations in New York pledged to achieve the target of the Cities Alliance Cities Without Slums action plan, and incorporated their commitment in the Millennium Summit Declaration (A/RES/55/2). Paragraph 19 of the Declaration, which adopts specific goals for poverty reduction, reads as follows: "We resolve further: (...) by 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers as proposed in the Cities Without Slums initiative." The Cities Without Slums Action Plan was developed in 1999 within the framework of the Cities Alliance, a joint initiative launched by UNCHS (Habitat) and the World Bank.

The U.N. Secretary-General had previously noted in his report to the Millennium Summit entitled "We the peoples: the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century" (paras 134 to 138) that "the World Bank and the United Nations have joined forces to respond to this challenge, by building a global alliance of cities and their development partners" (the Cities Alliance), and by launching the Cities Without Slums action plan. The Secretary-General expressed support of the action plan, asking all UN Member States to act on it. The commitment made to the targets of the action plan by the Millennium Summit is of critical importance for all partners of the Cities Alliance to achieve the goals of this initiative and contribute meaningfully to the reduction of urban poverty.

The Cities Alliance

The Cities Alliance is an expanding partnership of those institutions and donors who believe the time has come to forge a new approach to urban development and to support the initiatives of the poor. Other development agencies have joined to expand the partnership to a scale commensurate with the nature and size of the challenge.

UNCHS (Habitat) is the focal point within the United Nations system for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. Habitat has completed a comprehensive revitalisation exercise, adopting the style and profile of an advocacy agency. The World Bank has just launched a new urban and local government development strategy, indicating a wholly new orientation and importance for urban development within the institution.

The Cities Alliance provides expanded operational capacity to the urban strategy being developed within and between the two founding organizations. The decision by Habitat to launch two global campaigns provides an overarching long-term framework and a vehicle for the Cities Alliance, as it is for helping implement the Bank’s strategy. The Global Campaign for Secure Tenure provides a framework for slums upgrading, whereas the Global Campaign on Urban Governance mirrors the Bank’s search for well-managed cities. It is this synergy that is captured by the Cities Alliance.

To succeed, however, the Cities Alliance has to expand beyond the two founding partners and continue to attract a broader constituency of development agencies. The Cities Alliance is now a broad and growing partnership of bilateral and multilateral agencies, donors and associations of local authorities, poised to mobilize global commitment and resources.

At the heart of making this approach a reality is the need for city governments to demonstrate a clear vision, underwritten by solid political will. This must be the first point of departure for the Cities Alliance; it is precisely these leaders and these cities that the Alliance will seek as partners.

For further information,
please visit the Cities Alliance

Campaign for Secure Tenure Launched in Europe

Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, the new Executive Director of Habitat, presided over the European Launch of the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure, as part of the European Housing Forum Conference on Access to Housing in the European Union, held at the UNESCO offices in Paris on 14 September, 2000.

Speaking in her first public engagement since assuming office, Mrs Tibaijuka said that the Campaign marked a new style of United Nations activity. The Campaign focuses on the importance of engaging organizations representing the inadequately housed and the homeless, and pays particular attention to the role of women. which Mrs Tibaijuka highlighted as "...possibly the single most important development question we face, and one which will move to the top of the United Nations development agenda".

Habitat’s Global Campaign for Secure Tenure is part of a rights based approach to development. The campaign promotes the granting of security of tenure as an essential and catalytic element of a sustainable pro-poor shelter policy, and the removal of social and legal discrimination against women, particularly in respect of access to property title and equal inheritance rights. The Global Campaign was first launched in India and subsequently in Kosovo.

The European launch in Paris took place within the larger debate over the adoption of the right to housing in Europe. The Executive Director of Habitat and the assembled delegates from EU countries, as well as non-EU countries, were welcomed by Ms. Francine Fournier, Assistant Director General for Social Human Sciences in UNESCO. In her welcoming address, Mrs. Fournier pointed out that UNESCO shared Habitat’s concerns about humanizing the urban environment and placing human concerns at the centre of urban development. This is why they fully supported the Habitat Agenda and Habitat’s Campaign on Secure Tenure.

For more information, please contact:
Ali Shabou, Information Manager
Campaign for Secure Tenure

Educational Posters on Low-cost Building Technologies

Over the years, Habitat has published many publications on building materials and technologies, the dissemination of which has been limited due to high costs. In order to reach a wider audience and to facilitate training in building skills, UNCHS jointly with the Auroville Building Centre (India), has completed (on CD-ROM) a set of educational posters on five low-cost building technologies (rammed earth, compressed earth blocks, ferrocement channels, dome construction and vault construction) to be used in construction training programmes. The posters will be distributed in paper form as well as electronically through the web.

