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Integrating Women in Economic Development through the Mitreeki Network

DaljeetKaur31 March 2016

Mitreeki : A combination of Maitreyi in Hindi and Urafiki in Swahili symbolising Indo-Africa friendship beyond boundaries

Mitreeki : A combination of Maitreyi in Hindi and Urafiki in Swahili symbolising Indo-Africa friendship beyond boundaries

Right when we decided to hold our regional conference in Nairobi, Kenya around integrating women in economic development, the Lions from the Nairobi National Park decided to visit the city. Amidst the friendly carnivores, we held a successful conference and agreed to come together as the Mitreeki 2016 Network and committed to work tirelessly to promote and protect the rights and integrity of all women and girls. We also pledged to:

  • guide and sustain knowledge based partnerships for economic empowerment of women across developing countries (especially from India and Africa);
    • Share experiences on empowerment of women and girls that have brought results and have generated interest regionally and globally;
    • Invite like-minded organizations and individuals to join the network; and
    • Call upon international community and national governments to support this initiative and promote empowerment of women and girls at local, national and regional levels.
Photo: Indian High Commissioner to Kenya, Suchitra Durai inaugurated the Mitreeki 2016 Conference on the 3rd of March’16 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Photo: Indian High Commissioner to Kenya, Suchitra Durai inaugurated the Mitreeki 2016 Conference on the 3rd of March’16 in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

Why is Women Economic Empowerment needed?

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said “if the world is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), we need a quantum leap in women’s economic empowerment” while announcing the formation of the first ever high-level panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Davos (2016).

Women are the most deprived and marginalized across countries and cultures – a concern captured in the UN SDG 5 that urges equality and empowerment of all women and girls. Representing half of world’s population, women should ideally comprise 50% of world’s labour force, but in reality they only comprise around 30-40% of the total work force in developing countries (according to World Bank, globally 40% of all world workers are women). Issues such as persisting lack of voice and social status, education, skill sets, security at work place and equal opportunities are reasons for their low participation. And because of unequal opportunity and related reasons just 18% of firms globally have women at the top management level.

Map depicting percentage of women workforce across the globe

Map depicting percentage of women workforce across the globe Source: http://fortune.com/2015/03/05/women-in-the-workforce/

Map depicting percentage of women workforce across the globe
Source: http://fortune.com/2015/03/05/women-in-the-workforce/

Despite grim statistics, it is believed that women’s economic empowerment is essential for any country’s development. It not only promises to increase a country’s GDP but also ensures a secure and a sustainable future for its citizens. Recently Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State repeatedly made an economic case for improving the status of women, citing research showing the benefits to a country’s GDP. Quoting the No Ceilings Report (Gates Foundation, 2015) she said “Closing the gap in women’s labor force participation across OECD countries is estimated to lead to average GDP gains of 12% by 2030, including almost 20% in Japan and Korea, about 10% in the United States, and more than 22% in Italy.”

 

India and Africa Connect

Both in India and Africa the gender divide, especially in rural areas, is quite intense and women are openly subjected to various kinds of discrimination and denial of rights. Women bear a disproportionate brunt of poverty which forces them into increasing drudgery, longer hours of work under conditions of poor nutrition, food insecurity and falling health. The entrenched socioeconomic prejudices results in progressive marginalisation of womenʹs role in the household, neighbourhood, and in the community. However, despite these limitations, India and Africa have achieved some noteworthy success in women empowerment and poverty reduction.

 

India, where only 27% of women work in the formal sector has a long way to go in meeting gender parity. At the same time, several indicators of human development and gender parity reflect that India compared to other Low Income Countries (LICs) has achieved success over the years. In 2013, India fell under the Medium Human Development category, while a majority of the countries in Africa fell under the Low Human Development category, with the Gender Inequality Index value ranging from as low as 0.410 to 0.591 demonstrating that a lot can be done to empower women in Africa who face high levels of inequality and discrimination. (source: http://www.ipekpp.com/knowledge_p.php)

 

Women face common challenges in India and Africa and the Mitreeki 2016 conference organized under the Knowledge Partnership Programme (KPP), funded by Government of UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), managed by IPE Global Limited, impressed upon the need to come together and address such issues to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Many experts at the Nairobi conference, organized under the KPP in association with Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO), felt that engendering development goals will supplement efforts individually made towards achieving the 17 SDGs by 2030.

Mitreeki Resolution: Signed by practitioners from India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda.

Mitreeki Resolution: Signed by practitioners from India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda.

The conference discussed key challenges faced by women in the two continents, especially pertaining to – access to education; access to credits & loans; access to markets; access to safe work places; etc. Day one of the conference focused on plenary discussions while day two facilitated a dialogue between practitioners to understand the good practices in more details and how these could be applied in their respective contexts. The panelists relayed success stories around financial inclusion; market linkages; opportunities in the emerging sectors from their own countries and deliberated on the social norms that impede women’s economic participation. Each session reflected on policies; programmes and models from the participating countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, and India) that have addressed these barriers.

