X Close

The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Home

Collective reflections about development practice and cities

Menu

Archive for the 'State and Market: Governance and Policy for Development' Category

Coronavirus and the State of Non-recognition: The Case of Somaliland – PART 2

Jama Musse Jama20 July 2020

Part 1 of this article dealt with the background regarding Somaliland’s non-recognition and is available here (link)

Average expected reading time 7 minutes


Humanitarian assistance and COVID-19 in a non-recognised state

As is clear from the first part of this article, Somaliland non-recognition is not a product of on-going conflict and violence. The last period of conflict erupted in the early 1990s at a time when the Somali National Movement (SNM) had liberated the country from the military regime. Indeed, it was in 1991 that Somaliland proclaimed its independence from the rest of the former Somali Republic. After the first intra-SNM conflicts and clan-clashes in Berbera, Burao, Hargeysa and Erigavo in the years of 1991-1993, immediate internal reconciliation conferences were conducted in a very traditional way in Hargeysa, Burao, Erigavo, and Sheikh. These conferences culminated in the Grand Borama Conference (1993), which led to the establishment of much improved security and a stable government.

So rather than being a consequence of ongoing instability, non-recognition is instead a chronic case of de facto independence in the face of the status quo of non-recognition. To put it another way; perversely, Somaliland’s very stability has allowed the status quo of non-recognition to remain in place. However, because of the current crisis, in every country there is urgent humanitarian health aid to be delivered, which needs also to be delivered as effectively as possible. There are two types of aid or assistance: the first is aid to people – mainly humanitarian aid. The second is aid to states – mainly developmental and budgetary support. The situation in Somaliland is that aid to people depends on the humanitarian situation, and as long as conditions on the ground allow delivery, it keeps coming. Not in full, but some element keeps coming. Aid to the state is different, because officially the non-recognised state doesn’t exist as such, and any aid that is available through official channels goes to the recognised entity first, and only thence, if at all, to the non-recognised entity. In the case of Somaliland, the government has announced several times that they will never accept international assistance channelled through the FGS in Mogadishu. This is a red line as far as Somaliland is concerned.

Somalia’s Federal Government was successful in winning debt relief under Heavily Indebted Poor Countries status, releasing IMF support while the World Bank and UN Agencies, as well as the European Union, are fast-tracking cash-transfers to Mogadishu, as a recognised state, in the form of direct budgetary assistance. The FGS debt cancelation, the delay of interest and capital repayments, direct financial support as well as continental and regional assistance, are not, however, burning issues in the corridors of power in Hargeysa, as the non-recognised counterpart. On the contrary, the Somaliland government looks sceptically at any money that goes to Mogadishu. Particularly as the FGS use this international support quite openly to further its political ideology and political conflict. This inadvertently confronts the non-recognised counterpart, Somaliland, with an untenable choice between compromising the long-standing quest for recognition and taking the support on offer as part of the assumed ‘parent’ state or, on the other hand, of foregoing that critical support. Resolution of this impossible dilemma is hampered by lack of access to legitimate channels for negotiation and the right to request assistance as a self-governing state in challenging times.

Yet non-recognised status is not entirely negative. Paradoxically, Somaliland appears to have done rather well compared to some recognised countries. It is often overlooked in media and political discourse that the Government of Somaliland is the only democratically elected government in the region. It is surrounded by countries with unelected leaders and governments from Ethiopia to Djibouti and Somalia. This means that, even as a non-recognised state, the government of Somaliland is nevertheless directly accountable to its own people. As such it could be argued that the actions it took quickly (closed borders, stopped flights and quarantine) were in part driven by self-interest at the state level. This is because the Government of Somaliland is hugely reliant on internally generated resources and derives its legitimacy from an internal power base (the people). The government of Somaliland has, for example no external loans and receives only limited international financial assistance. Thus, the state domestically has a strong political and economic incentive to act decisively to protect the local socio-economic ecosystem including from medical health emergencies such as COVID-19. This was also evident at the height of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, when Somaliland took proactive measures, such as screening passengers on international flights arriving into Hargeysa’s Egal International Airport. Conversely, the internationally recognised government in Mogadishu is reliant on, indeed arguably propped up by international support, but lacks democratic accountability and domestic legitimacy. This has implications for the Mogadishu government’s modus operandi; from its domestic and international policies and politics, as well as widely reported corruption and graft in government and public institutions, to its security arrangement with it being largely reliant on AMISOM troops for its continued viability.

Challenges and opportunities

COVID19 brings with it problems and opportunities for non-recognised states. It puts a lot of demand on meagre resources and exposes vulnerabilities in the case of non-recognised entities. On the other hand, it brings opportunities as the plight itself gives these ‘invisible states’ greater visibility. It provides a wake-up call for policy makers and scholars to reflect, for example, on food security and the protection of the people, and the policy measures most likely to have a tangible, positive impact. It also focuses minds and brings people together against a common problem, and political infighting takes a back seat. This inadvertently results in stronger institutions and clarity of political purpose not only from the incumbent Kulmiye party government, but also from the two official opposition parties, Waddani and UCID.

Also, on the opportunity side is the way it has given the government space to voice their concerns and to pursue bolder international strategies where the potential exists, as in the case of Taiwan with whom Somaliland has recently reached agreement on enhanced cooperation. For Somaliland, the crisis has helped to raise their political voice regionally and has highlighted the need for cooperation in addressing this huge global challenge that rises above existing political alignments. Hence it has been an advantage in that Somaliland as a state has been more visible and has been able to share their narrative at a global level. More specifically it provided an indirect visibility, both to international and regional institutions – such that renewed questions are being asked about de-politicising humanitarian assistance as a mutually beneficial endeavour. The other opportunity it has brought to non-recognised states is the self-reliance narration. It presents opportunities for practical steps by the private sector and friends of the nation, such that it strengthens ownership of local initiatives and domestically, the bond of national unity.

COVID-19 may well hinder democratic processes internationally and for both recognised and non-recognised countries, but the non-recognised is almost definitionally more fragile, often with little in the way of strong, rule-based legal and institutional systems.

Of course, all the shortcomings of the Somaliland Government in reaction to the pandemic cannot be justified by non-recognition. Many people criticized, for instance, the fact that incoming flights were not stopped earlier. The Somaliland Government has been confronted with the same choices as other countries when it comes to public health versus the economy and has shaped its policy response around its own definition of “national interest”. The Somaliland COVID-19 Preparedness Committee could, for example, have improved their public communication and not given room for rumours on the pandemic to spread; also the compulsory quarantine on arrivals could have been implemented more efficiently with clear and strict rules much better enforced.

Capitalising on Opportunities:

Reflecting on the aforementioned considerations, Somaliland is now receiving renewed international attention because of this crisis. This may lead it to secure more friends for its post COVID-19 international quest for recognition. The pandemic has brought Somaliland into the international arena, particularly as a research case study, having many similarities with Taiwan, with those two states being able to secure their populations and efficiently and effectively make decisions. The two states have been allies and with their recent establishment of formal ties, this definitely seems like an interesting opportunity to observe in the future. The current situation has also given space for Somaliland to state its differences with Somalia. Particularly to point out how long-delayed recognition remains a problem which manifests itself in many known and invisible socio-economic and political barriers, especially as little support of any kind has reached Somaliland during this pandemic. A good example is of the Chinese billionaire and founder of Ali-Baba, Jack Ma, whose donation to African nations through the African Union and the Ethiopian government, has been directed to the FGS, with Somaliland refusing to accept a share as long as the prerequisite condition is that it does so as a Federal Member State of Somalia. This broadly reflects the wider pattern by international actors, who have kept sending help to Somalia. Nevertheless, this has given the chance for Somaliland to showcase their quest for independence and allowed them to practice and hone policies of self sufficiency, whilst also strengthening links with the diaspora and private sector. Even as these current events raise questions of political desire, emergency compromises may still be needed to save lives.