For more information, please contact:
Rainer Nordberg
Programme Officer,
Housing Policy Unit,
UNCHS (Habitat)
Tel: (254-2) 623109

Chengdu International Conference on Urban Construction and the Environment

The Chengdu International Conference was part of the preparatory process for Istanbul+5, the special session of the UN General Assembly to be held in June 2001 on the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. The objective of the Conference was to promote the sharing and exchange of lessons learned from experience.

Selected best practices formed the basis of discussions and deliberations on:

1. City Development Strategies: Presentations on this topic were made by Mafikeng, South Africa; Sevilla, Spain, Hamilton-Wentworth, Canada; and Chengdu, China.

2. Urban Governance: Presentations were made by Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Naga City, The Philippines; Porto Alegre, Brazil; and Tilburg, The Netherlands.

3. Access to Land, Housing Finance and Shelter: Presentations were made by Villa El Salvador, Peru; Teresina, Brazil; Zhongshan, China; Vienna, Austria; and Phoenix, USA.

These cities and communities illustrated that the decentralisation and empowerment of local authorities, the participatory decision-making and partnerships between the public, private and community sectors can be effective in meeting the challenges of urbanisation and in finding solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social, economic and environmental problems. Comprehensive planning and management, good governance, secure tenure, gender equity and social inclusion, and access to information were seen as critical contributing factors to more sustainable social and economic development and the protection of the environment.

The Conference resulted in the Chengdu Declaration focusing on the role and contribution of local authorities and their civil society partners in improving the living environment, and calls for, inter alia, new and improved methods of international co-operation based on the transfer of lessons learned from best practices. The Conference report and the Chengdu Declaration are available on:

Ten Best Practices Awarded Prizes at Glittering Ceremony

On 20 November 2000 in Dubai, U.A.E.,S heikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates, presented the Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment (DIABP) to 10 exemplary initiatives which brought about significant changes to cities and communities in Angola, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, India, Nepal, Spain, Sudan and Turkey. Each winner received a golden Barjeel (traditional Arabian wind tower) trophy, US$30,000 and a certificate.

This year’s winners were selected by a five-member international jury from 740 submissions received from more than 115 countries in a three-phase process that included validations by the award’s 25 worldwide partners. The winners were selected taking into consideration the three basic criteria: impact, partnership and sustainability. Sixteen best practices had bagged this award in the previous two editions.

The award, sponsored by the Municipality of Dubai in collaboration with the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), is awarded every two years to projects that have made a positive contribution to improving the quality of life in cities and communities around the world.

The two-hour ceremony, held at a hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, was attended by ministers, members of diplomatic corps and top local and visiting officials. A short film on the evolution of the award was also screened.

The practices which received the award were:

Sulabh International (India)

Women’s Empowerment Programme (Nepal)

Shambob Brick Producers Co- operative Society (Sudan)

Luanda Sul Self-Financed Urban Infrastructure Program (Angola)

Programme in Public Security, Human Rights and Citizenship (Brazil)

Sustainable Community Programme of Hamilton- Wentworth (Canada)

Revitalization of Fu and Nan Rivers and Improvement of Urban Environment in Chengdu (China)

Democratization of Municipal Management for Equitable and Sustainable Development (Ecuador)

Greenways Programme (Spain)

Tourism and Coastal Zone Management in Ciral (Turkey).

In his welcome speech, Qassim Sultan, Director General of Dubai Municipality and Chairman of the 11-member DIABP Board of Trustees, said the objective of making a submission to the award was not only to win it but also to enable others to make use of and learn from the best practices.

"A number of countries and organizations concerned with improving the living standards of their people have already done so by transferring their best practices and expertise to others. This is what we really are aiming for," he remarked. These types of commendable works were not new to the United Arab Emirates as the region has always sought to encourage projects that serve humanity, he added.

In a message read on his behalf, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated that the common features of the best practices - partnership, participation, decentralization empowerment and judicious use of information - embodied the new paradigms of governance required to tackle global economic, social and environmental problems.

Mr. Annan called upon the winners to continue their efforts and to join hands with the international community to help the many others struggling to make their cities and communities safer, healthier, more equitable and sustainable.

