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Claudia Sheinbaum and the future of Mexico’s Fourth Transformation

By Sarah Flynn, on 5 February 2024

A blog written by Étienne von Bertrab, Lecturer (Teaching) at The Development Planning Unit.

Claudia Sheinbaum greeted by supporters at an informative assembly in Acapulco. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The original version of this text was presented at the seminar “Mexico’s 2024 elections and continuation of the Transformation” during the Latin America Conference 2024 on January 27th in Hamilton House, London. DPU’s Étienne von Bertrab was joined in the panel by William Booth (UCL Institute of the Americas) and by David Raby and María Pérez Ramos from Mexico Solidarity Forum.

On June 2nd Mexico will elect its first female president in 200 years as independent nation. It won’t be Xóchitl Gálvez, candidate of the opposition considered instrument of the country’s oligarchy, but Claudia Sheinbaum, an environmental scientist and social leader who has accompanied the political movement of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) for over two decades. She is one of the founders of the Morena party and has admirably governed Mexico City this sexenio (six-year term) until stepping down last June to pursue the presidency.

Apart from this being a momentous event for Mexican society, the coming elections will be highly significant for the life of Morena after AMLO, as Claudia (for short) will be accompanied by five female gubernatorial candidates including leftist Clara Brugada who aspires to build on Claudia’s legacy in Mexico City. Indeed, as journalist Kurt Hackbarth puts it in his latest piece in Jacobin, “the next chapter in Morena’s history is set to be shaped by leftist women”.

The certainty I start with is founded both on AMLO’s remarkably high approval rates (unprecedented at this point in a presidential term) and on the numerous opinion polls that consistently give Sheinbaum a significant lead (20 to 30%) ahead of the opposition’s strongest candidate (Gálvez). But who is Claudia Sheinbaum and what could be expected from a second moment of Mexico’s Fourth Transformation?

There isn’t much space to elaborate on Claudia’s fascinating background and significant public life, but I would like to highlight some things from her trajectory and ways of thinking and doing.[1]

As a young student in the National University, UNAM, Claudia became an activist, first in movements of solidarity with workers and peasants and then as part of the wider student mobilisations of the 1970s and 1980s.  She took part in the Comité de Lucha of her university campus and became prominent in the Consejo Estudiantil Universitario (CEU), a movement in defence of public education, at a time when neoliberalism started creeping up in Mexico’s education system.

Claudia got her first degree in Physics and did a masters in Energy Engineering. She was the first woman to enter the doctorate in energy engineering at UNAM and to obtain, in this institution, a PhD in the field. As a young mother she moved with her family to Berkeley, California, to undertake her doctoral research, but even there continued her political activism. Together with other activists she bravely gave President Carlos Salinas de Gortari a hard time in a triumphalist visit to sell the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She worked hard as student while nurturing her political awareness and social commitment towards marginalised communities in her work on energy.

As a climate scientist, Claudia was a contributing author to the IPCC’s Fourth Report. For this work the panel received the Nobel Peace Prize (2007). She is a respected scholar in the energy and climate fields, and academia is a part of her life that she never fully abandons (although her life might become even a bit busier for a while).

Due to her solid trajectory on environmental matters and their clear political affinity Claudia was invited by AMLO to be the environment minister for his government of the capital city, then called Distrito Federal, from 2000 to 2005. As minister, Claudia was entrusted with key projects and led significant initiatives.

She supported the struggle against the desafuero of López Obrador[2] and was fundamental in the documentation of the electoral fraud that stripped AMLO from the presidency in 2006 (his first attempt). We need to remember that, since then, Mexico’s government and the business elites worked closely in well-funded smear campaigns to portray him as “un peligro para México” (a danger for Mexico). After the 2006 fraud Claudia returned to her academic activities at UNAM, but never abandoned her political action alongside AMLO.

Claudia was key in the defence of energy sovereignty —a central component of the proyecto obradorista de nación that took AMLO to the presidency in 2018— and was a great mobiliser of women in defence of such sovereignty.