The conference culminated in the signing of a resolution and a mutual agreement to create a ‘Mitreeki Network’ housed in either of its facilitators (IPE Global or/and DFID) which will further the women economic empowerment agenda by sharing, learning, linking and advocating for a gender just world. The network will have representatives from Local Governments, Organizations, Academia, Women Entrepreneurs, Private Sector, Donors, Women Beneficiaries, etc. from across Africa, Asia & UK and individually they would help identify and showcase initiatives that have succeeded in achieving targets of women empowerment and collectively imbibe learnings in their own context.


 

Daljeet Kaur has a double Master’s degree in Environment and Sustainable Development from the DPU and Environmental Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She has worked as a qualified planner and an architect for more than eight years at IPE Global Limited. Her interest lies in urban planning; urban reforms, environmental management; climate change and its mitigation & adaptation; knowledge management.

At present she is working as a Senior Programme Manager for the DFID funded Knowledge Partnership Programme (KPP), implemented by IPE Global. The programme has established more than 50 partnerships to date with a wide range of partners in a number of sectors, including IDS (Sussex), UNDP, FAO, and Governments of Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Kenya and Malawi. For more information about the programme please visit www.ipekpp.com.

 

 

Evolving Cuba. The Need for a Planned Transition.

AnaDe La Parra Rovelo31 December 2015

It was the end of November. Only four days had passed since I went back to Mexico after finishing my studies at the DPU. I found myself in Havana, enjoying the outdoors without having to wear a coat. I was excited because I had been invited to present the main topic of my MSc dissertation in a local Congress organised by the Ministry of Construction (MICONS) targeted to 160 public servants, representing the country’s main “territories”.

Martí pointing at the US Embassy in Havana

Martí pointing at the US Embassy in Havana

I was proud to be portrayed as one of the four key speakers at the Congress among three members of the Havana University Faculty. My research topic was about the need to regulate infrastructure services to find a balance between a free-market economy and a communist system. The objective was to explore the need for direct regulation in order to redefine social justice “beyond a distributive understanding”, and expand “people’s capabilities”. All this is contextualised in the recent changes in Cuba, which will encourage greater governmental transparency and economic openness to global investors. The main topic of my lecture was to explain the importance of having available data and information to be able to address people’s main concerns and include their perspective in government policies. I used the same case study as I did in my dissertation: a mobility strategy for Havana. Little did I know that my conference was going to be the only lecture related to infrastructure. I was taken by surprise when I realised that the rest of the conferences were devoted to the Internet.

Fidel talking about the importance of the internet

Fidel talking about the importance of the internet

Inside the rooms of the Palacio de las Convenciones, most of the speakers explained the main uses of the Internet and the convenience of integrating new software and mobile devices to be more productive at work. At first, their explanations were as basic as describing the main uses of Twitter and Facebook to the audience. My first impression was that it was all part of an agenda to insert a specific vision into the public servants; and in a way, it was. However, I started to pay attention to what the professors were really saying and the reactions from the audience and that is when I realised there was so much more. At one point, one female professor explained, “Humans created the Internet to expand their reality, the same way as Plato’s Theory of Ideas”. The audience then made affirmation noises as if everything was now crystal clear and needed no further explanation. I was thankful for my philosophy modules at University. Another professor made it clear that if they “did not tell their story to the world, the only version the people could learn was the one written by the other side”. Hence highlighting the urge to become active users of the web.

I slowly became aware of what was happening in this conference, the country was preparing selected public servants for a transition. A big one! To do so, they are executing a very clever strategy: they are not only taking into consideration the big changes they need to improve their urban mobility or to re-open Mariel, their biggest trading port. They are also taking a step back and considering all the other basic tools they need to succeed when these changes happen. This means introducing themselves to new technologies, software and the biggest modern tool of all, the Internet. It is an integral and multidimensional strategy for Cuba to take over the world instead of fearing the world will take over the island, and I think it is an interesting way to do it.

The venue.

The venue.

After the Congress finished, I went to the Havana University campus in Marianao, just outside Havana to meet an Architecture professor. Having in mind the described events, I felt confident about what was going to come out of this final meeting. I was not disappointed in that aspect. However, the cruelty of the country’s reality hit me when I got there. The Architecture faculty building was decayed, grey, and partially destroyed. As we climbed the stairs to the eighth floor, we had to dodge debris, rods and the risk of falling into the void as the cardboard that served as a wall on one side of the stairs explicitly announced. The professor explained to us that there were over 500 students in that building and that many students were not able to attend due to lack of means of transportation to what he refered to as “the remote” campus, situated 15 km from the City Centre.

The University

The University

After four days I went back to Mexico feeling exhausted, confused and at the same time extremely grateful to have played a part in this transition. I see a country excited with the prospect of change and new hope, built on national proudness of what they have been achieved and the plans they have sketched for the future. Changes are everywhere in this island, so hopefully with the right urban planning policies, cubans will be on the road to success in no time. I cannot wait to see what happens next.


