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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

B. Shelter, good governance and the enabling role

A second issue of major concern is the capacity and competence of urban administrations to deliver effective public services within an enabling framework in the area of shelter and urban infrastructural provision. The new role perceived by the international agencies implies three major areas of responsibility for local authorities:

· they will continue to deliver certain core services to the community, e.g. basic services such as nutritional programmes, primary health care and education;

· they are to assume responsibility for providing a strategic policy framework for the delivery of urban services; and

· by working with or through other bodies (i.e. NGOs, CBOs and the private sector), they are to ensure the enablement and regulation of service delivery within the context of the strategic policy framework.

Batley (DAG, 1994), argues that these enabling and regulatory roles “assume that government has the capacity of oversight, analysing the operation of markets, identifying the need for intervention and setting the policy framework for other sectors”. Yet, “there is scarce evidence” that such administrative capacities exist in many developing countries. The development of shelter strategies is one area where enablement is highly advantageous and there is an urgent need for local authorities to acknowledge the contribution of poorer communities and work closely with them. But in the context of the chronic and increasing need for shelter, scarce and declining public sector resources, poor market conditions, a weak political and administrative framework and a demoralized public sector in the wake of the depletion of resources through SAPs, the formulation of enabling shelter strategies will be very challenging indeed. Such strategies will demand innovative thinking, the forging of new relationships and administrative procedures, the need for an overhaul of old regulatory structures, and the capacity for analysis and a more entrepreneurial approach. This is a highly challenging agenda with intrinsic technical and political difficulties for which there is no prescription and very little guidance.

The international agencies and indeed some governments are already committed to strengthening urban local government through the decentralization of powers and functions, but if these new responsibilities are to be effectively undertaken there needs to be much greater support for the public sector and a major international initiative in training, guidance and support for local authorities. In the shelter sector in particular there is an urgent need for training and institutional development to increase the competence of technical officers, administrators and politicians in seeking to identify shelter solutions for the urban poor in the context of more market oriented strategies. Such an initiative needs to incorporate a research oriented approach similar to that embodied in the UNCHS (Habitat)/DANIDA Community Development Programme, in order to draw on emerging international practice and to build an analytical capacity into enabling strategies which increases their relevance for the urban poor. An integrated research and training programme would identify good practice, highlight successful partnerships, record procedural arrangements and seek to explore other effective mechanisms for extending shelter to the urban poor. Through training, good practice guidance and publications it would disseminate such information as widely as possible.