Once AMLO broke with the then leftist party PRD as it allied with the conservative alliance (PRI-PAN) when Enrique Peña Nieto took power, Morena was founded, first as a civic organisation, and later —after discussions in assemblies— as a political party. Claudia Sheinbaum was part of Morena’s foundational process. The rest is history. Morena competed electorally for the first time in 2015 and only 9 years later governs, together with its allied parties, 23 of the 32 states that form the Mexican federation. It could win a few more states in the coming elections.

As mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum’s government expanded fundamental rights to public education, health, housing, culture, dignified employment at a fair wage, sustainable mobility, and a healthy environment. It also drove significant innovation. For example the integration of a solar power plant (now the world’s largest in an urban area) in the city’s food market, and public and free Internet connectivity throughout the city. The accomplishments of her administration are impressive and long is the list of international recognitions and prices. Mirroring what occurs at the national level, public investment in infrastructure and social protection are unparalleled, achieved through republican austerity (not the neoliberal version) and good governance, including combating corruption, without incurring in additional debt. A recurrent argument of the opposition is that Claudia Sheinbaum is candidate because of being AMLO’s favourite (or its “handpicked successor” as it is often framed in the media).[3] This (also misogynist) trope neglects her outstanding leadership and the extraordinary results of her government, putting, for the benefit of all, the poor first.

Claudia Sheinbaum’s programme is under construction. An anachronic electoral law forbids candidates to spell out specific proposals until campaigns officially start in March. However, political documents and ongoing processes are useful indications:

  1. Proyecto de Nación 2024-2030, consulted and written by a special commission of Morena (before the candidacy was determined). It addresses 19 themes considered major challenges of the Fourth Transformation. More than 15 thousand people participated in this process.
  2. An initial diagnostic produced by Claudia’s closest team.
  3. The ongoing Diálogos por la Transformación, a public, participatory process coordinated thematically by a team of advisors (a transition team of sorts).

The dialogues’ resulting document will be presented in March and will complement both Morena’s project (abovementioned) and the programme registered before the National Electoral Institute, INE, which already indicates a boost in the energy transition, a further impulse for women, and a National Guard of proximity oriented to ending violence in the country.

Challenges are many and Claudia Sheinbaum won’t have it easy, not least before a huge popular movement in mourning with AMLO’s full retirement in October. AMLO has been an extraordinary leader and political mastermind and is impossible to substitute him. Mexico’s oligarchy will continue working hard to try to end the political project in power and lawfare is likely to intensify in the next administration, including attempts to seek US intervention. But Claudia Sheinbaum has many things in her favour, not least the demonstrated success of the Fourth Transformation, the palpable results of her government in Mexico City and, above all, her personal integrity. Undoubtedly, a key goal is to achieve a two-thirds super majority in Congress (dubbed Plan C), as this would allow constitutional reforms needed to expand, extend and deepen Mexico’s transformation.

In sum, barring an unforeseen reversal of circumstances in the country, Claudia Sheinbaum will be Mexico’s next president, taking office on October 1st, 2024, and this will be very good news for Mexico, for Latin America and for the world.


[1] For those interested in knowing more about her I recommend the recent documentary Claudia, and Arturo Cano’s book Claudia Sheinbaum: Presidenta.

[2]  A political manoeuvre aimed at stopping him from being candidate to the presidency in the 2006 elections.

[3] Claudia Sheinbaum became candidate after winning an internal, transparent process through national polling against five other contestants from Morena and allied parties.


Cano, Arturo, 2023, Claudia Sheinbaum: Presidenta, Grijalbo, Ciudad de México.

