Cheema (2020). Governance for Urban Services in Asia

Governance for Urban Services – Access, Participation, Accountability and Transparency, a book supported by ICLD funding, has recently been published by Springer. Edited by Shabbir Cheema, PhD, the book examines the process through which marginalized groups including migrants and minorities participate in local decision-making and the extent to which they benefit from services and facilities provided by the government, civil society and the private sector. The book builds on studies and surveys in Asia that are parts of the collaborative research project on Urban Governance for Inclusive Development: Political and Social Inclusion in Asian Cities, funded by ICLD. Shabbir Cheema, Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School and a former member of ICLD Advisory Group, edited the publication. Below he shares his thoughts on the project:

The book examines three vital issues in democratization and urbanization: the institutional structures and processes of urban local governance; their outcomes in relation to low-income groups’ access to services, citizen participation, accountability of local leaders and officials and transparency in local governance; and the factors that influence the access to urban services, especially for the poor and marginalized groups. It describes views of the residents of slums on the effectiveness of government programmes and innovations in inclusive local governance and access to services. It also presents policy implications.

This collaborative research project has been a professionally rewarding experience for me because of my passion for a two-pronged approach to promote inclusive cities – people vote (local democracy), and people need access to shelter and services (local development). ICLD recognized the significance of this approach and provided seed money to fund studies in India, Indonesia and Vietnam and organized a regional workshop. The Advisory Committee and the ICLD team provided useful comments for the study design. The scope of the study was expanded by me with support from East-West Center, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, national research institutions in Asia, United Nations, and Harvard Kennedy School. A distinguished group of scholars and practitioners from developing and developed countries prepared case studies of cities, surveys of households in slums, regional and conceptual reviews, and analyses of factors that contribute to improved access and inclusive local governance.

The book would be useful for scholars, students and practitioners of democratic local governance, service delivery and access in cities, urban management and decentralization. Specifically, it would be of interest to the ICLD teams including the municipal partnerships and international training programmes in terms of situation analysis, participation and transparency, innovations and good practices, and access to services for the urban poor, women and minorities. World-known scholars have praised the book as “an incisive guide for policymakers and activists” and, “a vital contribution to bridging gaps between theory and practice”.

Shabbir Cheema, Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School

Urbanization provides opportunities but brings also major repercussions, and many mega-cities and medium-sized cities must cope with the negative impact that is related to rapid population growth. It is a local dynamic that can contribute to economic development that can bring people out of poverty, but development must be brought onto sustainable paths and create equal opportunities for people; failure to do so leads to what is described in this book as an increasing incidence of urban poverty and inequity, deteriorating quality of the urban environment and unequal access to basic urban services. Decisions relating to infrastructure, water, schools and other issues where responsibility lies at the local level must be made through people’s own participation and influence. Therefore, it is a challenge to create forms of influence and responsibility in a way that ensures broad confidence in civically anchored local and regional governments.

You can find more information about the book and purchase it HERE.