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close this bookPerspectives on Urban-Rural Synergies - Report of a Colloquium (HABITAT, 1999, 92 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentColloquium on Urban-Rural Synergies
View the documentAnnex 1: Panelist
View the documentAnnex 2: Organizing Committee of the Colloquium
View the documentAnnex 3: Colloquium on Urban-Rural Synergies
View the documentAnnex 4: Total Population and annual average population growth rates for urban and rural areas for the years 1995 to 2030.
View the documentAnnex 5: Final Summary Report - UNDP International Workshop on Rural-Urban Linkages Curitiba, Brazil, 10-13 March 1998

Annex 5: Final Summary Report - UNDP International Workshop on Rural-Urban Linkages Curitiba, Brazil, 10-13 March 1998

For more information, please contact:

Jonas Rabinovitch MDGD/BDP United Nations Development Programme

[email protected]
fax (1 212) 906 6973

1. Sponsorship and Purpose:

The International Workshop on Rural-Urban Linkages has been organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Government of Parana State in Brazil and supporting UN agencies, including UNCHS/Habitat. The Management Development and Governance Division (MDGD) provided substantive and operational support, working in cooperation with the Poverty (SEPED) and Environment (SEED) Divisions. The important support of the Special Secretariat for Housing and of the Secretariat for Agriculture of the Government of Parana and of UNDP Brazil should also be acknowledged. The purpose of the Workshop was to provide a forum for local governments, practitioners and experts to identify and discuss key issues, share insights from experiences and best practices, initiate a network among participants, and develop an agenda for further action and collaboration on rural-urban linkages.

2. Background:

The operational borders between rural and urban areas are increasingly connected. Development and poverty alleviation strategies urgently need a spatial vision, so that solutions for urban-related problems do not cause a rural-related problem and vice-versa. While the topic of rural-urban relations has a long history in development theory and planning, past policy approaches such as "integrated rural development" have shown limited results. From the Habitat I (Vancouver, 1976) to the Habitat II (Istanbul, 1996) Conferences, a clear international consensus has emerged that urbanization is a complex, irreversible, worldwide process that can not be just "curbed" through policy-making. There is wide recognition that urbanization generates many unintended impacts on rural areas and that rural development policy frameworks should be broadened to include negative and positive aspects of urbanization. However, the relationship between urban and rural areas seems to have been left to the market or to destiny, as sound policies in this fundamental field seem rare. From these considerations, the overriding policy question is how to encourage the strengthening of local rural-urban linkages in a complementary manner that benefits both rural as well as urban populations, thus supporting a sustainable and socially just development process.

3. New Contextual Elements

While the relative merits of past rural-urban linkage programs may continue to be debated, fundamental changes occurring over the past two decades in the parameters and context for such programs have been so far-reaching that they point toward the need to develop new ideas and policy frameworks. Among the most important dimensions of these changes are: (1) the phenomena of urbanization, including the urbanization of poverty - poverty is no longer a predominantly rural condition; (2) agricultural transformations which improved the potential productivity of rural areas; (3) the rise of governance and participatory approaches; the growing recognition of social capital; (4) decentralization trends in most developing countries and (5) overall globalization trends which highlight integrations between rural and urban areas in terms of worldwide systems of production, contracting, finance, merchandising, and labour markets.

4. Participants

Policy-makers, academicians, mayors, media representatives, representatives of bilateral and multilateral agencies comprised a selected inter-regional group of some forty discussants. Most discussants prepared and presented papers. These included representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Thailand; international development cooperation representatives from the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States also participated. Apart from these, participants from universities, newspapers, other municipalities. State Government Agencies, formed an audience of some one hundred people. There was no registration fee and most participants were invited, which contributed to a focused discussion. A list of participants is available.

5. Main Conclusions

Theme paper presentations, case studies, a technical field trip within Parana (kindly funded by the State Government) and small group discussions led to five key conclusions that cut across the rural-urban linkage issues of governance, poverty and environmental sustainability.