Somaliland has also strengthened during this pandemic some friendships with allies. This is especially true for the UAE, which has supported Somaliland with materials, and for Ethiopia, who have provided smaller scale support to Somaliland as well as enhancing recently fraught relations. Ethiopian Airlines continues to fly into Hargeysa, even though the FGS has objected to this. Within Somaliland, this has been taken as a symbol of solidarity and strength from Ethiopia to parallel that of the UAE. A donation from Qatar raises a political question which reflects ongoing political wrangling amongst the Gulf countries which interacts with the politics of the Horn of Africa. Qatar’s unequivocal stance in support of the FGS has become an established feature of recent political events in the region. Other actors, such as the EU and UK remain positive, longstanding and well established partners for Somaliland. A key feature in this relationship, is the shared democratic credentials and Somaliland’s history as the former British Somaliland Protectorate, plus its large diaspora communities in Europe and the United States. The US and EU are particularly allies in the humanitarian assistance space, which was first formalised with the [now discontinued] US two track approach towards Somaliland and Somalia, whereby Western countries started to engage with both Somaliland and Somalia on a level but separate footing. The Somaliland Development Fund was another tool that facilitated direct support to Somaliland from the UK, Denmark and The Netherlands on projects fully aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP). The first phase of SDF [2013-2018] “provided funding for 12 projects with a total value of USD 59 million to projects implemented by the Government of Somaliland”, followed by British government signing “agreements worth £31 million to support development in Somaliland” in 2019. For SDF-2, additional support from the UK, Denmark and The Netherlands has just been announced (July, 2020, though the total sum involved is so far unreleased). This new phase has the declared objective of fostering “inclusive economic development for the people of Somaliland” (see https://www.somalilanddevelopmentfund.org/projects).

A particular consideration from the EU perspective – given the jointly determined nature of its foreign policy responses – is that support to Somaliland must preserve protocols that reflect and pay lip-service to Somalia’s ‘unity’, at least within the public arena and particularly in published statements. Major partnerships, including the EU, announced direct budget support to Somaliland in the first days of the crisis, but this has not yet been implemented, with the main reason for non-implementation being non-recognition, as the EU has no mandate to sign a bilateral agreement which would certainly upset Mogadishu. Nevertheless, the EU is the major supporter of humanitarian and development assistance to Somaliland via projects implemented by International and National NGOs.

Finally, apart from international financial and humanitarian impact, there are other areas where non-recognition has been a major obstacle during the pandemic, including education, trade and state revenue. Recognised states can rely on international assistance and debt relief to create space for the redirection of funds to address urgent health, education and poverty concerns while even allowing some bolstering of state capacity at this time of particular weakness. In Somaliland, though, these avenues are largely absent. The use of Berbera port, which generated significant private sector and state income has been halted, while livestock exports, despite the Eid market, remain well below normal expected volume and likewise, with many flights suspended, income usually gained from the airport has also ceased. The recent decision to ban most Haj pilgrims from entering Saudi Arabia also removes a key source of income for Somaliland livestock owners.

An opportunity might lie in the fact that the pandemic has helped the non-recognised state to see alternative strategies and partnerships for addressing the challenge, for instance, relying on the local community that is still playing a decisive role in providing basic social support. The private sector has also stepped up in many instances, with a donation to Somaliland’s COVID-19 committee from major businesses such as Dahabshiil, TELESOM, WORLDREMIT and other companies, providing further evidence of the resilience Somaliland is already recognised for. The case of Somaliland’s experience in dealing with the pandemic is therefore a mixed bag featuring a tangled narrative based on a positive domestic story of self-reliance and desire for local ownership and determination to stand firm on the well-justified quest for international recognition even in these challenging times, but without compromising on the value of human life. It is also a real-time example of the continued failure of the international community to find an alternative system that extends the needed support for security while valuing human life in the midst of a global emergency. The geopolitics that lie behind Somaliland’s lengthy status of non-recognition substantively impede efforts to address urgent and acknowledged needs on the ground in an effective and coordinated manner. This effectively represents the abandonment of collective responsibility, leaving critical humanitarian and developmental priorities to be handled through the fragmented international relationships resulting from an enduring refusal on the part of bilateral and multilateral partners to find creative ways around diplomatic concerns. This makes development assistance even more of a gamble than is already the case, undermining the principles of fairness and impeding sufficient input needed to address this acute human emergency. For Somaliland, while non-recognition has many consequences – some even positive – on balance, it significantly exacerbates already substantial challenges at a critical moment when we should all instead be focused on reducing barriers.

READ PART 1

Dr Jama Musse Jama is an ethnomathematician with a PhD in African Studies specialising in Computational Linguistics of African Languages.  Currently Director of the Hargeysa Cultural Centre in Somaliland, Dr. Jama has also a Research Associate position at DPU, University College London, UK. He can be reached at twitter.com/JamaMusse

Coronavirus and the State of Non-recognition: The Case of Somaliland – PART 1

Jama Musse Jama20 July 2020

This is the first of a two-part article. Part 2 is available here (link)

Average expected reading time 6 minutes

Introduction: background to Somaliland non-recognition

The Republic of Somaliland (Somaliland) is a de facto independent state in the Horn of Africa, which despite not being recognised by any nation, represents peace, democracy, stability, prosperity, and cooperation in the region. It is often referred to as a beacon of hope, stability and democracy, in an otherwise volatile Horn of Africa Region.

Somaliland is not part of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and has managed its own domestic, international and security affairs since 1991, when it dissolved the union with The Republic of Somalia following a war that was waged on Somaliland in the name of the Somali state. Legacy of the war still remains and Somaliland is still rebuilding all infrastructures including health and public facilities that were destroyed, which complicates the current COVID-19 response.

Somaliland has a young population of over 4 million, a coastline that stretches over 800 km along the Red Sea and a land area covering 176,120 square km. The capital is Hargeysa – a large, bustling city – with a population of over one million.

COVID-19 and non-recognised countries

On 30th January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) disease, as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). It consequently advised all countries to put in place measures, at an early stage in the pandemic, to ensure effective detection and protection.  In the declaration, the major concern was the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker healthcare systems in the Global South, and mainly in the African continent. The WHO and other international bodies, however, did not appear to pay particular attention to what happens when an already weak healthcare system is further hampered by non-recognition of its government. There is generally a need for strong bilateral agreements and collaborations with recognised counterparts, if effective delay, containment and mitigation is to be put in place by the country.

Somaliland and COVID-19

Somaliland has open borders and an open economy. It shares these borders with Djibouti in the west, Ethiopia in the south, Somalia in the east, and the Red Sea (facing Yemen) in the north. It has a merchant economy that depends heavily on global trade. COVID-19 caused havoc in the global trade on which Somaliland’s economy depends. The impact was felt even before the virus reached the country. Somaliland suddenly found itself fighting on two fronts: a health front and an economic front.

In response to the pandemic, the Somaliland Government formed the National COVID-19 Preparedness and Prevention Committee led by the Vice President. The Committee established a quarantine site for persons suspected or known to being infected with the virus and an incident management system to manage this quarantine process. The government also ordered a temporary suspension of land borders entry and exits – restricting this for any non-essential crossings. Other measures included closure of schools, temporary suspension of Qat imports, and advisory pronouncements against mass gathering. Activities such as attending mosques, weddings and events were curtailed to promote an awareness of the importance of social and physical measures in preventing the spread of the virus.

The effort was not as smooth as it would have been since there was no testing equipment or functioning case tracing system that could facilitate the process. The financial challenge was also something that was limiting the effort of the committee. Every country has struggled with COVID-19, and Somaliland is no different, so there have been lapses in the implementation of policies that were good when formulated on paper, but have been subject to shortcomings in practice.

This blog analyses the challenges and opportunities for a non-recognised country such as Somaliland in the current global public health emergency caused by this pandemic. It focuses on how, in general, the status of non-recognition is affecting the preparedness and protection of the populace during this COVID-19 crisis. It considers the challenges and opportunities, focusing in particular on the case of Somaliland, in the context of the wider Horn of Africa sub-region.


The need for strong expression of State power

The current crisis highlights the role of the state, the strength of national boundaries and of sovereignty, as crucial elements in dealing with COVID-19. From the perspective of non-recognised states, there are two aspects to consider: the first one is that non-recognised states themselves often exert the power of their de facto statehood by declaring border closure, just as recognised countries do. In the specific case of Somaliland, the government was the first in the region to declare the border closed when a case was identified; not even in Somaliland, but in Ethiopia. The government quickly deployed medical teams to all entry points such airports, seaports and land border crossings. It was a genuine concern from the government of Somaliland that the health emergency could quickly spiral out of control. But considered from a political and international relations perspective, these measures were also a way to display and demonstrate the power the state could exert as an independent strong state, underlining the point that Somaliland exercises effective sovereignty, even though that sovereignty is not recognised officially. This indicates the state of power in Somaliland as exercised by the democratically elected current government. This is part of a wider historical pattern of political decision-making by successive Somaliland governments, of various political hues, over the past 29 years. In the current time it portrays the clear intention to act independently and to uphold the sovereign decision-making power vested in the government by the population which democratically elected it; such that it is able to exercise and demonstrate that within its own territory.

