Time to hear from the urban poor

15/12/2012 at 11:16 pm Leave a comment

As we mentioned before, Dóchas is involved in the organisation of the February 2013 meeting in Dublin of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty.

Cities should be at the heart of global development thinking:

  • Global poverty is increasingly an urban issue. For the first time in history more than half the world’s people live in cities. Most urban growth is occurring in developing countries, and in most rapidly growing cities, slums, pollution and extreme inequalities make for a very unpleasant mix.
  • As was highlighted at the recent Rio+20 summit, the challenges of “sustainable development” are most acute in cities. The world’s cities occupy just 2% of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions. Drinking water, sewage, public health, fuel and transport are major challenges in most major cities.
  • Cities are magnets for poor people. But research also shows that it is easier to escape poverty traps in the cities than it is in rural areas. Cities are hubs for ideas and commerce, and access to education and employment – two key ingredients in the strategy to exit poverty – is more readily available in cities.
  • To date, many development strategies have been focused on keeping rural people on the land, and to avoid migration to the cities. This is still valid, but it should not blind us for the possibilities that exist to reduce urban poverty.
  • As the international community re-awakens to the importance of mitigating disasters, and of strengthening resilience, it is important to highlight that the urban poor are often “living on the edge physically, economically and politically.” As climate change is set to increase the shocks to cities and countries across the globe, more resources will need to be diverted to “future proofing” our cities. Empowering the urban poor, and including them in decision-making processes is crucial to developing more resilient cities.
  • Cities are serious Development actors in their own rights. The international community – made up of national governments – has repeatedly failed to address global challenges. Faced with this failure, “municipal leaders, who must provide public services to growing populations, are developing long-term sustainability plans as part of their economic development strategies.”

If Development is about human rights, and poverty is about exclusion, then more should be done to include urban poor in decision-making processes.

One of the key ‘articles of faith’ of the Development NGO sector is that ending poverty requires the active involvement of poor people themselves, and that poor communities must organise and empower themselves, to chart their course out of poverty. And this should apply to urban communities as much as to rural communities.

As the world is challenged to come up with a new, global paradigm for sustainable development, it is time to add the voices of the urban poor, and of urban authorities, to the debate.

Or as Susan Blaustein put it in this recent article:

“We’re talking about individual and community empowerment — that is, about fundamental human rights, and civil and political rights, as embodied in the entire social, economic and developmental fabric of the neighborhoods where we work, hand-in-hand, residents and technicians such as ourselves, to bring about transformations that everyone can envisage and that, therefore, must be well within our reach.”

Read more:

And here’s a clue why the WACAP meeting takes place in Dublin.



Entry filed under: MDGs. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Aid alone will not end Poverty – As we keep undermining its effectiveness Irish EU Presidency – key websites

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