Hackbarth, Kurt, 2023, “MORENA’s Next Chapter Will Be Written by Leftist Women”, Jacobin, 22 December 2023 https://jacobin.com/2023/12/morena-claudia-sheinbaum-clara-brugada-mexico-women-politics

Raby, David, 2024, “Mexico’s transformation advances”, Morning Star Saturday/Sunday January 27-28 2024. https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/mexicos-transformation-advances

Tren Maya: high hopes and contested development in the Yucatan Peninsula

By Naji P Makarem, on 24 September 2021

Authors: Naji Makarem, Étienne von Bertrab and Alessio Koliulis

This year our students in the MSc Urban Economic Development embarked on our Overseas Practice Engagement (OPE) by focusing their attention on the Tren Maya project in Mexico, president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)’s flagship development project. The Tren Maya project is poised to connect and develop 19 towns and cities in the Yucatan Peninsula, the South-East region of Mexico. Students were split into six groups, with two student groups focusing on the potential impact of the train on three distinct locations: Mérida, one of the region’s largest cities, San Francisco de Campeche, a smaller port city with a run-down economy, and Xpujil, a small community planned to become an urban centre.

Students found themselves immersed in literature about Mexico and the Tren Maya as well as primary research in the form of stakeholder interviews, conducted with our partners at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana – Xochimilco, a prestigious public university in Mexico City. They also participated in a series of professionally-interpreted live sessions with stakeholders based in Yucatan and Mexico City. This allowed live interaction between our international students and stakeholders without language being a barrier.

Current route of the Tren Maya and proposed stations. As with the overall project, the route is having modifications as excavations reveal valuable archaeological sites, technical challenges are reassessed, but also as the project meets social and political resistance in some locations. Image: FONATUR

What makes this research particularly interesting is the wide spectrum of stakeholders we engaged with, from indigenous Mayan and environmental activist groups concerned about the social and environmental impact of the project, to government and international development representatives who believe the project is unique in Mexico’s history with its pro-poor approach. AMLO, who is originally from the region, claims that this project is different to past development projects that have been widely seen by the people as exploitative and destructive of the environment. Will this project be any different? This question to a great extent has shaped the research of UED MSc students at the DPU.

In San Francisco de Campeche, the organisation Colectivo Tres Barrios has opposed the relocation of their homes and brought successful appeals. A recent decision to relocate the station means the train will no longer enter the heart of the city and hundreds of residents will continue to live in their traditional neighbourhoods. Photo: Arturo Contreras (Pie de Página)


It became very apparent that Mexico’s contested history has left its mark on the region in the form of dis-trust of the government and economic actors, including trans-national corporations, and for good reasons: the development model has so far benefitted only a few and the territory has been significantly altered at the expense of local communities, affecting traditional ways of life and of seeing the world. While the government aimed to have (for the first time in the country) an indigenous consultation process for the project in late 2019, it did not meet the standards to ensure a prior, free, informed and culturally adequate consent. Subsequently, the decision to involve the army in its construction, and in the running of the train, has triggered further concerns. The government claims the decision aims at impeding a privatisation of the train in subsequent administrations, something that can be understood considering the country’s troubled past with highly corrupt and problematic privatisation of infrastructure and services.

Some indigenous communities are concerned about losing their lands and communal ways of life, and others are concerned about environmental devastation which they anticipate from a reduction in transport costs for commodities in the region, through the unsustainable extraction of finite natural resources and unsustainable agricultural practices that cause deforestation and pollute the land and waters with toxic chemicals such as synthetic pesticides. Another concern is the anticipated growth in tourism which in the region’s main tourist centre, Cancún, has brought a significant increase in crime and inequality. The question of development for whom and how became a cross-cutting concern of all six research groups.

Will the Tren Maya project simply perpetuate the inequality, violence, and environmental degradation characteristic of past tourism-led development projects in the region, or is this indeed a new era for Mexico where development is aligned with the needs of people and the environment? Anti-capitalist movements such as the Zapatistas (the EZLN) would argue that all state and corporate interventions in the region disrupt their autonomy and are by the very nature of the capitalist system exploitative and violent. They want to expand horizontal models of self-determination outside the domain of state institutions. Other indigenous groups and community organisations echo these concerns which at some level resonate with many Mexicans but are open to engaging with the project to ensure it respects and promotes their way of life and their environment and that it creates meaningful opportunities for their communities.