The second aspect to consider is that governments in non-recognised states promote their central role in the nation through legitimising their decisions and requiring public and private partners and stakeholders to comply with government guidelines. In the Somaliland case, key basic social services including healthcare and education are in the hands of the private sector. Nevertheless, in this time of challenge the state declared and expanded its mandate. Particularly its capability to access private facilities and requisition and repurpose them for the common use of wider society if needs arise from a state of emergency declaration, as permitted under Somaliland law. Medical equipment and medicines, spaces for quarantine and related resources owned by the private sector were directed for use for the common good by bringing them under the control of the state. This directive would have been legally dubious and hard to enforce without the declaration of an emergency. Hence, again, a non-recognised state demonstrated the ability to act just like a recognised one. That is notwithstanding the fact that Somaliland sovereignty was never in question domestically, even in normal pre-pandemic days. This point about internal legitimacy is important as it reflects the fact that capacity to act is vested in the consent of the population and a general trust and confidence that the government and, indeed, the formal opposition will ultimately act in the interests of the country. The implications for public health interventions are important, but little studied.

In both aspects, however, the case of Somaliland might be seen as a special situation, because, for instance, in terms of the effectiveness of border closure, Somaliland already had an effective, pre-existing state apparatus. All four borders were already monitored and managed peacefully even though the one in the east (with Somalia) has proven challenging at times. Hence, the ability to act just like a recognised state could be based on the existence of such effective, albeit non-recognised, capacities which create the impression that doing so is merely a normal act of governance in action.

However, Somaliland is feeling the pressure of the status of being non-recognised more than ever, and the impact and legacy of this pandemic manifests itself in both political and economic forms. In the political form it feels like business as usual. For example, the closures of borders, flight restrictions and related decisions, including legitimising election postponement. These political acts have been implemented with the same speed and effectiveness as recognised countries. Yet even the flight restrictions generated a political conflict, as Somalia declared its own airspace restrictions to cover Somaliland, while Somaliland still had flights arriving. This re-iterates the significance of unresolved underlying political tensions insofar as international politics is concerned, between Somaliland and Somalia.

Secondly, the economic aspect has been challenging for a number of reasons arising from Somaliland’s status as not being recognised. The state of emergency and closing borders (except for essential import activities) has crippled both state capacity and private sector activities. Even the smallest aspect of day-to-day tax collection has been hampered by stay-home measures. Consequently, the revenues of Somaliland’s government have taken a significant hit over the past few months, as indicated by a briefing prepared by Somaliland’s Ministry of Finance, though this is likely to be a temporary consequence. This has wider implications for government expenditure and delivery of the government’s domestic policy agenda.

Many recognised states have taken the opportunity to access alternative support lines through both fiscal and monetary policy interventions to support the wider economy and public institutions. But non-recognised states do not generally have access to multilateral financial institutions, the international financial system or bilateral economic support. In the case of Somaliland, it further lacks well-developed economic regulatory institutions. Being a developing economy, the Somaliland government’s capacity to introduce economic stabilisation measures – such as welfare transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable in society or expansionary fiscal policies – is severely restricted. In summary, the capacities of non-recognised governments to ease the economic consequences of unexpected economic shocks such as the COVID19 pandemic, are more limited than those of recognised countries. This has implications for economic resilience and short- to medium-term economic growth prospects, which are expected to take a significant hit.

The second part of this article will focus on the practical effects of non-recognition for Somaliland’s ability to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

CONTINUED IN PART 2


Dr Jama Musse Jama is an ethnomathematician with a PhD in African Studies specialising in Computational Linguistics of African Languages.  Currently Director of the Hargeysa Cultural Centre in Somaliland, Dr. Jama has also a Research Associate position at DPU, University College London, UK. He can be reached at twitter.com/JamaMusse

Urban economics in the time of Covid-19: What happens when the thing that makes cities great also makes them dangerous?

ucfuap31 April 2020

Part of our Post COVID-19 Urban Futures series.

Many of the world’s most iconic cities are in lock-down. Bustling public places have emptied overnight. As the images below show, Times Square (New York) is eerily quiet, traffic disappeared from the streets of Shanghai. Even the pigeons are staying away from St. Mark’s (Venice).

Image sources: New York Magazine, Reuters, and thejournal.ie

This physical distancing is a vital response to Covid-19. To reduce the human cost of the crisis, we must ‘flatten the curve’ and slow the speed of the spread of infection to a rate that will not overwhelm our health services.

Yet physical proximity is also what makes cities great. As urban economists love to say, it makes cities ‘engines of economic growth’. The theory is that density boosts productivity through three forms of ‘agglomeration economies’: ideas and new technologies spread much more quickly (learning); workers and companies have more choice, so they are more likely to do things they are good at (matching); and we can use resources more efficiently (sharing).

So, what happens to cities when it is dangerous for people to be close to one another?  In what follows I’ve set out some ideas and questions. These are not predictions, just thoughts that I hope can stimulate a productive conversation. Please share your experiences from where you are in the world.

 

Paris, Madrid, Washington and Rome: Urban Change begins at Home?

Imagine how many people in London are currently sitting at home, deliberately avoiding each other. Covid-19 has caused millions, no, billions, of people to alter their behaviour in unprecedented ways. The closest parallel is the Second World War; although, as memes like the one below jokingly remind us, we may want to keep the level of sacrifice demanded in perspective.

The last weeks, however, have felt more like sprint up a steep technological learning curve than a break on the couch.  Along with my colleagues, I’ve had to pivot to deliver teaching, research, and pastoral responsibilities from home. And we are not alone: universities across the world have gone virtual; companies of all sizes have introduced remote working; and even hospitals have shifted some functions online.

Will this change the way we work in the long-term? We may rush back to the office once the crisis is over. After all, predictions in the 1980s and 1990s that technology would transform our economic geography largely failed to materialize. Even as it became technically possible to live and work in different places, demand for face-to-face contact remained.

Yet things may be different this time. The technology we’re scrambling to adopt has existed for a while. The big change is that we’ve been forced learn how it works. As a recent randomized control trail found, the benefits of remote working can come as a surprise to companies and employees, something we can only realise if we try it out.

Perhaps even more importantly, we are doing this together.  After all, there is no point in getting to grips with new technology if you can’t convince others to learn it with you. It also means that the number of people thinking seriously about the downsides of remote working and looking for ways to mitigate them is expanding as well. Managers are trialling measures to keep teams connected and ideas flowing, and there has been a proliferation of advice on mental health (mostly serious, some hilarious).

In short, while I don’t think I’m alone in saying (to my surprise) that I miss the office, I can also imagine reaching for remote working tools more easily once this is over. If that’s true for many, or if companies demand it, other changes could follow. People may not abandon the city just because they started working from home 3 days a week, but they may reevaluate where they want to live within cities. If commuting times become less important, the persistent global trend of sky-rocketing downtown rents could start to reverse.

 

Bowling alone: will the appeal of cities change?

In the opening line of a seminal paper, Edward Glaeser and others state that the “future of the city depends on demand for density”.  This demand, the authors argue, does not only come from jobs. People are also attracted to the range of goods – commercial, aesthetic, public – that cities can provide.

Will Covid-19 change this? Fear of mass outbreaks could impact our leisure choices. One of the great benefits of cities – that you can find enough kindred spirits to make your favourite hobby viable, whether it’s theatre or a specialist yoga class – may disappear. If physical contact with strangers is scary, the draw of big city lights may start to dim.

We may also start to pay more attention to our neighbours. Anonymity is one of the hallmarks of big cities: we move through our day without acknowledging most of the people around us. Ironically, however, the current quarantine underlines that do not actually live in isolation; we are connected, for good and for bad.

On the good side, we’ve seen mutual aid groups spring up all over the world. On the bad, the realization that our safety is in other people’s hands (or at least hand washing, as well as where they go and who they interact with) can lead to fear and suspicion. At its most ignorant and extreme, this manifests as violent xenophobic attacks.

How might these changes affect city life? Fear may lead communities to find ways to stop strangers moving in, whether in the form of promoting people they know or discrimination against ‘outsiders’. These shifts could accelerate socio-spatial inequality, since, as Raj Chetty and others show, neighbourhood quality is central to life opportunities in cities.

Hopefully the future is brighter, and a rise in contagious diseases is not the new normal. Yet important shifts may nonetheless be occurring. Online shopping through companies like Amazon is booming as high-street shops close. This presents a public policy challenge, since high-street shops anchor public spaces and thus have considerable social value. While some are optimistic that new uses for this land will arise, these are goods with ‘positive externalities’, which markets notoriously underprovide.

