Urban services in Asia examined in new ICLD research

The monograph was prepared by research teams in Indonesia, India, China, Pakistan and Vietnam. The methodology they used was; institutional analysis, interview with key informants and surveys of selected slums or squatter settlements in at least two of the cities in each country.
Was there something that surprised you about the results of the study “Access to Urban Services?”
“The finding in India that showed that the level of local participation of the marginalized groups was greater in urban settlements that lacked adequate access to urban services. The conventional wisdom is that middle class and higher groups capture urban services and are able to put more pressure from below”, says Shabbir Sheema, Senior Fellow, Research Program.

What results do you expect from the workshop?
“To be a forum for dialogue, to develop capacities of partner institutions and promoting cooperation between ICLD and partner institutions.”
An important part of the workshop will be presentation of studies including surveys of selected slums and squatter settlements to refine conclusions and recommendations as well as the sharing of innovations and good practices of urban decentralization programs and community based initiatives.

The study says that the urban population in Asia has been growing rapidly over the past 50 years, a trend which is estimated to continue. Over the next decade, two-thirds of the demographic expansion in the world’s cities will take place in Asia. Twelve out of twenty-one mega-cities of the world are already located in Asia
How would you describe the situation with the mega-cities in Asia? Crisis, alarming, manageable?
“Ranging from crisis to manageable.”
Have you seen a political ambition to deal with the problems in these areas?
“Certainly there is a wide recognition among political leaders that cities should be managed better not only to grow national economy but also ensure political legitimacy of the government in power.”

Rapid urban growth has not benefited all residents equally, leading to an “urban divide”. The poor are left to bear most of the burdens and shortcomings particularly in terms of access to services, according to the study.
What are the first emergency measures to alleviate the vulnerable situation of the poorest in the cities?
“Access to water and sanitation including waste management, to avoid health hazards and to improve shelter.”
What would you say is the biggest obstacle or challenge to improve the situation in the mega-cities?
“I would say competition for scarce resources, low capacity and coordination of government agencies and departments and weak urban local governments in terms of administrative capacity and resource base”.

Promoting political and social inclusion requires the full engagement of marginalized communities in the structures and processes of local democracy, the study says.
Are local democracies strong enough to be able to push through changes?
“In most cases local democratic institutions are evolving, but there are variations. India and Indonesia have stronger local democracy mechanisms. China and Vietnam have a different style of political system”.

How can the marginalized and the poor have a voice in their local community in order to create changes?
“First to invest in strengthening community based organizations of the vulnerable groups so that they can generate pressures from below. And second to make the decision makers at city and national levels more aware of the deficits in access to urban services for women, youth and other marginalized groups.”

The objective of the workshop is to enhance an understanding of barriers to access to urban services in order to inform policy.
What role can information and education play in combating poverty and inequality?
“Role of information and education is to create more awareness by both the decisionmakers and the local residents about the need to combat poverty and inequality. However, combating poverty and inequality is a long-term process which is also dependent on national resource base, core values of national macroeconomic policies, role of national leadership etc, says Shabbir Cheema.