While sceptical in a context of high levels of distrust in government and corporate institutions, interviews with community leaders shed light on their cautious optimism as they imagine ways they and their communities could benefit from the Tren Maya and the opportunities it may bring to them. The people in the region are predominantly in favour of the Tren Maya when framed as a yes or no to the project in principle. This the government argues is proof of support for the project.

Many national and transnational companies are involved in the project, considered the largest ongoing infrastructure development project in Latin America. The winning consortia for building the trains themselves ensured these will be built with significant national components in Mexico, in the impoverished state of Hidalgo. Photo: Government of Mexico.


What the community organisations have done is carve a wedge between this black or white approach and shed light on the all-important question of how. It is not simply a question of building the train line or not, it is a question they argue of whether the project will ultimately benefit the people or not, which is determined by the intentions and plans and ways of thinking of those implementing the project and its associated development strategies and initiatives.

Our students quickly understood the significance of their engagement and sought to bridge gaps of understanding and dialogue between indigenous community and environmental groups on one hand and the government institutions and their international development partners such as UN Habitat, on the other.

UED will continue its OPE working on the Tren Maya project for the next few years, as it accompanies the project and hopefully contributes to achieving its noble stated aims.


We want to thank all our team: Professor Violeta Núñez, Rocío Itzel Sánchez, Rodrigo Migoya, and DPU alumna Sofía Fernández, in Mexico, our translator, DPU alumnus George Azariah-Moreno, Jing Zhang, and each of our students in the cohort 2020-21, for their meaningful engagement despite the remote nature of this first year of the OPE. They are listed below in alphabetical order: Aisha Abdi,  Aya Aboelenen,  Ellen Ahn,  Izzudin Al Farras,  Saad Alsabah,  Abdullah Arshad,  Juliano Cavalli De Meira,  Mao Chen,  Qingya Cheng,  Chung Ching Lo,  Armando Espitia Arevalo, Tanyeli Guler,  Heesu Jeon,  Tanya Kasinganeti, Adha Khazina Kazmi,  Tatsunari Kubonishi,  Fasheng Liang,  Hope McGee,  Consolata Ndungu,  Yasin Omar Ashley Richardson,  Hoodo Richter,  Amin Rirash,  Qi Ru,  Yasmeen Safaie,  Shamira Sendagala,  Shuqi Su,  Genevieve Sundaresan,  Alia Tolba,  Yan Xu,  Jiaying Xue,  Xinyue Yi,  Binyu Wang,  Siyu Wang and  Dixuan Zhao.

A journey into the Peruvian Amazon: Collaborating for sustainable regional economic development in Tarapoto, San Martin

By Naji P Makarem, on 23 April 2021

By Naji Makarem, Etienne Von Bertrab and Alessio Koliulis

Over the past 4 years, students of the MSc in Urban Economic Development have been engaging with stakeholders on the local and regional development of Tarapoto, a wonderful small city in the Amazon rainforest in Northern Peru.

The purpose of our field trips (or what we now call the Overseas Practice Engagements – OPE) are two-fold: On one hand the OPE is an opportunity for students to put theory into practice; on the other it’s an opportunity for students to develop insights that may influence local conversations around the future of the cities we engage with. Together we try to make sense of what is going on and with the help and insights from stakeholders, co-imagine equitable, sustainable and ecological potential-futures.

The charming features of the city of Tarapoto today date back to 1970 when it was a small village of 30,000 inhabitants characterised by one-storey houses and walking and  motorcycling (and moto-taxis) were and continue to be the transport modes of choice. It has grown into a small city with a population of approx. 200,000 inhabitants. It has maintained its charm; Tarapoto has a many trees paving the streets and purple flowers which together with its colourful low-rise housing make it a very charming city, but at this grander scale its growing pains are beginning to exert pressure on the city and its residents. Our student groups over the past 4 years focused on the city’s major challenges and opportunities, imagining a more inclusive and sustainable future for Tarapoto.