Ana Maria de la Parra Rovelo has an MSc in Social Development Practice from The Bartlett Development Planning Unit. She has specialised inn social impact and infrastructure, especially on projects related to roads. Last June she launched the International Road Federation Young Professionals Programme where members from all over the world collaborate in joint academic research on topics related to mobility and roads. Ana Maria is now based in Mexico City where she is helping with the launch of The Bartlett Built Environment Club – Mexico City, while she works on projects in Cuba and Mexico.

Academic debate on urban challenges and development – collaborative consumption

DaljeetKaur16 October 2015

Recently I presented a paper on degrowth as a solution towards sustainability by stressing the need to shift from being owners to just consumers at the Regional International Geographic Union (IGU) event in Moscow last August’15[1]. IGU is one of the world’s oldest international researchers’ associations which organised its first International Geographical Congress in 1871 and in 1922 established the union. Today its members hail from over 90 countries, united in support of geographical research and education. The programme is rooted in principles of diversity and interdisciplinary exchange. At this year’s event, around 1700 participants from around the world gathered in the Soviet capital for lectures, discussions, workshops and excursions. This year, IGU Moscow 2015, focused mainly on the following five main themes: urban environment, polar studies, climate change, global conflicts, and regional sustainability.

Moscow State University, 17th August 2015 – First day of the conference at Moscow

Moscow State University, 17th August 2015 – First day of the conference at Moscow

The five day conference hosted many parallel sessions which were interesting to me mainly because I myself come from an emerging but developing economy, which is India. Such discourses on urban challenges provides you with an opportunity to see different perspective in addressing common problems and helps you to assimilate learnings and apply them in your own context. I was selected for a poster presented under the theme – creating sustainability and I impressed on the need to change our consumption patterns in light of the stress the current growth has put on Earth and its finite resources. It is estimated that we are using up to 50% more natural resources that the earth can provide for, inferring that – at our current population, we need 1.5 Earths to meet our current demand.

I drew the above painting titled - Romanticising Urbanism to question the idea of Growth itself which is primarily determined by the rate at which we consume.

I drew the above painting titled – Romanticising Urbanism to question the idea of Growth itself which is primarily determined by the rate at which we consume.

Degrowth as a Solution?

During the club of Rome[2] meeting in 1970’s, many visionaries, environmentalists and governments across the world acknowledged that the business as usual approach has failed and we need a course correction. The idea of degrowth which came about the same time, is the intentional redirection of economies away from the perpetual pursuit of growth. To me it sounds, a little far fetched, is it even possible to ask the developed world to forcibly reduce its growth? Even though the critics of degrowth argue that slowing of economic growth would result in increased unemployment and increase poverty especially in the Global South, degrowth proponents advocate for a complete abandonment of the current (growth) economic system, suggesting that delocalising and abandoning the global economy in the developing countries would allow people of the South to become more self-sufficient and would end the over consumption and exploitation of Southern resources by the North.

Whichever way the argument goes, if we look at some of the solutions it promoted, degrowth should not be confused with economic decline, rather the concept can be compared to a healthy diet. Irrespective of the income of a person the person’s diet should be such that it does not adversely harm him/her, I can only eat as much as I can digest and stay fit. But with respect to consumption of materialistic things in the world, we all are using more than we require to lead a happy satisfied life.

The problem we face today may not have a simple solution but a combination of many solutions, which can help the world to move towards a sustainable being. Thus, today, the decisions makers and communities themselves have a vital role to play when adopting a particular approach to tackle developmental issues. One such approach is collaborative consumption, which works on an economic model of swapping and sharing. Collaborative consumption can also be defined as using the same resource repeatedly and collectively by closing the loop of the liner material economy.

The illustration which I drew for the conference intends to promote collaborative consumption - a way of life based on sharing and renting.

The illustration which I drew for the conference intends to promote collaborative consumption – a way of life based on sharing and renting.

I briefly pondered the idea of Choice Editing which could be another means to achieve degrowth — editing peoples’ choices toward a certain lifestyle. One way to ascertain choice editing is through policies like taxes and provision of subsidies, the other could be led by the community, where a group of people form a nexus to not only consume together but restore resources together through water harvesting, through sharing (both knowledge and material), etc. The illustration below shows that all basic needs of each incomes groups are the same, the more we earn the more we add to our consumption of the lesser needed materials. If we club the common components of different income groups and follow the principle of equity where the higher earner pays more we could help ensure better security for the poorer section of the society.

diagram

*The above diagram illustrates a situation where different service charges are taken from different income groups (mainly determined by their individual buying capacities) to bridge disparity and to meet basic needs. Promoting social inclusion by being co-consumers in using services like transportation, education, housing.

What good are Global Debates?