In a message read on her behalf, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the UNCHS (Habitat), said that best practices had become an important means of building awareness of critical social, economic and environmental issues associated with urbanization and globalization. She said that best practices had also become a highly effective tool for the sharing of knowledge and networking. Mrs. Tibaijuka added that the governments of China, India and Spain, the Economic Bank of Brazil, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), the Huairou Commission, UNESCO, UNEP and other UN agencies have all initiated similar award systems and forms of recognition. These efforts, she said, were all concrete expressions of implementing the Habitat Agenda - the global action plan adopted at the Habitat II Conference in 1996.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Nicholas You
Information & Best Practices
UNCHS (Habitat)
P.O. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel:+254-2-623 029,
Fax:+254-2-623 080

Countdown to Istanbul +5

Regional Preparatory Meetings for Istanbul +5

by Axumite Gebre-Egziabher

Regional preparatory meetings for Istanbul + 5 were organized in close collaboration with the Regional Economic Commissions between September and November 2000. Ms. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat) provided key note address in the regional meetings. The purpose of the regional meetings was not only to review progress but also to identify and agree on concrete initiatives for extending and strengthening action to implement the Habitat Agenda in the regions. All meetings were attended by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of Habitat.

ECE Region

In organizing the ECE Ministerial Meeting and 61st session of ECE Committee on Human Settlements, Geneva, 18-20 September 2000, the ECE had taken into consideration General Assembly resolution 53/180 and Resolution 1/4 of the first session of the Preparatory Committee. UNCHS (Habitat) was invited to participate in the meeting. UNCHS (Habitat) prepared two documents as a contribution to the discussion: (1) Preliminary Synthesis of National Reports on the Implementation of the Habitat Agenda; and (2) Human Settlements Conditions and Trends in the ECE Region. The main objective of the preliminary synthesis was to highlight the main trends and issues of concern in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, as identified in the national reports received by UNCHS (Habitat). The presentation was organized in six chapters: shelter; social development and eradication of poverty; environmental management; economic development; governance; and international cooperation, as per the guidelines for country reporting. The second report was produced as part of the preparation of the Global Report on Human Settlements due to be issued by UNCHS (Habitat) in June 2001. The report followed the structure of the Global Report on Human Settlements and the findings were based on information from a wide range of sources, including UNCHS (Habitat)'s Urban Indicators, Statistics and Best Practices Programmes. A panel discussion on the Global Campaigns for Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance was also organized by UNCHS (Habitat) during the meeting.

The Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat) shared her vision of the Preparatory Process in her address to the Ministerial Meeting and stated that the ECE Strategy was an important step for the future implementation of the Habitat Agenda in the ECE region. The Ministerial Meeting decided that the Declaration and the Strategy would constitute the ECE's contribution to the special session of the United Nations General Assembly on the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, and would facilitate further cooperation between ECE and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements.

Western Asia

The Regional Meeting for Western Asia was organized together with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and hosted by the Government of the State of Bahrain. The meeting was held in Manama, Bahrain from 16 to18 October 2000. In addition to Member States of ESCWA, participants at the meeting included delegates from the League of Arab States. The meeting discussed a Review of the Implementation of the Habitat Agenda which was based on the synthesis of the national reports received by UNCHS (Habitat) and also from a wide range of sources, including UNCHS (Habitat)'s Urban Indicators, Statistics and Best Practices Programmes. Delegates presented an overview of their country reports following the Guidelines for Country Reporting. ESCWA presented a document entitled "Principles and Framework for the Implementation of the Habitat Agenda in the Arab States." A presentation was made on the Global Campaigns for Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance including the World Charter of Local Self Government and delegates addressed some of the fundamental issues. The meeting recommended further cooperation between Habitat, ESCWA, the Advisory Committee of Local Authorities, Arab Local Authorities, and the Arab Towns Organization. The meeting concluded by adopting the "Manama Declaration on Cities and Human Settlements in the New Millennium".