One common theme investigated by student groups was moto-taxis and mobility more generally in the city and its surrounding regions, which the urban core is integrally connected to socially and economically. Moto-taxis are extremely convenient (easy to find most of the time, but not always and not everywhere) and refreshing as the cool breeze sweeps passengers’ faces, creating a sense of freedom and adventure when moving around the city. They also offer a source of income to the large share of the population that owns their own moto-taxi, including what in the UK we would call white-collar workers.

Mototaxis are also very loud, they emit toxic gases in the air which people breathe and contribute to global warming, and they are relatively dangerous (road accidents are fatal due to their very nature but also due to the road system itself) and they are also perceived to be less safe at certain times of day or in certain places, particularly for women travelling alone (our students were advised to always traveled in pairs). Yet the moto-taxis of Tarapoto are very much loved by residents and visitors alike, and have been the focus of investigation by our student groups over the past 4 years. We have translated and published the research of our wining student group from the 3 groups who focused their work on moto-taxis and mobility in Tarapoto last year, available to download here. Tarapoto is a region with a city at its core. The urban and rural have been interconnected ever since the traders of agricultural produce began to agglomerate in the city, connecting the Coffee and Cacao amongst others products grown in the region with national and global markets. In retrospect, globally, we look back on the green revolution and we see deforestation and the devastation of biodiversity, as well as the economics of large monoculture farming that pushes people, small farmers, off the land and into cities that struggle to provide them with the affordable housing, infrastructure and services human beings need to live a good life.
Luckily Tarapoto does not suffer from the kinds of destitution evident in many larger cities around the world, mostly in the Global South but not exclusively. The city therefore struggles with the challenge and opportunity of an ecological future, and adding more value to a more diverse range of agricultural outputs which can bring greater sustainability and value to the city and region. I invite you to access our winning student report from last year, selected from the 3 groups dedicated to the agriculture and agro-processing theme in Tarapoto available here.

Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the region. Tourists land in Tarapoto in a well-connected and well-maintained airport (a welcoming, cosy small-scale airport), and use Tarapoto as a base for regional tourism. Tourism is an attractive sector for many cities because it is the only sector whose export markets come to you. To be sure, there is an element of services exports through marketing and other promotional initiatives abroad to help generate awareness and attraction, but essentially the market comes to you (selling a 3-course dinner to a Japanese tourist akin to packaging the food and sending it to people in Japan).


Doing tourism well is therefore an extremely attractive economic opportunity for cities, but it is also very intrusive and, if not managed well, has a heavy environmental footprint and drain on resources. It can also increase rather than reduce inequality and end up siphoning a large share of the value generated to international investors leaving locals with precarious and not-so-interesting jobs and low wages. If done well it contributes to locals interacting with people from all over the world, bringing new ideas and perspectives, celebrating and bring out their cultural heritage, their art and culture and creating entrepreneurial opportunities and community initiatives that generate value and incomes for people and communities. You can access the report of the winning student group from last year’s students groups on Tourism here.

All of us students and staff at the DPU’s Msc. in Urban Economic Development extend our sincere gratitude to our local facilitator and coordinator, Maite Hidalgo, who invited us to Tarapoto, Dra. Martiza Requeja la Torre from the National University of San Martin, the Dean of the University Dr. Aquilino Mesia Garcia Bautista, the faculty, students and admin staff who engaged with our students and supported us in many ways including facilities for our final presentations.

We are also grateful to all the stakeholders who engaged with our four OPEs, including the Mayor Tedy Del Aguila Gronerth and leading managers at the municipality of Tarapoto, business leaders and heads of the chamber of commerce, business owners, social entrepreneurs, local organisers and community leaders, and residents and visitors who so kindly offered our students their time, insights and trust to better understand the city from its diverse perspectives. Last but not least the UED team is also grateful for the hard work, passion and creative thinking of our students.

We hope you all enjoyed our 4-year engagement and enjoy reading through our 3 winning reports from last year (available in English and Spanish).