During the five day conference I kept asking myself, but why discuss these issues in a larger forum? What possible gain could it bring us? Can India, which has a situation unlike others with an entirely different cultural setting, adopt or mirror what the developed world is doing to address its urban challenges. One of the lecturers at IGU, Professor Benno Werlen (Germany), spoke about knowledge sharing to find feasible local solutions through global discourses. I liked the idea which he introduced by saying that global thinking and global action demand global understanding. Not 100% positive but I did leave with the impression that initiatives like International Geographical Union (IGU) aim to bridge the gap in awareness between local acts and global effects through research, education, and information.

[1] http://www.igu2015.ru/

[2] http://www.clubofrome.org/

 


Daljeet Kaur has a double Master’s degree in Environment and Sustainable Development from the DPU and Environmental Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She has worked as a qualified planner and an architect for more than eight years at IPE Global Limited. Her interest lies in urban planning; urban reforms, environmental management; climate change and its mitigation & adaptation; knowledge management.

 

i-Rec Conference 2015 – Day 3 Review

Matthew AWood-Hill10 July 2015

3.9

The i-Rec conference 2015 started its final day on Wednesday 8 July with a plenary session, as has been the format for the previous mornings.

Maggie Stephenson asked what is the relationship between shelter and survivor? – especially in light of post-disaster needs assessments (PDNAs); who decides what people need? Taking the time to discuss what is useful to survivors is therefore essential.

Rohit Jigyasu looked at attempts to salvage cultural heritage in the wake of the recent Nepalese earthquake. In some cases traditional materials and components, especially windows, held up better than more contemporary counterparts. He is part of an initiative with the Smithsonian Institute that is seeking to ensure that this physical heritage is not lost in the wake of the disaster.

Having been in Nepal when the second earthquake struck, Sneha Krishnan commented on the role that social networks paid in people’s preparedness when it came. She suggested that some of the early responses imposed by NGOs – such as dividing toilets between men and women, when given the extreme context they were willing to share facilities – were inappropriate. She also witnessed an indecisive response from the state who at some stages were eager to defer to outside help, and at others were very directive in their approach.

3.1

Roundtable 4B: Linking disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) with disaster risk recovery and reconstruction

Ilan Kelman started the session by placing DRR and CCA within a broader framework for sustainable development. He suggested that any reconstruction is done so for the future, which necessarily has to include potential impacts of climate change. As we understand that hazards themselves do not cause disasters, but vulnerability does, the emphasis on sustainability as a key contributor to DRR is brought into sharper focus.

Drawing on the recurring effects of cyclones in Odisha, India as a case study, Sneha Krishnan argued for the value of learning from previous disasters to build resilience. For her, preparedness is key and the recovery phase is a missing link that has not yet been fully understood.

Candida Maria Vassallo presented the importance of reconstructing public buildings as a mean of reconstructing normal life. She exemplified this process with the case of the reconstruction of new Swat Archaeological Museum in Saidu Sharif (Pakistan) damaged by 2005 earthquake and 2008 Taliban attack, but the relevance is that this process can be implemented in other contexts thanks to its flexibility and adaptability, which was appreciative of local needs and histories. The discussion that followed revolved around how we might tackle the complexity that inevitably emerges in these situations. A second key discussion point was how to rebuild communities in a way that is not merely ‘back to normal’ but a marked improvement on how thing were.

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Roundtable 2D: Planning approaches and strategies for recovery

The session raised the necessity of longer-term thinking. This was discussed importantly with regards to listening – often to the lessons of history that past disasters have taught us – when planning for the future, and fostering an environment where collaboration and sharing of knowledge is embedded. Different tools and methods to facilitate this, within and outside of project structures, were debated.

Understanding roles and responsibilities in relation to resources – both financial and human – was also elaborated upon. For example: who does monitoring and documentation,and how? Who decides what is insured and what aspects of the built environment are covered? The session ended with a reflection on the role of the researcher in disaster recovery scenarios, and the contribution of academic work.

Roundtable 4C: Aspects of resilience and recovery

One of the key themes of the roundtable was urban resilience and how it may be affected during the process of recovery by the role of the governments and NGOs. An interesting point of discussion asked what methods are used to classify populations in order to address their recovery needs, and can such a method generate tools to help recovery? This pointed to a knowledge gap concerning different types of analytical variables and the importance of developing analytical categories for the underlying social variables.

The papers generated comparative discussion about the role of the government in the process of recovery and how their initial initiatives and efforts may impact long-term resilience with examples from Yalova in Turkey, Bam in Iran and Assam, India which offered three different interpretations.

3.6

Roundtable 2A: Housing and beyond: reconstructing lives, reconstructing cities

David Alexander presented findings from research into the transitional phase of post-disaster recovery in the cases of Tacloban in The Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan and the Sanriku coast in Japan, after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. He concluded that a successful transitional phase requires a pact between the survivors and the government. This could be achieved through information sharing; a clear, simple and robust plan of action; a well-defined timeline for the transitional phase,;and serviceable transitional housing and facilities.