To end on a note of optimism, one factor working in favour of cities is that more remote working could lead to improvements in urban air quality.  In the current crisis, carbon monoxide indicators in New York are down 50 percent. Since air pollution is a major ‘cost’ of living in cities, improvements may help make urban areas more attractive places to live.

 

How will the situation differ for cities in the Global South?

The WHO recently warned that Covid-19 will hit the world’s most vulnerable hardest. Since the mortality rate of the virus cannot be separated from health and social protection infrastructure, it seems devastatingly inevitable that the impact will be severe in the Global South.  It is too soon to reflect on the long-term outlook. Yet given the trends discussed above, divergence seems likely.

In cities like Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), where my recent research has been based, most households live in one or two rooms that they rent from a live-in landlord. They may share their toilet with 13 or 14 other people.  Work is largely informal and social support, such as sick-pay or unemployment benefits, are rare. Social distancing may be unfeasible. Remote work will be an option for only a minority.

Instead, those who can may well leave the city. Although we still know too little about urban mobility trends in the Global South, one insight from the 2014/5 Ebola crisis in West Africa was increased movement between urban and rural areas. Yet as with Ebola, this may further spread the virus.

As such, movement may not translate into a longer-term shift in urbanisation trends.  Life in cities in the Global South can be tough, but as long as is wages and urban amenities are higher than in rural areas, people will continue to be drawn to them despite a precipitous decline in living conditions. This, combined with a global recession that now looks inevitable, means that we must urgently look ahead and anticipate the new ways that urban, national, and international policymakers can support people and livelihoods.

Lessons from Kampala on Reflexivity in Development Practice

Yasmine Kherfi20 July 2018

The international field trip is an integral component of the MSc Development Administration and Planning (DAP). After months of desk-based research in London, our cohort traveled to Kampala, Uganda, to understand how development initiatives are formulated and implemented in a specific context.

DAP students visiting the Decent Living Project, supported by the Shelter and Settlement Alternatives.

 

What is “the field”?

Before embarking on our trip, we were challenged to question our assumptions and conceptions of “the field”. While the term in itself is a construction rooted in anthropology, sites of fieldwork largely remain overlooked and taken for granted in the discipline’s methodology and practice (Gupta & Ferguson, 2013). Similarly, the way we come to know “the field” remains under-researched and seldom questioned in literature on international fieldtrips (Patel, 2015). Our group reflections stemmed from a pedagogical need to address the lack of attention given to dominant narratives that underpin fieldwork research. In much of the literature on fieldtrips specifically, “the field” is still evoked through an orientalist lens, as a place designed “to produce exotic encounters” to maximize students’ learning experience (Patel, 2015).

 

While students and researchers are temporarily interjected in “the field”, frequently treating it as a neutral place, we should not disregard its politics, history and context, in our quest to find answers (Patel, 2015). Given the thematic focus of development programmes, fieldtrips inevitably introduce students to development initiatives that address social inequalities, which often involve working with vulnerable and marginalized communities (Patel, 2015). For practitioners committed to ‘development’ fieldwork, it is important to understand the different power structures and dynamics in the local context, as well those that stem from the history of fieldwork practice. Our module ‘Development in Practice’ served as a space for collective inquiry on our positionality, research ethics, as well as assumptions, stereotypes, and behavior that we wanted to avoid perpetuating. The assigned readings and conversations with peers also prompted me to reflect on the different kinds of institutional partnerships in the field of development.

 

DAP students walking during the city orientation tour, in Kampala.

 

Team Work Experience

Our class was divided into seven groups, each focused on learning from a specific initiative implemented by an NGO or CBO in Kampala. Our team partnered with Action for Community Development – Uganda (ACODEV-U), a CBO that focuses on community empowerment through a wide range of programmes. We chose to learn from ACODEV’s comprehensive adolescent sexuality education project, ‘Keep It Real’ (KIR), which ran from 2013 to 2015, and addressed the lack of reliable information on sexual and reproductive rights.

 

Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world. Our group was curious about the different pedagogical approaches available to support Kampala’s youth in accessing information about sexual health. I also wanted to learn more about the ‘projectification’ of public health in the field of development, considering the relationship between foreign aid and the country’s management of health epidemics, such as HIV/AIDS. Overall, ideas about public health, development, and planning, fermented in my head during the trip, and what I learned in Kampala helped inspire my dissertation topic. I benefited from evening lectures delivered by development practitioners and academics, and gained important insights from Peter Kasaija, a researcher at the Urban Action Lab of Makerere University, who supported us throughout the trip.

 

We conducted interviews with different project stakeholders and beneficiaries, who drew attention to the strengths and weaknesses of KIR’s implementation, with school students and out-of-school youth. Interviewees included a teacher from the Old Kampala Secondary School, current and former ACODEV employees, as well as staff members of SOMERO, a youth community centre located in the neighborhood of Bwaise in Kawempe. Interviewees welcomed us to their respective work spaces, and explained different aspects of their experience with KIR. They addressed the impact of various power dynamics on the transfer of knowledge between different actors involved in the project, the difficulties in maintaining KIR’s sustainability, as well as challenges that arose from intra-organisational structures. Fieldwork did not always go as planned, and we did not get the chance to meet everyone we wanted to interview. This experience taught us how to adjust our plans and expectations, given our time limitations.

Our team with ACODEV staff members.

 

After working with my team members intermittently in London, and daily throughout the trip, we became more open and comfortable with each other. We were able to constructively voice disagreement, frustrations, as well as share and reflect on personal and collective moments experienced during the trip. The conversations I had with teammates sometimes related back to how we navigate our privilege as students coming from the United Kingdom, and explored how we made sense of our multi-layered identities in relation to the new geographic context we were in.

The Role of Reflexivity in Development Practice

 

I was committed to documenting my reflections every day in the fieldwork diary, in an attempt to bear the fruits of radical vulnerability; “to write vulnerably in the service of creating new understandings” that would ultimately benefit me and the people I interact with (Norander, 2017). This personal assignment required us to engage in reflexive practice – a mental exercise that operates on two levels, in which the person writing is the unit of analysis (Cunliffe, 2016). First, the exercise corresponds to the process of examining our assumptions, actions, and feelings that social interactions prompt in us (Cunliffe, 2016). Secondly, the practice requires us to think critically about the broader structures of power and knowledge that inform how we think (Cunliffe, 2016). Most importantly, critical reflexivity is characterized by a relational understanding of the self –the ways in which I not only relate to others, but also how others relate to me (Cunliffe, 2009). It is an exploration of the implications of this two-way process (Cunliffe, 2009).

 

While often overlooked, reflexivity ought to play an integral part in research, and should be foregrounded in development practice. It helped me gain a deeper understanding of team dynamics throughout my group project, as well as the importance of effectively deconstructing the mystique of “the field”. I learned how to be more proactive in questioning my assumptions, and adjusting my behavior accordingly. While no one is immune to mistakes, reflexive practice allows us to better account for our positionality and strive towards a higher caliber of research quality and integrity.

 

References:

Cunliffe, A.L., 2016. “On Becoming a Critically Reflexive Practitioner” Redux. Journal of

Management Education, 40(6), pp.740–746.

 

Cunliffe, A.L., 2009. The Philosopher Leader: On Relationalism, Ethics and Reflexivity—A

Critical Perspective to Teaching Leadership. Management Learning, 40(1), pp.87–101.

 

Gupta, A. & Ferguson, D., 2013. Discipline and practice: “the field” as site, method and location in anthropology. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie, 6, pp.3–44.

 

Norander, S. 2017. Embodied moments: revisiting the field and writing vulnerably. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 45(3), pp.346–351.

 

Patel, K. 2015. Teaching and Learning in the Tropics: An Epistemic Exploration of “the Field” in a Development Studies Field Trip. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 39(4), pp.584–594.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Yasmine Kherfi is a Master’s candidate in Development Administration and Planning, at the Development Planning Unit. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction from the University of Toronto, and is a recipient of the Bartlett’s Refugee Cities Dissertation Fellowship at UCL. Her current research looks at the adaptation of systems of health governance to protracted displacement.

