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close this bookThe Human Settlements Conditions of the World's Urban Poor (HABITAT, 1996, 233 p.)
close this folderVII. Agenda for future work
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentA. Countering urban poverty
View the documentB. Shelter, good governance and the enabling role
View the documentC. Specific policy areas in need of development
View the documentD. Strengthening shelter strategies for the poorest groups
View the documentE. Harnessing the benefits of research
View the documentF. The future role of local authorities
View the documentG. The role of CBOs and NGOs
View the documentH. The role of the private commercial sector

A. Countering urban poverty

In view of the increasing numbers enduring urban poverty in various regions of the world, the most pressing task for action is to explore systematically ways of countering this growing trend effectively. In some countries undergoing SAPs the World Bank has been persuaded of the need for compensatory programmes of intervention to mitigate the most adverse consequences of macro-economic reform. These programmes have included a reallocation of public expenditure to protect areas of social provision such as primary health care and education, and other measures have included public employment schemes and a targeted programme of nutrition and food assistance (Moser and others, 1993). But as UNICEF has subsequently pointed out, “these programmes do not... attack the root causes of structural poverty” (van der Hoeven and Anka, 1994).

There is, therefore, an urgent need to complement the ‘safety net’ strategy of the World Bank with a pro-active programme which systematically and exhaustively explores the opportunities afforded by shelter and human settlements development and upgrading as a means of creating economic opportunities for the urban poor. This theme has underpinned work undertaken by UNCHS (Habitat) and ILO for some time and this report strongly endorses the establishment of the Urban Poverty Partnership Programme. This inter-agency initiative seeks to address:

· practical measures to generate or increase productive employment of people living in low-income communities - including labour-intensive urban infrastructure projects, micro-enterprise initiatives, and supporting credit schemes;

· measures to improve the physical living conditions of residents in low-income communities - their housing, sanitation, water supply, waste disposal, drainage, access roads; and

· opportunities to share in the planning, prioritizing and implementation of local development, and to gain greater access to and influence over resources for local development which could improve employment, incomes and physical living conditions” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands, 1993).

The programme will operate at the community level, seeking the genuine participation of poor communities in local programmes drawing in NGOs, CBOs, local and central governments and the private sector in a partnership approach to maximize opportunities for the urban poor. By combining their expertise and resources, and indeed by inviting the participation of other donors, the United Nations agencies hope to ‘maximize synergy’ between their individual programmes. UNCHS (Habitat) and ILO have recently made a number of more detailed recommendations in respect of employment generation from shelter provision and human settlements development. These include:

· the call for an urgent shift in attitudes and approaches which links shelter provision and major public works programmes to anti-poverty strategies through the use of labour-intensive initiatives to create unemployment opportunities for the urban poor;

· the encouragement of a positive environment for small-scale contracting in shelter provision and upgrading through training and advice and guidance; the availability of raw materials and local sources of finance; and the empowerment of households to be able to deal with small contractors;

· the acknowledgement of shelter as a workplace and the encouragement of HBEs; and

· the development of a series of pilot projects to examine the potential of small-scale contracting in scaling-up the level of low-cost shelter provision and in exploring ways of integrating work-place and residential space in a variety of different circumstances.

An important element of this new approach will be a need to share experiences and ideas between organizations and communities, which in turn also emphasises the need for an effective monitoring role and the wide dissemination of findings. These programmes also afford an important opportunity for a more detailed research role which should be carefully considered. Amongst the wide range of potential topics for comparative research, for example, could be the economic impacts on poor communities of labour-intensive approaches; or social issues, such as the effect of local programmes on the role of women; the impact of such programmes on social cohesion, integration and self-reliance; or issues of urban governance, such as the organizational dynamics between CBOs, NGOs and municipal authorities. In order to be effective, the research programme needs to be planned as an integral part of the local programme and designed in such a way which contributes directly to the implementation of the programme itself.