Durante los últimos 4 años, los estudiantes de la Maestría en Desarrollo Económico Urbano se han involucrado con actores interesados en el desarrollo local y regional de Tarapoto, una pequeña ciudad maravillosa en la selva amazónica en el norte de Perú.

El propósito de nuestras excursiones (o lo que ahora llamamos Compromisos de Práctica en el Extranjero – OPE) es doble: Por un lado, el OPE es una oportunidad para que los estudiantes pongan la teoría en práctica; por otro, es una oportunidad para que los estudiantes desarrollen conocimientos que puedan influir en conversaciones locales sobre el futuro de las ciudades con las que nos relacionamos. Juntos tratamos de dar sentido a lo que está sucediendo y, con la ayuda y los conocimientos de actores interesados, imaginamos un futuro potencial equitativo, sostenible y ecológico.

Las características encantadoras de la ciudad de Tarapoto hoy se remontan a 1970 cuando era un pequeño pueblo de 30.000 habitantes caracterizado por casas de una sola planta y donde caminar y andar en motocicleta (y moto-taxis) fueron y siguen siendo los medios de transporte de elección. Se ha convertido en una pequeña ciudad con una población de aprox. 200.000 habitantes. Ha mantenido su encanto; Tarapoto tiene muchos árboles pavimentando las calles y flores violetas que junto con sus coloridas viviendas de poca altura la hacen una ciudad muy encantadora, pero a una escala mayor sus dolores de crecimiento están comenzando a ejercer presión sobre la ciudad y sus residentes. Nuestros grupos de estudiantes durante los últimos 4 años se enfocaron en los principales desafíos y oportunidades de la ciudad, imaginando un futuro más inclusivo y sostenible para Tarapoto.

Un tema común investigado por los grupos de estudiantes fue el de los mototaxis y la movilidad en general en la ciudad y sus regiones circundantes, a las que el núcleo urbano está integralmente conectado de forma social y económica. Los mototaxis son extremadamente convenientes (fáciles de encontrar la mayor parte del tiempo, pero no siempre ni en todas partes) y refrescantes ya que la brisa fresca barre los rostros de los pasajeros, creando una sensación de libertad y aventura al moverse por la ciudad. También ofrecen una fuente de ingresos a una gran parte de la población que posee su propio mototaxi, incluido lo que en el Reino Unido llamaríamos trabajadores administrativos.

Los mototaxis también son muy ruidosos, emiten gases tóxicos en el aire que las personas respiran y contribuyen al calentamiento global, y son relativamente peligrosos (los accidentes de tráfico son fatales por su propia naturaleza pero también por el propio sistema de carreteras) y también son percibidos como  insegurosen ciertos momentos del día o en ciertos lugares, particularmente para las mujeres que viajan solas (a nuestros estudiantes se les recomendó viajar siempre en parejas). Sin embargo, los mototaxis de Tarapoto son muy queridos tanto por los residentes como por los visitantes, y han sido el foco de investigación de nuestros grupos de estudiantes durante los últimos 4 años. Hemos traducido y publicado la investigación de nuestro grupo ganador de los 3 grupos de estudiantes que enfocaron su trabajo en moto-taxis y movilidad en Tarapoto el año pasado, disponible para descargar aquí. Tarapoto es una región con una ciudad en su núcleo. Lo urbano y lo rural han estado interconectados desde que los comerciantes de productos agrícolas comenzaron a aglomerarse en la ciudad, conectando el Café y Cacao entre otros productos cultivados en la región con los mercados nacionales y globales. En retrospectiva, a nivel mundial, miramos hacia atrás en la revolución verde y vemos la deforestación y la devastación de la biodiversidad, así como la economía de la gran agricultura de monocultivo que empuja a las personas, a los pequeños agricultores, fuera de la tierra a las ciudades que luchan por proporcionarles la vivienda, a la infraestructura y a los servicios asequibles que los seres humanos necesitan para vivir una buena vida.