 

 

“The Limits of Consensus?”: Somaliland’s 2017 presidential election observed

Michael Walls14 May 2018

By Conrad Heine with Michael Walls

Six months beyond Somaliland’s presidential election on November 13th 2017, “The Limits of Consensus?”, the final report by the DPU-led, UK government-funded international election observation mission, has delivered the mission’s findings. The report was launched in London in March; an event in New Zealand, host to a small Somali community, followed in April. More lies ahead: the report is the basis of a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels in late May. And in July, the report will launch in Somaliland itself, at the Hargeisa International Book Fair and Somali Studies International Association conference.

©Kate Stanworth

There’s a history between the DPU and the internationally-unrecognised Horn of Africa country, stretching back a decade-and-a-half. Mainly under the guidance of senior lecturer Dr Michael Walls (who led the 2017 mission), it encompasses women’s political participation, gendered settlements and land markets, as well as elections. This election marked the fourth time the DPU had observed in Somaliland since 2005, but the first in the leadership role, alongside UCL Consultants as project managers.

With the election repeatedly delayed since 2015 (partly by devastating drought in the Horn), short notice posed organisational challenges. In the end, 60 observers from 27 countries, recruited to balance local knowledge, election experience, gender and nationality, successfully observed 355 polling stations, some 22% of the total, across Somaliland’s six regions and 17 of its 21 districts, without serious security problems.

©Kate Stanworth

Stakes were high: with the poll following a tense election in Kenya, which saw observers criticised for being seen to commend a result that was nullified soon after in Kenya’s courts, international election observation itself was under question. Thus, the mission’s press releases and public statements, including the final report, have been carefully worded. Such efforts were not entirely successful—shortly after 2017’s results were declared, a piece in the Financial Times carrying the byline of the elected president, claimed that the election had been “certified as free and fair by a 60-strong team of international observers”. In fact, findings at the time, and in the final report, are far more nuanced.

As the title suggests, the stakes were high for Somaliland too. An incumbent president was stepping down, sharpening the contest between the ruling Kulmiye party and the two opposition parties in an executive-dominated system. Hopes were that the peaceful transition of power following the 2010 presidential election would not be a hard act to follow, and that a pioneering new biometric voter registration system (its implementation also observed by DPU) would lay to rest problems that had undermined the 2012 district and council elections. Yet with a political climate increasingly influenced by clanism, long-standing grievances from opposition supporters at Kulmiye’s long dominance and grumblings about growing inflation and corruption, a smooth path was by no means certain.

©Kate Stanworth

So it was with some relief that the three-week campaign and polling day itself went relatively well. True, the boisterous campaign saw outbreaks of that political must-have, fake news, alongside clanism, character assassination and isolated violence in the second week—but to loud disapproval from the electorate. There were notable firsts—the first-ever televised presidential debate in Somaliland, and the first participation in an election of some of the disputed eastern regions (allowing the mission to travel further eastwards than for past observations). And polling day itself—if not entirely flawless—was relatively peaceful, testament to an election well organised by Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission (NEC).

Sadly, the peace was not to last. Delays in counting votes saw wildly conflicting rumours of results circulate freely, alongside claims and rumours of electoral malpractice in favour of Kulmiye. With tempers running high, there was sporadic violence, and several deaths, before the candidate for Waddani, the main opposition, agreed to accept the results (without endorsing them) for the sake of Somaliland. On November 21st, the NEC announced the results, deeming Muse Bihi of Kulmiye the new elected president, with 55.10% of the vote. On November 28th, Somaliland’s Supreme Court upheld the result after receiving—despite the claims and counter-claims following polling day—no formal complaints, and the new president was inaugurated on schedule on December 13th.

©Kate Stanworth

Despite the deeply disappointing aftermath, the mission stands by its findings—of a well-organised election, albeit with many issues needing fixing, addressed in a long list of recommendations. Further, the irregularities observed were deemed not of sufficient scale to have impacted the final result.

So why “The Limits of Consensus”?  Mainly because Somaliland has been here before. On its long journey since declaring independence from Somalia in 1991, Somaliland has, in building its own democratic model—a process far from conflict-free—relied time and again on customary dispute-resolution mechanisms to pull a tense situation back from the brink. This suggests over-reliance on the customary systems that have taken Somaliland so far.

©Kate Stanworth

And, side by side with a regrettable entrenchment of clanism in politics, the stakes are increasing. Deals with the United Arab Emirates around the port of Berbera mean real wealth is at stake, and put Somaliland at the centre of a complicated mosaic of regional power politics. While the 2017 presidential election has been put to bed, the political and clan-based divisions remain. And a long-delayed parliamentary election, scheduled for March 2019 and sure to be a far more complicated contest than the relatively straightforward presidential one, is fast approaching.

If, and when, that poll goes ahead, the DPU hopes to again be part of an observation mission, to a successful poll. Most of all, the mission hopes that the long list of recommendations that closes “The Limits of Consensus?” will be taken on board. Perhaps with goodwill on all sides, the words “free and fair” can one day be used to describe an election in Somaliland—but by the election observers, not the political victors.

 

Michael Walls is a senior lecture at the DPU and the co-director of the MSc Development Administration and Planning programme.

Conrad Heine, London-based and from New Zealand, is a journalist and was Media Coordinator for the international observation mission to Somaliland’s 2017 presidential election. He has been working in Somaliland since 2005, and has now observed four elections there.

MSc Development Administration and Planning 2017 Fieldtrip. Recount of the visit to the Bujjuko Low Cost Housing Demonstration

ucfulsc15 June 2017

The international field trip is an integral part of the MSc Development Administration and Planning Programme (DAP) and this year, the students travelled to Kampala, Uganda for their field trip.  This is the second year running that the MSc DAP programme has been working with development partners in Kampala, Uganda. This year, the MSc DAP programme partnered with eight NGOs and CBOs which included; Community Integrated Development Initiatives (CIDI), ACTogether, Community Development Resource Network (CDRN), Children’s Rights and Lobby Mission (CALM Africa), Living Earth, Uganda, Kasubi Parish local Community Development Initiative (KALOCODE), Action for Community Development – Uganda (ACODEV- U). The 8th partner, Shelter and Settlement Alternatives (SSA), gave a site visit in which they showed the students one of their current projects – The Decent Living Project.

 

Cover pic

 

Development in Practice

The city of Kampala is experiencing rapid urbanisation. A city, which was originally built on seven hills, has now expanded to that on more than twenty hills, with informal settlements sprawling up in different parts of the city.  Infrastructure in the city has not expanded on par with the rapid urbanisation and access to amenities is a challenge for the millions that inhabit or the thousands that troop into the city for employment. The city of Kampala is also going through massive regeneration and this is visualised through the many construction works going on in the city. As developers and inhabitants contest for the urban space, those who cannot afford to live in the city are forced to move to peri-urban areas and some are even forcefully evicted. However, some of the community members are establishing cooperatives and also working with non-governmental organisations to have access to land.

The central theme for this years’ field trip was examining how a development intervention is planned and implemented in Kampala, and the MSc students worked with their partners in understanding how Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) in Kampala, Uganda, approach the planning and implementation of ‘development’.

One of the projects that the students visited was the Bujjuko Low Cost Housing Demonstration, which is a component of the Decent Living project implemented by Shelter and Settlements Alternatives SSA.  The beneficiaries include the Kwefako positive living women’s group, who were previously living in an informal settlement in Kampala city centre and ended up being displaced. The group were living under poor conditions and with the fear of eviction before they were identified as a potential partner. The group were encouraged to form a cooperative because it was the best way to have the community organised. SSA and WaterAid initiated to assist the group. Hence, the Kwefako Housing cooperative was conceived and registered in 2014.

Pic 1

Participatory approach

Participatory approaches have been heralded in the development discourse as crucial in achieving sustainable development (Parfitt, 2004, Cleaver, 1999). However, it has also come under criticisms and raised questions about its effectiveness in truly empowering those in the grassroots (Parfitt, 2004).

Pic 2

 

 

The visit to the housing project offered an opportunity to understand how the beneficiaries influence the planning and implementation of development project from the start of the project to its completion. According to the SSA project assistant, participatory process was utilised in all phases of the housing project from the planning to the implementation stage. The project assistant stated that there were several consultations with the members of the cooperative on several issues ranging from what they wanted as a group to the location of the housing. On the question of location, a feasibility study was conducted with the input of the members of the cooperative. The members were then brought to the site of the proposed housing to see for themselves. The members agreed in relocating to the area because of its proximity and accessibility to markets, schools and places of worship. There are 34 members in the cooperative. 24 families are presently occupying the houses and 10 houses are going under construction for the remaining 10 members.

