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close this bookVolunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)
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View the documentUrban development policy issues and the role of united nations volunteers
View the documentWorking with the urban poor: lessons from the experience of metropolitan Lagos, Nigeria
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View the documentSpecial consultation on volunteer participation in working with the urban poor

Urban development policy issues and the role of united nations volunteers

Excerpts from paper presented by: G. Shabbir Cheema, Principal Technical Adviser, TAD/BPPE, UNDP, September 1990.

Urbanization has been taking place rapidly over the past four decades in developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In 1970, the World's urban population was 1.4 billion. It is expected to reach 2.9 billion by the year 2000. The share of the world's urban population living in developing countries increased from 49 percent in 1970 to 58 percent in 1985. It is projected to increase to 67 percent by the year 2000. Most of the growth in the number of large cities is projected to take place in developing countries...."

"Cities are centres of production, employment and innovation. Thus, the economic importance of cities and towns is rapidly increasing and the future economic growth is becoming dependent on the ability of urban centres to perform crucial service and production functions. In a number of countries, urban centres containing only one third of the total population generate up to 60 percent of the national output. Furthermore, the modernization of the agricultural sector in developing countries, as well as an increase of agricultural production, depends on the emergence and efficient functioning of smaller urban centres and towns."

"Despite its macro-economic benefits, rapid urbanization in developing countries has led to several negative consequences: an alarming increase in the incidence of urban poverty; proliferation of slums and squatter settlements; serious deficiencies of urban infrastructure and services, including low-income housing: and deterioration of urban environment."

"Yet, urbanisation in developing countries is neither a crisis nor a tragedy; it is an opportunity and a catalyst for far reaching socio-economic and political changes. It requires appropriate policy and programme responses from national and local governments. Bilateral donors and multilateral agencies can assist governments in developing countries to effectively respond to urban problems."

"Over the past few decades, governments in developing countries have struggled with three sets of policy issues: those aimed at diffusion of urban population and control of rural to urban migration; those concerning effective management of large metropolitan areas; and those dealing with strengthening institutions at the national, regional and local levels to respond to urban problems."

"Governments in developing countries attempted to create growth poles to stimulate development along major roads and highways, enacted regulations and controls on the location of industries in large metropolitan areas, and implemented programmes to strengthen small and intermediate-sized cities, and attempted to slow down the rate of rural to urban migration through, at least in some cases, stringent controls and by adopting many explicit population distribution policies."

"The experience of developing countries clearly indicates that policies and programmes aimed at diffusion of urbanization and controls on rural to urban migration have largely failed and that urbanization is an inevitable phenomenon that requires new types of programmes to achieve the goals of economic growth."

"Governments in developing countries have adopted two types of policies dealing with the urban informal sector. The "supply-oriented" policies are those that are geared towards increasing the productivity of supply of informal sector goods and services. This includes providing credit and technical assistance, creating production cooperatives and broadening the access of those involved in the informal sector activities to the required inputs. The "demand-oriented" policies are aimed at increasing the demand of the informal sector products by private consumers who purchase wage goods from the informal sector, by private firms in the formal sector which may sub-contract part of their production activities to firms in the informal sector, and by the public sector which can increase procurement from the informal sector."

"One of the future challenges is to provide a framework through above and other types of policies and programmes to fully utilise the potential role of the informal sector in the process of urban development."

"In the face of difficulties in expanding formal sector jobs, policies to eliminate informal sector are slowly yielding to a wider recognition of the important roles that informal sector activities play in providing low-income households with goods and services they might not otherwise be able to afford and in employing the labour of large number of poor individuals and households who can not find adequate full-time employment in the formal sector."

Urban Institutional Capacities

"The effectiveness of urban programmes depends upon the quality of institutions responsible for planning and implementing these. The proliferation of government and semi-government agencies has led to a lack of coordination and consistency by the concerned agencies. Semi-autonomous development authorities were established to undertake urban planning and coordination functions and most of international assistance in the urban sector has been channelled through these development authorities. In the meantime, the role of local governments has continued to decline which is demonstrated by the inability of local governments to adequately maintain urban infrastructure provided through development authorities."

"One of the crucial aspects of institutional capacities is the ability of community based groups to articulate local needs and priorities, mobilise community and municipal resources to meet these needs, and actively participate in government initiated programmes in addition to their own initiatives."