Asia and Pacific

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS) in close collaboration with UNDP's Urban Governance Initiative (TUGI), the Asian Development Bank, WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office and CityNet, organized a Regional High-Level Meeting for the Asia and the Pacific region from 19 to 23 October 2000 in Hangzhou, China. The Government of China hosted the meeting. Representatives from national and local authorities, NGOs, research and training institutes and the private sector ¾ a total of 157 delegates from 22 countries ¾ participated in the meeting. The meeting was organized around six key areas of the Habitat Agenda: Shelter, Poverty, Environmental Management, Economic Development, Governance and International Cooperation. An overview of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda by UNCHS and five background papers on the themes of the meeting. Four stakeholder symposia were convened for national governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, and research and training institutions. The meeting indicated the need for more regional cooperation for further implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

Latin America and the Caribbean

The Latin American and Caribbean Regional Preparatory Conference for the special session of the General Assembly for an overall review and appraisal of the Habitat Agenda was held in Santiago de Chile from 25 to 27 October 2000. The Conference was co-organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat). Twenty-three Member States and Habitat Agenda partners including Local Authorities, NGOs, Women's organizations and regional institutions attended. Habitat presented a review of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean, which highlighted progress made and constraints encountered, as identified in the national reports received by Habitat's and information from a wide range of sources, including Habitat's Urban Indicators, Statistics and Best Practices Programmes. ECLAC presented a document entitled "From rapid urbanization to the consolidation of human settlements in Latin America and the Caribbean: a territorial perspective," which recognizes the region’s spatial configuration as the scene of important social, economic and environmental processes. Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region that had drawn up a regional plan of action for Habitat II. The Conference took into account the interest expressed by the Forum of Ministers and High level Authorities of the Housing and Urban Development Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI) in the implementation and updating of the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Plan of Action on Human Settlements. Panel discussions were also organized on the Global Campaigns for Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance and the two Campaigns were launched during the meeting. The Conference recommended that collaboration between ECLAC and Habitat should be strengthened, and concluded by adopting the Santiago Declaration on Human Settlements.


The Regional African Ministerial Conference on the Implementation of the Habitat Agenda was held at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 6 to 8 November 2000. The Conference was jointly organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements. The Conference was attended by a total 216 delegates from 33 Member States, and Habitat Agenda partners including parliamentarians, local authorities, NGOs, Women's and Youth organizations, regional institutions and the UN system. The Conference discussed the implementation of the Habitat Agenda and a regional strategy for human settlements development in Africa by UNCHS (Habitat). Governments and Habitat Agenda partners presented their experiences in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. A presentation was made on the Global Campaigns for Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance including the World Charter of Local Self Government and delegates addressed some of the fundamental issues. A dialogue on "Water for African Cities" and a parallel event on "Children and Youth for Habitat" were also organized during the meeting. The Regional African Ministerial Conference concluded by adopting a Draft Regional Position on Progress, Challenges and Future Initiatives and the Addis Ababa Declaration on Human Settlements in the New Millennium.

Axumite Gebre-Egziabher
Coordinator of Istanbul+5.

For more information, please contact:
Axumite Gebre-Egziabher
Coordinator, Istanbul+5
UNCHS (Habitat)
P.O. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel.: (254-2) 623831
Fax: (254-2) 624264


Wandia Seaforth
Networking/Information Officer
Urban Secretariat
UNCHS (Habitat)
P.O. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel.: (254-2) 623342
Fax: (254-2) 624264

New Publications

World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty

Published for the World Bank by Oxford University Press, 2001
Paperback US$26,ISBN 0-19-521129-4
Hardcover US$50, ISBN 0-19-521598-2

At the start of a new century, poverty remains a global problem of huge proportions. Of the world's 6 billion people, 2.8 billion live on less than $2 a day and 1.2 billion on less than $1 a day. Eight out of every 100 infants do not live to see their fifth birthday. Nine of every 100 boys and 14 of every 100 girls who reach school age do not attend school. Poverty is also evident in poor people's lack of political power and voice and in their extreme vulnerability to ill health, economic dislocation, personal violence and natural disasters. And the scourge of HIV/AIDS, the frequency and brutality of civil conflicts, and rising disparities between rich countries and the developing world have increased the sense of deprivation and injustice for many.

World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty (which follows two other World Development Reports on poverty, in 1980 and 1990) argues nevertheless that major reductions in all these dimensions of poverty are indeed possible - that the interaction of markets, state institutions, and civil societies can harness the forces of economic integration and technological change to serve the interests of poor people and increase their share of society's prosperity.

Actions are needed in three complementary areas: promoting economic opportunities for poor people through equitable growth, better access to markets, and expanded assets; facilitating empowerment by making state institutions more responsive to poor people and removing social barriers that exclude women, ethnic and racial groups, and the socially disadvantaged; and enhancing security by preventing and managing economy-wide shocks and providing mechanisms to reduce the sources of vulnerability that poor people face. But actions by countries and communities will not be enough. Global actions need to complement national and local initiatives to achieve maximum benefit for poor people throughout the world.