Charles Parrack talked about urban displacement, comparing community participation in cities and in camps. The objective of the study was to identify gaps for outside of camp strategies developed by the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster (CCCM). A common theme centres on empowerment and developing social capital, which will be a focus for further research.

3.11

Based on her work in Chile and Peru, Elizabeth Wagemann explained how people have adapted post-disaster shelters to convert them into homes. While a temporary shelter is understood to be time limited and the transitional shelter could be understood as an incremental support, both have been modified and adapted by the families, even though they are not designed for this purpose. The study compared the modifications during a five year period.

Faten Kikano compared different types of shelters used by Syrian refugees in Lebanon over a number of years. She looked back to the shelters adopted by Palestinian refugees sixty years ago for further comparison and questioned whether camps are an effective solution to refugees’ needs. The common focus on the transitional phase in disaster recovery was carried over into the discussion. The panel acknowledged unanimously that we are beyond ‘one size fits all’ solutions.


Matthew Wood-Hill is the Media & Communications Officer at the DPU. This post was gratefully put together with the aid of a number of rapporteurs who attended the sessions. Thanks go to Bernadette Devilat, Julia Wesely, Rachel Valbrun and Jacopo Spatafora for their inputs.

Read more about the 7th International i-Rec Conference on Recovery and Reconstruction in Urban Contexts via the conference website where you can also view abstracts of all of the papers resented in the sessions mentioned above.

View all i-Rec related blogs, including the summaries of Days 1 & 2 via on this page.

i-Rec Conference 2015 – Day 2 Review

Matthew AWood-Hill8 July 2015

2.8

The 2015 i-Rec conference continued on Tuesday 7 July with another packed day.

The morning keynote panel saw Frederick Kimgold focus on regulatory initiatives to build urban resilience – these include four key components: Regulatory action at the national level, based on a strong legal foundation; improving and enforcing building codes; an emphasis on local implementation; and knowledge sharing at the international level.

Stephen Platt drew his insights from 10 cases studies. His findings, from disasters in countries as varied as Japan, Turkey and Chile, showed different patterns for human and economic losses. He commented on the successes of the speed of recovery in different places, noting that rapidity, highlighting the case of Turkey, is not always the best way to achieve effective planning outcomes.

Gerald Paragas analysed the upshot of the Typhoon Haiyan recovery efforts in the Philippines. He emphasised the roles of different actors in these processes and called for continued coordination in order to better harmonise relief and reconstruction with urban processes; recovery should always be city-driven and not donor-driven.

2.21

Roundtable 3C: Histories, perceptions, and ethnographies for understanding urban recovery

The presentations showed cases from in Italy, Guine-Bissau and Chile. The discussions questioned how architects should work in reconstruction – does an absence of specific architectural training in relation to humanitarian aid mean architects should be seen less as designers and more as facilitators embedded within a more holistic process of design and reconstruction?

Certainly it was acknowledged that better dialogue between communities, architects and humanitarians is essential. Finally the speakers considered the tensions that exist around traditional construction and vernacular architecture. How can these be better understood alongside our own practice?

2.20

Roundtable 4A: Integrated Approaches for recovery and resilience

This session discussed examples from Haiti, Japan, Malawi and the Philippines, where attempts at integration has taken place with differing degrees of success. Time was identified as a key tension, particularly when engaging with communities. Inclusive decision making processes can be long and demand resources. Community vs production-based approaches is a big dilemma that was witnessed Philippines.

In the case of Malawi dispersed populations added to the time needed for effective local inputs, the knock-on effect being that international organisations are not always able to make the most of local capacity. The conversation therefore turned to post-disaster adaptive resilience and at what point does the transition from recovery to resilience-building take place, and how does this work?

Roundtable 2C: Challenges, character, and tools for recovery

These four presentations tackled different solutions around how to make recovery faster and more effective. They looked at logistical challenges faced during the response and early recovery stages following the Canterbury earthquakes; the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as enablers of multiple interactions actors and people involved in recovery and reconstruction; new methods for clearing debris; and how the type of disaster itself can impact the type of reconstruction that takes place.

2.22

Roundtable 2B: Community-driven practices

Four different case studies from Africa, Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil were presented. It was suggested that vulnerability (especially of the urban poor) has always been tackled and studied using a top-down approach. Informal settlements remain almost invisible – therefore researchers and organizations should engage in a peer-to-peer knowledge exchange with the population.

By doing so, it is possible not only to identify the root causes of local vulnerabilities but also the social resources and capabilities that can contribute to resilience at a local scale. Interventions developed by researchers and NGOs should be community-controlled and should involve all the relevant stakeholders. Moreover statistical measures are recognized as being insufficient to measure community recovery, and this could be revised in order to incorporate local needs and perspectives.