The Cooperative members were also given the ‘liberty’ to draw their dream homes and after several consultations, came up with the current design.  Not only did they come up with the design, they also constructed the houses themselves using the blocks that they made. Each Unit costs 26 million UGX to build. The residents pay an upfront of 10 million UGX and then 70,000 UGX monthly giving them about 30 years to complete the payment. However, they can pay up before the 30 years period. The amount they pay for these homes were said to be similar to the rent they paid in the informal settlement.  On defaulting in payment, the group stated that if a month’s payment is defaulted, members could go to SSA and come up with a payment plan agreement.  Although, the residents stated that paying is a challenge, they have several sources of livelihoods such as making and selling crafts. SSA was also said to have carried out some capacity building workshops with the cooperative members and trained them in different income generating activities. And according to the residents, future plans of generating income include acquiring machines to make and sell blocks and also, start giving training workshops.

 

Pic 3 House Plan 1 unit

 

Pic 4 House plan for 2 unit

 

Transferring ownership. The cooperative members stated that members could not just sell their houses to anyone. There are agreements between all of the members when it comes to the transfer of ownership, especially if it is through selling of the house. To sell a house, a member must go through the following regulation:

  1. The person buying must be a member;
  2. The person selling must consult all the other residents and members of the cooperative;
  3. A member can buy

 

Appropriate Technology Transfer

Apart from capacity building, SSA also engages in appropriate technology transfer with the group. For instance, the interlocking soil stabilizing blocks that were used to construct the houses were made from the soil in the land. Further, the materials they use in sifting the soil is mostly made from local materials.

 

Pic 5 Appropriate technology

 

It was also mentioned that cultural and social issues were taken into consideration for this project. The use of interlocking soil stabilizing blocks was appropriate technology, which was suitable for the members. The site of the housing was suitable for the members and did not alter their social lives, rather enhanced it as they stated.

 

Residents now enjoy amenities that they did not previously have. Each house has a water tank and each family pay what they use.

 

There have also been other benefits from the project such as the national water extending water pipe to the community that the project is located in.

 

 

 

 

References

SSA: UHSNET Newsletter 2016.

 

Demonstrating Decent Living – A Publication of Shelter and Settlements Alternatives and Uganda Human Settlements Network.

 

Cleaver, F. (1999) Paradoxes of participation. Questioning participatory approaches to Development. Journal of International Development. Vol 11. No 4. Pg. 597

 

Parfitt, T. (2004) The ambiguity of participation: a qualified defence of participatory development. Third World Quarterly. Vol 25. Issue no 3


Dr Lilian Schofield is the Graduate Teaching Assistant for the MSc Development Administration and Planning (DAP). She has over five years experience working in Higher Education Institutions in the UK as well as experience in the development field having worked with development consultancies and NGOs in Nigeria. Lilian Schofield has a PhD in Construction and Property Management and investigated the role of stakeholders in housing development projects in poor communities in Nigeria.

From heroes to villains: Brazil at risk of moving away from the New Urban Agenda

Alex Apsan Frediani16 February 2017

By Julia Moretti and Alexandre Apsan Frediani

Call to support the mobilisation against a new presidential act that intends to dismantle the regulations for land regularization in Brazil.

27649969524_0640172ec4_o
A network of Brazilian civil society organisations is calling the international community to support their mobilisations against a new presidential act that intends to dismantle the regulations for land regularization in Brazil. Since the introduction of the City Statute in 2001, Brazilian urban policy has been setting a series of innovative precedents in the implementation of principles of Right to the City. The Statute involves the recognition of the social function of property, setting the framework for participatory urban planning as well as linking land tenure regularization with urbanization of settlements.

Since then, this law has been consolidated as a legal guide for the Brazilian land regularization policy and several other statutes were enacted guided by its principles in order to regulate instruments and procedures (Law n.11977/09 about urban settlements regularization; Law n. 11481/07 about regularization on public owned land; Law 11952/09 about regularization on land owned by the Federal Government in the Amazon Region). This legal framework became an international example of progressive urban policy, prioritizing justice over profit, and informing the development of the United Nations’ New Urban Agenda agreed in 2016

The Provisional Presidential Act (PPA) no. 759/16 enacted at the very end of 2016 attempts to amend the existing legislation regarding land regularization with an act that promises to reduce bureaucracy and increase efficiency. However, its underlying motivation is to reposition land as a financial asset, rather than a right. Apart from dismantling an entire legal body that represents the result of a long term public debate and consolidated collective understanding and agreement of multiple stake-holders, the PPA marks a step backwards in terms of assuring access to land for the poor and implementing the principle of social function of property. Below are some of the problems with the PPA.

Changing basic principles: legal definition of land regularization established by the PPA suppresses the aim to assure housing rights and environmentally sustainable by observing the social function of property. According to the new law, policies on land regularization are to be economically sustainable and developed based on principles of competitiveness and efficiency.

Lack of participation: participation is no longer a principle of land regularization. Furthermore, the PPA revokes a consolidated and democratic legal framework replacing it with a not self-operating law enacted without any public debate.

Massive privatization of land owned by the Federal Government: the new law creates an instrument that gives property rights indiscriminately, without meeting any criteria regarding social and collective interest. The PPA makes possible and easier to regularize high-income settlements and gated communities in public land without any compensation at a loss of social and environmental function of public property.

Amnesty to deforestation and land appropriation: the PPA allows regularization of large parcels of public land all over the country even to those who already own land. It accepts deforestation as proof of possession,substantially changing the program “Legal land in the Amazon Region” originally conceived to settle conflicts over landbetween small-scale agriculture and traditional population against agribusiness, preventing deforestation.

Policy on Rural Reform weakened: according to this new law,land titles resulting from rural reform can be sold in the market,increasing the risk toreturn to a situation of land concentration. Furthermore, the governmental agency on rural reform is released from its obligations regarding the wellbeing of settled families and looses competencies to a Secretary that answers directly to the President.

Land regularization for social interest weakened: in the PPA, special social interest zones no longer exist.This results in the loss of an important zoning instrument that for a long time was used to demarcate urban territory occupied by the poor, setting priority fortenure regularization. This and other tools and procedures that made it easier to regularize informal settlements occupied by the poor are no longer in place.

In brief, the PPA focuses on property titles not in assuring basic human rights to those more in need. This new law deconstructs an innovative legal framework based on pillars of participatory urban planning socio-environmental function of the city and property and land regularization as a key element for attaining social inclusion. It represents the triumph of the concept of abstract entitlements held on individual bases, prioritizing the exchange rather than social value of property.

 

The Open Letter attached is meant to summon social movements and all those who believe in Urban and Rural Reform to demand Brazilian Federal Government to withdraw Provisional Presidential Act No.759/2016 from Congress; therefore stopping the voting process and promoting a large scale debate about land ownership, property and possession, guided by constitutional principles of social function of property and individual and collective human rights.

To show your support, please sign the on-line petition:

https://contramp759.wixsite.com/cartaaobrasil


Alexandre Apsan Frediani is a lecturer at the DPU, and is the co-director of the MSc Social Development Practice programme.

Julia Moretti is a lawyer at Escritório Modelo Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns

Imagining a Social Enterprise Model for the Provision of Pro-poor Housing Solutions in the Philippines

ucfudho7 December 2016

In November 2013, super typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines in full swing. Fragile shelter structures across the archipelago’s coastal areas did not withstand the strong winds and storm surges brought about by Yolanda. In the aftermath of the disaster, the government launched an emergency programme with the mission to ‘build back better’ [1]. The government was supported by the international humanitarian community, whose swift response matched the scale of the disaster in its scope and ambition. Yet serious funding challenges were said to hamper recovery.

 

Budget shortfalls are one of the most pervasive barriers to the successful implementation of recovery programs and a constant challenge faced by traditional development models. The idea that social enterprises could offer an answer to this issue has gained traction in the past years [2]. Social enterprises are organisations set up as revenue-generating business with social objectives, which allows them to be financially independent. As part of DPUs Junior Professional Programme, I was lucky to work closely with one of them.

 

Founded in 2014, LinkBuild is a young Housing Development Enterprise (HDE) whose mission is to scale up innovative, low-cost, and sustainable shelter solutions and programs for and with the poor. LinkBuild was set up as the latest addition of the Philippine Alliance, a grouping of 5 organisations that has a long history of successfully mobilising communities around savings groups in order to achieve secured land tenure. Given the current housing context in the Philippines, the need for this kind of program has never been more urgent.