First, there was a shared agreement that rural-urban linkages add a crucial spatial dimension to understanding key development issues of our times and formulating effective policies and programmes to address them. They thus complement a wide array of issues, ranging from better understanding gender relations, such as the current feminization of rural-urban migration and its implication for social change, to efficiently using local towns to provide urban services to rural populations and, as seen in the technical field visit, creating rural housing and amenity alternatives to urban slum formation. The Workshop acknowledged that rural-urban linkages are not an abstraction: they exist anyway in terms of the concrete flows of people, capital, goods, information and technology between rural and urban areas. Realizing the potential benefits of rural-urban linkages rests not only on strengthening these linkages but also mitigating their negative impacts. Stronger rural-urban linkages is a worthy policy tool to widen the scope of opportunities for both rural and urban populations. But too often policies and planning focus exclusively on either urban or rural areas rather than both together. Unintended impacts spreading beyond rural or urban boundaries are thus often ignored in the planning and implementation processes. A more conscious effort is needed to ensure that benefits reciprocally accrue to both the rural and urban components and that unintended negative impacts are considered in decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

In this regard, the participants expressed the concern that while reducing the need for people to migrate to cities might be an objective of some policy interventions, rural-urban linkage policies should not be seen merely as a means to contain populations in rural areas. Rather, a more positive approach is to strengthen rural-urban linkages and mitigate their negative impacts in a manner that expands choices and chances by increasing spatial access to a variety of livelihood opportunities. It was recognized that perhaps the largest group of beneficiaries would be poor people living in rural as well as urban areas. Enhancing human potential and building development capacities as part of a sustainable process of development constitute the over-arching objectives of rural-urban linkage policies.

Second, ensuring reciprocal benefits from rural-urban linkages requires a localization of planning and management capacities to assess rural-urban linkage issues and devise appropriate initiatives for each context. Localization addresses the question of how to bring local values and norms more centrally into policy dialogues rather than having policies and the values imposed exclusively from above. In building an inclusive process of identifying appropriate projects "with" rather than "for" rural people, localization can also provide the institutional framework for participatory evaluation of policy impacts and outcomes.

Municipalities are, for example, usually defined in such a way that rural hinterlands are excluded from their jurisdiction. At the same time, rural areas typically have very weak planning authority and capacities. Thus both the opportunities to build on positive elements of rural-urban linkages and mitigate their negative ones are often missed in national and local planning in most countries. Localizing capacity-building points toward the need to find the appropriate spatial scale at which to ensure that rural-urban linkages are incorporated into policy formulation and planning. While planning in this context is necessary multi-level - including global as well as national and local levels - the sub-national regional scale is proposed as being the most appropriate level at which to build local capacities. Possibly influenced by the technical visit to the "rural villages" programme of the Government of the State of Parana, participants highlighted the importance of government social subsidies applied to interest rates of small-credit and land tenure schemes, thus enhancing the participatory potential of the poorest of the poor.

Third, participants concurred that the conventional view of rural as equivalent to agriculture is no longer reflective of the reality of either rural regions or the rural component of rural-urban linkages. In the same light, models that pose a single sectoral transition from primary to secondary and tertiary activities for every regional economy are also too restrictive in light of current realities. Agriculture is shifting toward new forms of organization such as small producer contract farming and is increasingly integrated into global manufacturing and service commodity chains. Urban agriculture continues to grow as a relevant trend, as demonstrated by UNDP in the publication "urban agriculture: food, jobs and sustainable cities". Transportation and communications revolutions have opened rural areas to a host of non-agricultural economic opportunities. They are also creating vast extended metropolitan regions reaching deeply into rural regions to form areas of rural-urban interaction that are accounting for ever larger shares of national populations. Rural households are integrated into complex migration networks that link rural and urban labour markets over space from local to global scales. The feminization of these labour processes is resulting in ever-increasing numbers of women from poorer households joining these migration streams. Thus rural areas, and by extension rural-urban linkages, are becoming more complex than rural as agriculture formulations allow. Policies to build on positive and reciprocal rural-urban linkages should, therefore, take account of the potentially widening diversity of economic opportunities in rural as well as in urban areas.