A series of walking tours, looking at areas of London that have undergone reconstruction and transformation, took place yesterday afternoon

A series of walking tours, looking at areas of London that have undergone reconstruction and transformation, took place yesterday afternoon

Roundtable 5A: Relocation from hazardous areas

Using comparative cases and single in-depth studies, this session took a critical lens on the relationship between hazards, vulnerabilities and risks, and – more broadly – between hazards and development. It was emphasised that relocation efforts have to consider the reasons why people live in hazardous areas in the first place, and why some people refuse to evacuate, move away or eventually return to these unsafe sites.

A general point that recurred throughout was that relocation is not only about housing, but also livelihoods, infrastructure and basic services, economic opportunities, social networks etc. Post-disaster relocation happens in a situation where people are traumatised and rapid decisions are taken. The challenge is therefore to think beyond just improving post-disaster relocation, but also to consider pre-disaster management of the diverse risks that residents are confronted with.

Roundtable 5B: Relocation and resettlement strategies

These four presentations focused on empirical cases that gave insights into some of the challenges of relocation and resettlement. These included attachment to place, and a loss of urban identity through to knock on effects in terms of planning such as urban sprawl and the need to better manage self-build housing within a coherent planning framework.

It was suggested that in the case of Fukushima, Japan, preparedness has focused chiefly on natural disasters, rather than human induced disaster, which was a reason behind the large number of casualties. In Montserrat, part of the West Indies, a large scale relocation on the small island-state placed a heavy strain on the few health facilities that were well placed to serve the affected population.


Matthew Wood-Hill is the Media & Communications Officer at the DPU. This post was gratefully put together with the aid of a number of rapporteurs who attended the sessions. Thanks go to Jacopo Spatafora, Elizabeth Wagemann, Sneha Krishnan, Serena Tagliacozzo and Julia Wesely for their inputs.

Read more about the 7th International i-Rec Conference on Recovery and Reconstruction in Urban Contexts via the conference website where you can also view abstracts of all of the papers resented in the sessions mentioned above.

i-Rec Conference 2015 – Day 1 Review

Matthew AWood-Hill7 July 2015

ASC_5948

The 7th i-Rec conference got underway yesterday. As Cassidy Johnson explained in the introductory session, the network began in 2002 with just 20 people. This year an impressive 120 people are here in London, as the network continues to grow.

The first keynote session set out some of the key questions to be discussed over the forthcoming days. Allan Lavell asked “does transformation within reconstruction take into consideration the context appropriately?” He elaborated on two modes of reconstruction: expensive retrofitting against disasters on the one hand, and an understanding of reconstruction and recovery in terms of everyday risk on the other.

Jennifer Duyne focused on the opportunities for reconstruction, suggesting there is a need for more local involvement in devising appropriate solutions to disaster risk reduction (DRR) and reconstruction, particularly in informal settlements. Stronger collaborations between humanitarian and reconstruction agencies could go a long way towards making this a reality.

Situating the conversation within the urban context, the focus of this year’s event, Graham Saunders asked what does it mean to operationalise a specifically urban DRR and reconstruction? He went on to expand on the opportunities that exist within cities for collaborations across different types of groups and institutions.

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Across the three days of the i-Rec 2015 conference there are 14 sessions. the plenary sessions apart,  these are grouped into six thematic roundtables and associated sessions.

Roundtable 1: Disasters in Urban Contexts

These conversations focused on the spatial dimensions of ‘the city’ as a space where disasters, and recovery/reconstruction occur. Specifically, what do planning decisions made in one part of the city mean for others? And how can interventions be scaled up? An interesting discussion emerged out of the differences in resilience and the capacity to respond of ‘stress cities’ – which may face a more diverse set of hazards – versus ‘shock cities’, set up to cope with larger, more clearly observed hazards.

Roundtable 3A: Linking a past, present, and future: histories, urban imaginaries, urban design, and its influences on urban recovery

Two presentations were made, by Camilla Wirsching Fuentes on open space in San Pedro de la Paz, Chile and by Rachel Valbrun on DRR in post-blitz London and post-earthquake Port-au-Prince. The speakers drew upon their personal connections to recent disasters in these places. In their critiques they drew attention to the trade-offs that seem to exist between urban planning and DRR and recovery, such as the pressing needs for shelter and the benefits of keeping more open space so planning can take place with a longer-term perspective.

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Roundtable 6: The role of local governments in recovery

The four presentations in this session offered some interesting case study examples – from Chile, Iran, New Zealand and the Philippines – with rich empirical evidence on how states performed post-disaster from varying perspectives – researchers, practitioners and varying outcomes. A key topic of conversation centred on who leads the reconstruction in different geographies. Where the local government coordinates this they can be left exposed to blame and criticism if the process in efficient or ineffective, whereas the private sector has different levels of involvement in each of the cases. The fundamental question that the panel were ultimately unable to agree upon was ‘How can reconstruction support local government?’

Roundtable 3B: Culture, place, and identities in urban disaster recovery

This Roundtable discussed the connections between people, place, culture and risks. The question of who decides what risk is and what is the perception of risk relates to the question of what is it that forms people’s attachment to place. Culture was discussed as something beyond the built environment and more about the people, not just the monuments – expanding the definition of cultural heritage to include the day-to-day lives and activities of people. In the process of recovery, what role does culture play and what impact does recovery have on culture, especially in the case of displacement?