 

The Housing Context in the Philippines

 

A new day begins in Quezon City, one of Metropolitan Manila’s 16 cities. The streets have been buzzing since the early morning hours, the traffic slowly pulsating through their aching junctions. As I work my way through the streets, I walk past busy informal settlements. Some are squatter settlements, the result of spontaneous and unplanned occupation of land. Others are informal subdivisions. The residents here live on a surveyed plot and they usually have proof of ownership or land-lease rights.

 

Flooded downtown Manila during rain season.

Flooded downtown Manila during rain season.

 

In Metro Manila, one out of every four people resides in informal settlements, often within disaster-prone areas. As an alternative, several shelter programs are being implemented by government and non-government actors. Yet the delivery of these programmes has been unable to cope with the rocketing demand for affordable housing. Driven by natural population growth and rural to urban migration, the main urban areas in in the Philippines are growing at a breath-taking pace. The country is projected to be 80% urbanised by 2025 [2] – an increase of 30 points from 2015. Moreover, officials are talking of a housing backlog of 5.7 million houses of which 60% are believed to be economic and social housing [3].

 

Most worryingly, some of the latest government’s efforts to deliver shelter programs have been proven to be counterproductive. A recent operation plan that aimed to relocate over 104,000 informal settler families out of danger zones in Metropolitan Manila, relocated 67 per cent to off-city sites [4]. The programme beneficiaries call these off-city sites the ‘death zones’. They feel effectively disconnected from their earlier life as they struggle to deal with the loss of their livelihoods and networks. Reports show that up to 60% of individuals that were relocated out of Metro Manila eventually return to the city [5]. If given the option, many ISF would rather remain in the old site despite the immediate risks they face instead of moving outside of the city.

 

Informal subdivision in Valenzuela City, Metro Manila.

Informal subdivision in Valenzuela City, Metro Manila.

 

At the same time, the private sector has recognised affordable housing as a potential growth market, yet it is struggling to set foot in the sector. From a purely financial perspective, affordable housing provision is a cut-throat affair. In Metro Manila, developing affordable housing amounts to ‘financial suicide’, as a local housing developer recently put it. The high land prices, as well as the additional costs of building in a congested city mean that selling houses for less than 7.500£, the maximum unit price at which they are considered to be affordable, can only be achieved at a loss. Even the supply of houses within the ‘economic housing’ brackets, at a unit cost of no more than 19.000£, is a hard trick to pull off.

 

The fundamental problem with these government and private programmes is that they treat informal settlers as an issue that needs to be dealt with, or an opportunity that ought to be exploited. What they fail to see is that informal settlers can be actors in the housing delivery process.

 

Imagining a Social Enterprise Model for the Provision of Pro-Poor Housing

 

As a social enterprise, LinkBuild is set as a revenue-generating business with social objectives. This distinguishes it from traditional NGOs that rely on international aid and funding to run their programmes and operations. Historically, the Philippine Alliance members have operated as traditional NGO’s. However, the donor landscape is shifting as it tries to make its beneficiaries’ programmes more investor-friendly. As a result, donors increasingly treat capital disbursements to partners as an investment, which has important implications for organisations like LinkBuild. This new trend is pushing LinkBuild to imagine a business model that sits comfortably within the highly competitive real-estate sector while staying true to its vision of reaching and mobilising the marginalised communities.

These units were built on an in-city relocation site identified by the local government. It also facilitated negotiations with the landowner and landfilled 6.5 hectares of land. Seventeen (17) of these plots were allotted to one of the communities associated to the Philippine Alliance

The units pictured above were built on an in-city relocation site identified by the local government.  Local government also facilitated negotiations with the landowner and landfilled 6.5 hectares of land.

 

To achieve financial sustainability, LinkBuild’s latest wave of housing projects is being conceived as mixed-income developments. The idea is to make a part of the 670 units fit for middle-income clients. The units, which will be more spacious, will be sold at a price surplus, effectively subsidising the construction of the more affordable units. While this new approach seems like radical change in direction, it does have a compelling argument in its favour. It offers a possibility for the organisation to become financially independent over time.

 

In the short run, LinkBuild’s operations would still heavily rely on the access to a starting capital. LinkBuild has therefore partnered with Real Equity For All (ReAll – former Homeless International), one of the few investors who are venturing into the housing market at the bottom of the pyramid. The capital enables LinkBuild to cover the costs of ‘hard investments’ such as purchasing and developing land, as well as the construction of the housing units; and thus, LinkBuild cannot be thought of as a stand-alone organisation, at least not for the time being.  However, in the medium run LinkBuild is hoping to achieve financial sustainability sustaining through the profit generated by the sales of surplus houses.

 

Chart 1: LinkBuild’s Social Enterprise Model

Chart 1: LinkBuild’s Social Enterprise Model

Strong Communities Make a Difference

In line with the tradition of community-oriented organisations like the Community Architects Network and the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights, LinkBuild works closely with the communities that it seeks to reach. The Philippine Alliance is the main enabler of this process. Each organisation in the Alliance plays a strategic role in delivering LinkBuild’s housing projects, as their active networks and expertise allows them to mobilise and engage communities through participatory processes. For example, through the Homeless People Federation Philippines, Linkbuild is able to link with strong communities (see Chart 1) in different regions. After connecting with the communities,  LinkBuild conducts market research and hosts workshops with clients and communities to ensure that it is able to reach target clients; that it meets their specific needs; and that the project is financially viable. In the end, the gathered information directly feeds into the architects’ final project design.

Chart 2: What defines a Strong Community?

Chart 2: What defines a Strong Community?

Moreover, the close ties of the Philippine Alliance with the local government units help to navigate the hurdles that land acquisition and development may pose. For example, in Mandate City, local government identified land and facilitated the negotiations for acquisition. Given the competitive nature of the sector, this form of support is crucial.  Least but not last, LinkBuild also follows international best practice of developing in-city projects. By purchasing land that is centrally located, the organisation hopes to deliver projects that actively contribute to the integration of marginalised communities to the existing city fabric.

 

Participants of the Bago Gallera Site Planning Workshop in Davao City last September.

Participants of the Bago Gallera Site Planning Workshop in Davao City last September.

All of the above factors allow LinkBuild to distinguish itself from the traditional housing developers that tend to have a top-down approach to housing delivery and are primarily concerned with meeting sales objectives.

Ultimately Linkbuild’s model still remains to be tested since the mixed-income housing projects are yet to be completed. As the organisation enters unexplored waters with the Philippine Alliance, it will continue to learn by doing. And there remains a lot to be learnt. Given the housing sector’s state of permanent emergency, planning for the future of the countries’ urban poor is crucial. Despite the scale of the problem, there are only few organisations bold enough to offer an alternative. As it paves its way to sustainability, LinkBuild might well be leading the path towards the ‘imaginative reformulation of the systems by which we manage change’ [7]. And it is leading the change by asking the right question – how do we build forward better?

 

References

 

[1] National Economic and Development Authority, 2013. Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda:  Implementation for Results. [online] Available at: http://yolanda.neda.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/RAY-2.pdf

[2] Overseas Development Institute, 2013. Why and how are donors supporting social enterprises? [online]. Available at: https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/8894.pdf

[3] The World Bank, 2016. Closing the Gap in Affordable Housing in the Philippines: Policy Paper for the National Summit on Housing and Urban Development. [online] Available at: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/547171468059364837/pdf/AUS13470-WP-PUBLIC-Housing-Summit-Policy-Paper-has-been-approved-P155561.pdf
[4] Lorenciana, C.R. (2013). Philippine housing backlog is 5.5M SHDA targets to build a million units by 2016. [online]. Available at: http://www.philstar.com/cebu-business/2015/07/13/1476445/philippine-housing-backlog-5.5m-shda-targets-build-million-units

[5] The World Bank, 2016. Closing the Gap in Affordable Housing in the Philippines: Policy Paper for the National Summit on Housing and Urban Development. [online] Available at: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/547171468059364837/pdf/AUS13470-WP-PUBLIC-Housing-Summit-Policy-Paper-has-been-approved-P155561.pdf

[6] Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council. 2014. Developing a National Informal Settlements Upgrading Strategy for the Philippines (Final Report). [online]. Available at: http://www.hudcc.net/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/document/NISUS%20Final%20Report_July2014.pdf

[7] Sumsook, B. 2016.  Cities for People and by People. [online]. Available at: https://unchronicle.un.org/article/cities-people-and-people

 


 

David Hoffmann is an alumna of the MSc Urban Economic Development and a participant of the DPU/ACHR/CAN Young Professionals Programme. He currently works at LinkBuild, where he is involved with the design and implementation of organisational development strategies. Amongst others he organised workshops to encourage the knowledge exchange between community associations in Cebu and Davao.