Afortunadamente, Tarapoto no sufre el tipo de indigencia evidente en muchas ciudades más grandes del mundo, principalmente en el Sur Global, pero no exclusivamente. Por lo tanto, la ciudad lucha con el desafío y la oportunidad de un futuro ecológico y agrega más valor a una gama más diversa de productos agrícolas que pueden aportar mayor sostenibilidad y valor a la ciudad y la región. Los invito a acceder a nuestro informe de estudiantes ganadores del año pasado, seleccionados de los 3 grupos dedicados al tema de la agricultura y el procesamiento agrícola en Tarapoto disponibles aquí.

El turismo es uno de los sectores de más rápido crecimiento de la región. Los turistas aterrizan en Tarapoto en un aeropuerto bien conectado y bien mantenido (un aeropuerto acogedor y acogedor a pequeña escala) y utilizan a la ciudad de Tarapoto como base para el turismo regional. El turismo es un sector atractivo para muchas ciudades porque es el único sector cuyos mercados de exportación llegan a ti. Sin duda, existe un elemento de exportación de servicios a través del marketing y otras iniciativas promocionales en el extranjero para ayudar a generar conciencia y atracción, pero esencialmente el mercado se acerca a usted (vender una cena de 3 platos a un turista japonés similar a empaquetar la comida y enviar a la gente en Japón).




Hacer turismo bien es, por tanto, una oportunidad económica extremadamente atractiva para las ciudades, pero también es muy intrusivo y, si no se gestiona bien, tiene una gran huella medioambiental y consume recursos. También puede aumentar en lugar de reducir la desigualdad y terminar desviando una gran parte del valor generado a los inversores internacionales, dejando a los locales con trabajos precarios y no tan interesantes y con salarios bajos. Si se hace bien, contribuye a que los lugareños interactúen con personas de todo el mundo, aportando nuevas ideas y perspectivas, celebrando y sacando a relucir su herencia cultural, su arte y cultura y creando oportunidades empresariales e iniciativas comunitarias que generan valor e ingresos para las personas y las comunidades. Puede acceder al informe del grupo ganador de los grupos de estudiantes del año pasado sobre Turismo aquí.


Todos nosotros, estudiantes y personal de la Maestría de la DPU. en Desarrollo Económico Urbano extendemos nuestro más sincero agradecimiento a nuestra facilitadora y coordinadora local, Maite Hidalgo, quien nos invitó a Tarapoto, Dra. Martiza Requeja la Torre de la Universidad Nacional de San Martín, el Decano de la Universidad Dr. Aquilino Mesia García Bautista, la facultad, los estudiantes y el personal administrativo que se relacionaron con nuestros estudiantes y nos apoyaron de muchas maneras, incluidas las instalaciones para nuestras presentaciones finales.



También estamos agradecidos a todos los interesados ​​que se involucraron con nuestras cuatro OPE, incluido el alcalde Tedy Del Aguila Gronerth y los principales gerentes del municipio de Tarapoto, líderes empresariales y jefes de la cámara de comercio, dueños de negocios, emprendedores sociales, organizadores locales y líderes comunitarios, residentes y visitantes que tan amablemente ofrecieron a nuestros estudiantes su tiempo, conocimientos y confianza para comprender mejor la ciudad desde sus diversas perspectivas. Por último, pero no menos importante, el equipo de la UED también está agradecido por el arduo trabajo, la pasión y el pensamiento creativo de nuestros estudiantes.


Esperamos que todos hayan disfrutado de nuestro compromiso de 4 años y disfruten leyendo nuestros 3 informes ganadores del año pasado (disponibles en Inglés y Español).

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

By Jama Musse Jama, on 20 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.


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

By Jama Musse Jama, on 20 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.


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?

By ucfuap3, on 1 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

By Yasmine Kherfi, on 20 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.



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

By Michael Walls, on 14 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

By ucfulsc, on 15 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.






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

By Alex Apsan Frediani, on 16 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.

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:


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