[OPE-L] The Challenge of Global Slums

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Mon Apr 25 2005 - 14:36:49 EDT

The introductory comments are by Joe Smith (yes, that's his real
name), the moderator of Globolist .  The following report
reminded me of Gunder Frank since one of his most important
accomplishments was the publication of data on exploitation and
oppression in the "Third World."  Works such as _Crisis: in the
Third World_ helped to expose the conditions of the working
class and peasantry and thereby mobilize opposition to what is
now called "globalization."

In solidarity, Jerry


An interesting overview of the global slums issue with some good
stats. However the analysis has some notable silences.  For one
thing the UN study does not mention a major push factor behind the
explosion of  slum growth in the developing world.  The debt regime
(the structural adjustment policies imposed by the Bretton Woods
institutions to manage the crisis of foreign debt) is responsible
for the dislocation of  some 400 million people globally, yet
receives no mention here.  A related  factor is the retreat of the
state.  In the era of neoliberal globalization the ability of
states to intervene has been sharply  curtailed.  In the near
term without some sort of reversal of neoliberalism rural economies
will not be stabilized and the exodus  of peasants to the cities
will continue apace.  In the longer term non-capitalist solutions are
required to make the relation between  town and country an
ecologically sustainable one.

Addressing the challenge of slums

Developing country cities, and the slums in them, are rapidly
These slums accommodate the highest concentrations of poor people,  who
live in the worst shelter and physical conditions imaginable. Past
efforts to tackle this enormous challenge have been poorly planned  and
failed to address underlying causes. Drastic new policy approaches  are
vital for success.

UN-Habitat's 2003 `The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human
Settlement' presents the first global assessment of slums. In 2001  the
total number of slum dwellers in the world stood at 924 million.
80% of the urban population in the least developed countries and
45% in developing countries are slum dwellers. Due to a continuous
arrival of people, mainly from rural areas, an estimated 2 billion  extra
people will need to be provided with housing and services over  the next
30 years.

The report notes the following problems:

*  Housing conditions in slums are largely inadequate and problems
include insecure tenure, overcrowding and lack of basic services.
*  Building structures do not comply with safety norms.
*  Widespread poverty prevails, due to lack of access to finance and  the
formal job market. As a consequence, slum dwellers are especially
vulnerable to diseases and other shocks beyond their control.

On the other hand:

*  Slums provide a welcome first entry point for immigrants to cities. *
Housing in slums is much more affordable than in other areas.
*  The majority of slum dwellers earn incomes from informal sector
activities, which remain vital for the city's overall economy.

Until the 1960s, slums were completely neglected and regarded as
temporary. Slums did not disappear however, and some governments
adopted repressive policies, leading to mass evictions of slum
dwellers. In search for more sustainable approaches, governments
providing public-sector housing for low-income households but
could not satisfy the demand.

Widespread corruption and inefficiency led to unfair allocation and
extensive delays. As a response, self-help programmes sprung up,
mobilising slum dwellers' labour and resources. Programmes were
complemented by government service delivery. Despite a greater access  to
resources, many policies suffered from poor governance and
were not delivered or maintained.

Previous approaches tried to tackle urban problems with traditional
engineering solutions, but had hopelessly inadequate resources to  meet
the great needs. UN-Habitat's report emphasises that the most
successful new strategies combine the best of both market-based,
competitive processes and inclusive anti-poverty and partnership
approaches. These require longer-term plans and a high level of local

The report highlights the following aspects of current best practice:

*  Holistic approaches that consider much more than provision of
housing and physical services, taking into account health, education,
housing, livelihoods and gender.
*  Municipal governments' strategies involving partnerships between
non-governmental organisations, the private sector and citizens.
*  Community involvement in the planning of projects from the outset,
often through a formalised process.
*  Slum occupants making their own contributions, which gives them  both
commitment and rewards (e.g. optional loans for home improvement). *
Using appropriate technologies for infrastructure and housing
provision that are more affordable and provide work opportunities for
local small enterprises.
*  Giving greater attention to the interaction of land use, transport  and
infrastructure provision, in order to avoid adverse impacts on  the
United Nations Human Settlement Programme (2003), chapters 7-9
in `The
Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlement 2003', London

Funded by: UN-Habitat

id21 Research Highlight: 1 April 2005*

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