 

*All pictures taken by D.H.

 

Collective practices vs. the Neoliberal City?

ucfuhrj24 November 2016

Has democracy failed to resist the neoliberal vision of the city and does architecture have anything to contribute to the debate? A presentation by Leonardo Cappetto, an architect and co-founder of Grupo TOMA, came as a fresh and potent ray of hope on Thursday evening – 17th November 2016. Thanks to Dr. Camilo Boano, Leonardo was invited to present at the Development Planning Unit. His presentation commenced by juxtaposing the rise of populist right-wing politicians almost all around the world and the seeming demise of an alternative to the neoliberal city. But the optimism rose as he presented the work done by the Chile based collective – Grupo TOMA towards attempting to find that alternative.

37_TOMA_poster_v1b

The promise of an alternative reflected within the very structure of Grupo TOMA, defying the norms that governed the 20th century professional world. Grupo TOMA is a collective of architects without any hierarchical internal relationships. It is a nomad organisation that resents the idea of growth for its sake and it works with temporal communities inherently being denied the chance for any permanent architectural statement.

 

What motivates a group of architects to let go of the egotistic practice of the 20th century? What inspires their continuing reconciliation with temporal existence? Leonardo’s presentation was just a glimpse into some of the aspects that may answer these questions.

 

TOMA’s first project involved bringing together neighbours to discuss and decide potential uses for an empty plot in a neighbourhood. Not having accomplished the desired outcomes after months of working with the local government, TOMA moved to set up its office in a factory that was commissioned for demolition and used the opportunity to invite 10 organisations to collectively model a city, comprising of design shops, kitchen, discussion areas, artist workshops, bicycle shops and media outlets among others. Though short lived, the experiment involved developing a territory and building a social organisation to organise that developed territory. According to Leonardo, such an experiment has immense potential in stimulating political questions over the city and thereby informing us of the alternatives.

 

TOMA’s journey continued in a new factory, commissioned to be converted into a centre for innovation. Cautious of the potential of their actions towards gentrifying the neighbourhood, TOMA embarks on a new project of generating a social narrative of the history of the place. Using a fictitious character of an elderly resident, Mr. Hugo, the narrative attempted to capture the rise of social speculators, searching for their gains in the neoliberal city – “a speculopolis – a Chillicon Valley”, suggested Leonardo. Although criticised of being a “dystopian narrative”, Leonardo claimed that such an exercise helps prompt discussion and provocations against the “seduction and destruction” of neoliberalism. Grupo TOMA has carried out similar other projects in Santiago de Chile, as well as Chicago, where they moved their office for a few months.

 

Leonardo concluded his talk by hinting at three main contributions architecture can make towards questioning the dominant neoliberal city. Firstly, he claims, the contribution lies in acknowledging the interrelation between the territory and its social organisation, something the profession has neglected so far. Secondly, in his opinion, architecture can help mobilise contemporary political discussion through use of unconventional languages and of experiments. Lastly, he concluded by asserting the potential of architecture in building spaces and scenarios for involving all socio-political conflicts.

 

Undoubtedly, Leonardo’s passionate accounts of TOMA’s work and its ideological journey stimulated a lively debate. Questions came from the audience that ranged from the ethics of involving community during projects to TOMA’s future plans for a bigger and a more permanent movement. Leonardo’s fitting comments, modestly acknowledging the unknown and further provoking the ideas of permanency, growth and the neoliberal, closed the session by stating, “Although temporal, the projects are Real and even as they disappear – nothing remains the same.”

 

Follow the works of Grupo TOMA here.

 

Brexit and Its Malcontents

Liza Griffin12 July 2016

The hateful Brexit campaign has a lot to answer for. The few at its helm have emboldened racists and racist acts and have caused many to be fearful and many more to feel unwelcome or reviled. This is a tragedy that can’t be wished away.

FullSizeRender

But I fear that the outcry after the result is patronising to the very many who voted to come out of Europe for a multitude of reasons or whom  felt excluded from the EU as a set of institutions. While the issues may have been poorly drawn by mainstream media and presented ineffectually by campaigners; I’ve no doubt that millions voted as a result of a careful evaluation of the issues as they saw them.

In my view, there needs to be a legitimate space for airing and discussing those feelings as well as, and in relation to, the fears and attitudes concerning racism and xenophobia.

It is both depressing and concerning that these views have been pitted against one another. It is also alarming that those choosing to leave the EU have been tarred with the same brush as the Brexit campaign itself. The campaign revealed itself to be mendacious and its central strategy was to stir up animosity.

However, choosing to leave the EU was not an automatic vote of support for this invidious campaign. Voters were asked about membership of an institution with contradictory policy objectives and a multifaceted identity. It was a straightforward question – in or out –  but the choice itself was not straightforward.

The EU is undeniably multiple: it is at once a commitment to peace between historically volatile nations; an expression of open borders and a series of safeguards against social and environmental harm. Other imaginaries perceive  it rather differently; as is an elitist entity, an instrument of neoliberalism, an interfering authority or a self-serving confederation facilitating the plunder of sovereign states’ wealth and consuming resources at a time when public spending is being squeezed. For many others, myself included, the Union has symbolised several of these conflicting perspectives.

Whichever imaginaries voters were drawn to, there is little doubt that many were ignorant of the history and finer workings of the EU and its political economy – but this goes for both the brexit and remain supporters. For these reasons, the complexity of the issues at stake and the multiple imaginaries at play inevitably belie any simplistic analysis of the referendum result.

In trying to make sense of the result for myself, I particularly enjoyed Emejulu’s piece on the whiteness of brexit. http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2733-on-the-hideous-whiteness-of-brexit-let-us-be-honest-about-our-past-and-our-present-if-we-truly-seek-to-dismantle-white-supremacy

She argues that issues of race are inherent to EU politics and have infused this referendum but I don’t take from her piece that all ‘no votes’ are simply racist votes. The article doesn’t set up a crude division between broadmindedness and prejudice, a division which has been all too prevalent in the last few days of Brexit reportage.

Attention to whiteness by contrast opens up a space for a conversation not simply about where people situate themselves in arguments on immigration and multiculturalism. Attention to whiteness is one powerful way to destabilise some of the unhelpful and inevitably marginalising rhetoric we’ve been subject to. She asks instead ‘What does it mean that those who now are expressing ‘concern’ about a surge in xenophobia have previously had little to say about everyday and institutionalised racism and violence that people of colour experience?.’

I believe that, like race, class is imbricated in the referendum fall out. The EU is above all a set of institutions which regulate the nature, rhythms and movements of workers’ bodies –  black and white bodies.

And yet different people’s experiences of this regulation will inevitably be diverse and divisive. Another reason why the analysis has to be nuanced; to allow those experiences and grievances – which are not the same for us all – to be validated. Those disenfranchised on low wages and, or those marginalised by the not so subtle codings of racism must be heard and understood with respect to complex social relations, not pitted against one another in a story of heroes and villains.

What initially concerned me about the early referendum reportage is the way it has played out like a game of top trumps: who is the biggest felon or the most put upon victim group – and who has the most legitimate grievance? Are the (mostly white) residents of Seaburn in Sunderland working class heroes who have simply had enough of austerity or are they hatemongering proto-nationalists? And too much coverage talks in terms of ‘they’ when, as I see it, the publics are not clearly interpellated by the poorly orchestrated debate.

Of course I am not so naïve as to think that at least some of the public discussion wont cause conflict or be hateful or racist. And I am one of the last to romanticise the ‘working classes’.  Surely there is a class and race geography to the voting, but it is far from clear-cut.

I also know that there wont be one truth to explain what has happened or a single social movement to coalesce around going forward, but trying to make sense of this confusing and divided time seems important.

Another so-called split I haven’t yet started to get to grips with to is the apparent division between the ‘younger’ and the ‘older’ voters – with disproportionate older voters seeking  Brexit and many younger ones favouring the current arrangements. In a climate of pension crises, youth unemployment, onsies and adult colouring books what does this mean I wonder?

But I guess what I am left really pondering is whether there is a way to acknowledge the fear and bad feeling caused by the apparent shock result while also thinking about what an alternative kinder and more open politics could look like? One that acknowledges how unhappy some folk are about the status quo , but that doesn’t white wash a history of colonialism and marginalisation ? I do hope so. And I hope too that any emerging solidarity first gives room for the expression of manifold, conflicting and complex feelings of those celebrating the result or grieving this separation.


 

Liza Griffin is a lecturer in political ecology and director of studies at DPU