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Book Launch and Discussion: Shelter after Disaster by Ian Davis

The first day concluded with a discussion on the publication of a new second edition Ian Davis’ book; the first edition was published in 1978. Ian expressed some of his observations about what has and has not changed in the last 20 years of DRR. Accountability still remains an important topic when considering the range of actors involved in relief and reconstruction efforts. A paternalist idea of what constitutes good practice also remains – the consequences of this include half empty temporary settlements and inappropriate transitional shelters, showing tangible areas that can be improved upon.

In terms of what has changed though, he sees better cash and rental support, and an appreciation that disasters occur not only in rural areas of developing countries, but in impact developed countries and – importantly in the context of the conversations taking place in this conference – in urban areas. Nevertheless the growing urban populations that have brought more attention to urban risks constitute a formidable challenge that has seen escalating casualties at the hands of natural disasters over the past two decades.

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The respondents were also keen to flag up some of the challenges we still face, and have not resolved in this period. These include a need to evolve beyond needs assessments, a reluctance to fully learn and incorporate the lessons of the past, and an observation that so-called transitional settlements invariably remain so, very often becoming permanent.

In addition new issues, such as rental housing and urban planning, and coordinated technical assistance are now more fully on the agenda. Maggie Stevenson commented that the value of the book is being ‘not about the people, but about us’, asking the critical question: are we doing what we are supposed to do?

Day 2 is already well underway. You can follow the live updates and conversations via #irec2015 on Twitter, and look out for the day 2 blog tomorrow.


Matthew Wood-Hill is the Media & Communications Officer at the DPU. This post was gratefully put together with the aid of a number of rapporteurs who attended the sessions. Thanks go to Jacopo Spatafora, Garima Jain, Lisa Bornstein, Sneha Krishnan, Rachel Valbrun and Elizabeth Wagemann for their inputs.

Read more about the 7th International i-Rec Conference on Recovery and Reconstruction in Urban Contexts via the conference website where you can also view abstracts of all of the papers resented in the sessions mentioned above.

Watching the World Disappear: Reflecting on the Anthropology of Sustainability

CharlotteJohnson19 February 2015

“Anthropologists are used to working with people who are watching their world disappear” joked Bruno Latour, as he opened the inaugural conference of UCL’s Centre for the Anthropology of Sustainability (CAOS). He was making the point that Anthropology is a good discipline to house a discussion over the forms of research needed to understand and act on ecological crisis.

The Emergence of the Anthropocene

With charismatic flair, Latour took us through his thesis of ‘we have never been modern,’ [1] updating the arguments from his seminal work with those relevant to contemporary environmental instability. The ‘people’ who are watching their world disappear are not ‘them’ – ‘the premoderns’ who inhabit a remote world and are being dragged into a global modernity where nature and culture are separated and structured by capitalist relations. The people Latour refers to is us, the moderns, the ‘we’ who think of the world in these categories.

The epitome of this modernity is the idea of the Anthropocene, which a recent geologists’ paper claims began on 16th July 1945 with the first nuclear bomb. This is considered the point when human processes made an indelible mark on the earth’s geological record but, Latour continued, just as the moderns reached this height of mastering nature, we lost faith in our ability to know and control it. We entered a period not of only environmental instability, but also of scientific crisis, with debates between warring camps about what is or is not real, knowable and true.

Bruno Latour discussing the nature culture divide and its relevance to academic imaginings of sustainability

Bruno Latour discussing the nature culture divide and its relevance to academic imaginings of sustainability

A Call to Action

Latour’s point was more than an exercise in academic ingenuity, it was a call for action to move beyond denial or paralysis in the face of ecological crisis. The route forward is to abandon the idea that there is one mode of science that can know nature. In the way that modernist ideas of the universality of humanity have been replaced with understandings of cultural diversity, the task now is to recognise a diversity of nature, and find alternative forms of knowing.

Themes from Latour’s lecture echoed throughout the conference, which had brought together speakers to reflect on what an anthropology of sustainability could be. Some main ones were:

  1. Escobar’s concept of the pluriverse [2] and the need to understand the multiplicity of nature
  2. Materiality and a focus on the specificities of places and the communities who live there
  3. Allowing the inanimate world to speak, and including such perspectives in research
  4. Complexity, c(h)aos and accepting the need to work with uncertainty
Focusing on the worm: CAOS' logo signifies the need to decompose academic hierarchies and build new research

Focusing on the worm: CAOS’ logo signifies the need to decompose academic hierarchies and build new research

How do you say ‘sustainability’ in Swahili or in Masaii?

CAOS, which has as its logo a worm decomposing the world in order to release nutrients and give birth to new life, aims to critically engage with different traditions of sustainably. It seeks research collaborations that will take the anthropological understanding of specific local culture-nature systems into a broader mode of academic intervention in the world.

