|BASIN - News No. 13 - February 1997 : The Great Habitat Debate (BASIN-GTZ-SKAT, 1997, 31 p.)|
The BASIN exhibition at the NGO Forum was arranged around a photographic display portraying partner activities on building and settlement for a sustainable future. This text below presents the accompanying text.
The gap between rich and poor has never been greater. Urban policies over the last twenty years have protected the interests of big corporations at the expense of small businesses. The result is high unemployment, despair and civil disorder.
The answer is to recognise that the poor are part of the solution not a threat. Social and economic partnerships which distribute wealth more evenly would make cities safer.
This statement offers a nine-point agenda for creating stability and hope in our cities.
1. Support local initiative
People are constantly coming up with new ways to use local materials and do more with less. Much can be accomplished by supporting people's initiative.
- Research and training effort should focus on small scale
production in local workshops.
- Traditional techniques should be modernised.
- Technologies and production processes must be appropriately scaled to create jobs and serve local markets.
2. Build up local economies
Public housing schemes are far too costly for low income groups. Governments can solve the urban housing crisis through positive intervention at the local level, by:
- utilising local resources
- mobilising finance
- transferring responsibility to local organisations
3. Plan housing with work
A secure place to live without threats of eviction is a priority. No-one will invest energy or money on improving their neighbourhood without it.
But housing is only a means to an end. A low or no-cost home near a job offers people the chance to work their way out of poverty.
4. Utilise local materials
Cities do not have to be built with concrete blocks. Bamboo, soil block bricks, light weight concrete roofing tiles, clay and lime binders are just as durable and cost less. Concrete and steel framing is a waste of time and money for single storey buildings.
Small scale brick making businesses employ five times as many people as large factory plants. They require less investment and use less foreign exchange.
5. Mobilise local finance
Small businesses tend to be more creative and more responsive to local markets. But they need the same breaks that big companies enjoy.
Business promotion policies which stimulate local commerce include:
- low cost loans
- technical assistance
- research grants
- new business tax exemptions
6. Redistribute power
Local organisations are essential routes for sharing information. They are vehicles for monitoring the rights of vulnerable people and must be allowed to define local agendas.
Networks of NGOs such as BASIN offer examples of success from elsewhere which can kick-start positive change.
7. Keep regulations in perspective
Who sets standards? Are they locally appropriate? Building codes must accommodate new materials and improved traditional techniques.
People build in stages when they have the money. Regulations which insist that a building is fully complete before an approval certificate is released make gradual slum upgrading almost impossible. Laws should reflect reality.
8. Manage the future
Governments and international bodies are spending increasing amounts of money responding to global crises caused by waste and over consumption of natural resources. Fisheries, water supply, pollution, and global warming etc.
The richest 20% receive 135% of world income.
The poorest 20% receive 1.4% of world income.
Inequalities push up crime rates, fuel civil strife and force migration. More equitable division of the world's resources and the implementation of international treaties is the solution.
9. Empower through information
Making the right choice starts with having information about all the options. The challenge is to translate the experience which is retained by "experts" so that it is useful to the people who really need it.
What works in one place rarely works somewhere else. Adaptation is the key. Information on tools and techniques which improve peoples lives is the basis for making rational choices for the next millennium.