To order, write to:
The World Bank
P.O. Box 960
Herndon, VA 20172-0960
Fax: 703-661-1501
Tel: 703-661-1580 or 800-645-7247

Legal Resources for Housing Rights: International and National Standards

COHRE Sources No.4
Published by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), Geneva, 2000
ISBN 92-95004-00-0

Among many sectors of society, particularly those who have rarely benefitted in practical terms from human rights law, a degree of skepticism exists as to the usefulness of laws in promoting and guaranteeing social justice. Nevertheless, the experience of COHRE suggests that legal resources have a much wider applicability and impact than is commonly assumed. Utilizing the law, international law in particular, provides a solid legal basis for holding governments accountable for protecting the full spectrum of human rights of everyone and for promoting national legislative, policy and other initiatives that are in full compliance with these international standards which governments themselves have freely accepted.

There is now a UN Housing Rights Programme providing much needed institutional support to the expansion of housing rights throughout the developing world. Dozens of new housing rights are now in place and popular awareness of housing rights as human rights has reached a high point.

This publication reveals how widespread the recognition of housing rights is throughout international, regional and national legislation. It is designed both as a reference document on housing rights under law, as well as a comprehensive statement on the global status of housing rights today. However, it is not only a reference document, it can also be used as a basis for developing legal demands in support of housing rights and moves at all levels towards the adoption of new, more specific legislation on housing rights.

To order, write to:

83 Rue de Montbrillant
1202 Geneva
Tel/Fax: (41-22) 734 1028

Support and Housing in Europe

Tackling social exclusion in the European Union
By Bill Edgar, Joe Doherty and Amy Mina-Coull
Published by The Policy Press, Bristol, 2000
ISBN 1 86134 2756

The report draws on the 1999 national reports of the correspondents of the European Observatory on Homelessness who conduct research on behalf of FEANTSA (the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless). The study explores the development of designated "supported accommodation", and other social support mechanisms for vulnerable people in the EU countries over the last two decades.

The authors consider the principles underlying the emergence of supported housing and describe the policy context of care services in the EU. The definition, emergence and nature of support in housing in the 15 member states is explored. The authors conclude by highlighting the problems, issues and dilemmas in the pursuit of supported housing policies and in the implementation of those policies.

Support and Housing in Europe is essential reading for social workers, service providers, policy makers, researchers and students with an interest in the development of effective responses to social exclusion.

The Quality of Growth

Published for the World Bank by Oxford University Press, 2000

This report shows that countries can dramatically improve the quality of peoples' lives if they blend policies that promote economic growth with those that embrace wider access to education, greater protection of the environment, more civil liberties and stronger anti-corruption measures. Countries could also double their per capita incomes by improving the quality of their legal systems.

The Quality of Growth says that while the last decade of the 20th century saw great economic progress in parts of the world, it also witnessed stagnation and setbacks, even in countries that had previously achieved the fastest rates of economic growth. Looking back over previous decades of development results, the report says that the world has much to celebrate as it begins the new millennium. A child born today in the developing world can expect to live 25 years longer, and be healthier, better-educated, and more productive than a child born 50 years ago. The spread of democracy has brought millions of people new freedoms and opportunities. The communications revolution holds the same promise of universal access to education.

However, upon closer examination, the report says that at least 100 million more people are living in poverty today than a decade ago, and the gap between rich and poor is growing wider. In many countries the scourge of AIDS has cruelly cut life expectancy ¾ in some African countries by more than 10 years. Each year 2.4 million children die of waterborne diseases. As many as a billion people have entered the 21st century unable to read or write. Some 1.8 million people die every year of indoor air pollution in rural areas alone. Forests are being destroyed at the rate of an acre a second, with unimaginable loss of biodiversity.

"Just as the quality of people's diets, and not just the quantity of food they eat, influences their health and life expectancy, the way in which growth is generated and distributed has profound implications for people and their quality of life," says Vinod Thomas, World Bank Vice-President and lead author of the new report. "What factors are most effective in sustaining growth beyond a temporary upswing and in bringing about real gains in human well-being? Sound macroeconomic policies and the application of appropriate market-oriented microeconomic principles are basic elements. But along with them, several crucial factors ¾ often neglected in policymaking and policy advice - emerge as key to improving people's' lives."

Thomas says four areas need re-appraisal by countries pursuing better living standards and less poverty: improving access to education; greater protection of the environment; managing global risks; and improving the quality of governance - making institutions less corrupt, more transparent, and accountable to ordinary people.