The need for such collaborations was clear in comments such as Katherine Homewood’s that ‘there’s no word for sustainability in Swahili or in Masaii’. Her research on ‘sustainable conservation’ in East Africa provided a comparative analysis of two programmes of community conservation. It showed the inequalities and degradation produced through a sustainability agenda which is imposed through specific evaluation metrics and processes of territorialisation. These agendas require academic scrutiny and a commitment to learn local idioms of resource management.

The Need for Ethical Reflection

Bill Adams spoke about a different form of language learning and system adoption. Focusing on conservationism and the discourse of efficiency he argued that environmental NGOs have been adopting corporate methods to maximise their impact. They rank net benefits of intervening in ‘hotspots’, but, he argued, these such methods are used without adequate philosophical or ethical reflection, and risk standardising the mode of operating in the world.

This concern was raised later by Jerome Lewis, a co-leader of CAOS. He commented that “carbon, the stuff of life, is now the stuff of international trade” and urged the audience to reflect on what a universal currency for life could mean for the pluriverse.

Corporatisation of environmental NGOs:  a cause of concern for Bill Adams

Corporatisation of environmental NGOs: a cause of concern for Bill Adams

A Critique of Political Ecology

James Fairhead turned a similar critique onto Political Ecology, arguing that the framework prioritises capitalism as the explanation for socio-environmental relationships over other causal relationships. Henrietta Moore identified a different way to move analytically from local environmental change to global flows of power. She pointed out that communities constantly reflect on their own interventions in the world and do so in reference to other communities. She argued for research that analyses how these connections between communities produce change.

Concluding the conference, Jerome Lewis urged the audience to ‘resist the one world project’, but also to go beyond Latour’s ‘assemblages of objects’. He advocated for ‘a community of subjects’ who are actively engaging and reflecting on new ideas. The conference demonstrated a compelling range of approaches for this re-imagining of sustainability and for producing knowledge about the relationships between social worlds and the environment. These included artistic interventions, discourse analysis, ethnographic methods and cross disciplinary collaboration.

New Ways of Making Sense of Nature and Culture

One conclusion was that an Anthropology of Sustainability is one which is committed to listening to, working with and learning from the local. Other disciplines share this commitment and CAOS promises to be fertile territory for research collaborations which abandon the world of academic certainty and look for new ways to understand nature/culture and empower agents of change.

Notes:

[1]Latour, B. (1993 [1991]). We have never been modern (translated by Catherine Porter). Harlow: Pearson Education ltd.

[2] Escobar, A. (2011) ‘Sustainability: Design for the pluriverse’ in Development vol. 54, no. 2, pp137–140

 

Charlotte Johnson splits her time between the DPU and the UCL Energy Institute. She has a PhD in Social Anthropology and more recently has been engaging in a project to map UCL’s research expertise in urban sustainability.

Highlights from WUF7 Day 1

AlexandreApsan Frediani8 April 2014

Habitat International Coalition general assembly

Monday April 7th was my first day at the 7th UN-Habitat World Urban Forum in Medellin. This is quite a special edition of WUF, as it is building up to the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III. But instead of heading to the conference centre, I ended up going to the Habitat International Coalition general assembly at the department of Architecture of the National University of Colombia. And it was totally worth it!

The day started with reporting by representatives from representatives from different regions and working groups updating HIC members and participants of the various activities of the network. This included the launch of the impressive book called ‘La vivienda, entre el derecho y la mercancia: las formas de propiedad en América Latina’ (http://www.hic-al.org/noticias.cfm?noticia=1532&id_categoria=8), which reflects on the model of housing production of Federación Uruguaya de Cooperativas de Vivienda por Ayuda Mutua (FUCVAM) and its applicability in other Latin American countries.

Then the various activities that HIC will take part inside and outside the World Urban Forum were introduced. The event closed with a discussion of future projects and alliances, which turned into a really interesting debate on the ‘social production of habitat’ and the need to continue documenting and learning from the activities of HIC members in this field.

Habitat International Coalition general assembly, WUF7

Apart from great discussions, HIC also produced a powerful document on its expectations of Habitat III. Among other things, the document highlights that ‘urbanization is not inevitable’, calling for ‘equitable, ethical and people-centered development planning’ which supports for ‘social production of habitat’ and recognizes the ‘social function of property, prioritizing commons and collective goods over private interests’. These are crucial issues to bring to the discussions around the Habitat III agenda, which show a clear and constructive mode of engagement of HIC in this process (some of these points are articulated in the following statement at the HIC website: http://www.hic-net.org/news.php?pid=5397).

Some of the other DPU highlight of this first day of WUF includes the televised one-hour panel discussion in which Julio Davila shared the floor with Architect Martín Pérez and scholar Fernando Viviescas.  They discussed the principles of a sustainable and equitable city using examples from Medellin, Singapore, Bangalore, Accra and Nairobi. The panel will be aired at Canal UNE you tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/televidentescanalune