Fourth, many cases presented at the workshop provide excellent insights into the importance of rural-urban linkages perspectives in creating best practices. The Parana State itself gave participants an up-close look at an explicit rural-urban linkage planning effort that is likely to become an internationally acclaimed "best practice". The Indonesia Programme, which gives block grants to rural areas lacking in basic infrastructure and services, thus having rural-urban linkages as a central approach for reducing poverty. Building roads and bridges to connect villages with towns and the larger spatial system is intended to provide a wide range of access for remote, less connected villages to schools, health services, markets and a wide range of choice and opportunities that are currently beyond their reach. The Indonesia Programme, with support from UNDP, is currently one of the most promising rural-urban linkage projects underway in Asia today.

Other cases pointed toward the symbiotic rural-urban linkages that are so important in sustaining household livelihood strategies. In the discussion on Lagos, Nigeria, for example, urban households were found to retain strong rural linkages, both in terms of getting information on how to grow crops in the city and in terms of cultural continuity and collective meanings passed on to new generations. The mass movement of people back to rural areas at the time of the government census taking is but one manifestation of the belief that home and sense of place are in the countryside. Urban dwellers, for their part, contribute significant amounts of income and material goods to their rural relatives and communities. It should be underscored that such rural-urban linkages have been critical to shoring up all of Nigerian society during the political and economic upheavals the country has been experiencing. They, in effect, created economic as well as psychological safety nets for people who regard rural-urban linkages as an intrinsic feature of their lives and sustenance.

The workshop concluded that new research programs are needed to establish data bases on structural conditions and flows between rural and urban areas. There is currently very little data that is routinely collected and made available on such linkages as circular migration related to employment and production in city and countryside, or access to information, services, political power, land and natural resources, credit, and markets. In carrying out research programmes on rural-urban linkages, there is a need to focus attention on both the household and small- and micro-scale enterprises, and it was suggested to use the Sustainable Livelihoods approach as framework of analysis.

A key component to rural-urban linkage research would be to focus on successful approaches. Many cases and examples of successful rural-urban linkage projects and programs were presented and discussed at the workshop. These experiences provide encouragement for further applications, and to pursue this task there is a need for a more systematic framework and method of distilling lessons from past and on-going rural-urban linkage programs, especially with regard to key elements explaining their successes, problems and limitations. UNDP can play a leading role in building a comparative framework for learning from both successful and unsuccessful initiatives. Given the need to identify the most promising policy and program directions, primary attention on the successful experience is recommended.

Fifth, UNDP is encouraged to set up a clearing house for the development of a network of government organizations, academic institutions, civic organizations and private sector representatives who have an interest in rural urban linkage issues and policies. This might most easily be established through the internet. The purposes of the clearing house would include the introduction of rural-urban linkage concepts and policy frameworks in national and local planning. It would also serve as a central point for facilitating exchanges among participants, but to be effective it would involve more than a bulletin-board function. Specifically, it would require a UNDP team to process information, identify key themes, stimulate policy discussions, and facilitate learning from best practices.

6. Follow-Up

The workshop did confirm the relevance of rural-urban linkages to complement integrated development policies and outlined three main areas for further action.

7.1) Reporting and Documentation A full-fledged report on the workshop, including all papers submitted and a background policy document on rural-urban linkages will be sponsored by UNDP, possibly in cooperation with other international partners;

7.2) Regional Workshops Workshop discussions clearly highlighted the need for in-depth regional approaches dealing with the issue of rural-urban linkages. The scope and patterns of migration and urbanization, for instance, differ significantly from one region to another. The development of regional workshops will also be related to the design, implementation and evaluation of pilot-testing (see below). They will also aim to promote an intra-regional exchange of experiences, e.g., between UNDP Country Offices which are already implementing significant rural-urban linkages programmes.

7.3) Pilot-testing Specific approaches and methodologies for introducing rural-urban linkages into policy-making will be pilot tested in a few situations in all regions. It is envisaged that a two-year programme cycle will be necessary to accomplish the planned outputs and outcomes.

The choice of specific activities and the evaluation of these activities will be undertaken in the context of the Regional Workshops.

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