Arquivo de etiquetas: Urbanismo e Dignidade Humana

Urbanismo e Dignidade Humana V – Systems theory

You’ve heard by now the role cities can and must play to achieve sustainability. Also, that they are both diverse and very complex. To add fuel to that fire, cities are made up of many complex components or subsystems like transport or water systems. They are also embedded in regions and countries each with their own complex economic, social and ecological systems that may have to be reorganized and sometimes transformed to meet the SDG’s. In order to achieve the goals of sustainable cities, we need a framework that will help us understand these complex systems.

Sitting one inside the other, almost like a Russian Matryoshka doll. Cities in fact are the most complex creations of Human kind. Today we will talk about cities as systems of systems and this discussion will help you explore various city sub-systems. Cities can be seen as a particular type of socio-ecological system or SES in short. SES’s are made up of 3 interacting domains- the social, the ecological, and the economic. There is a continuous set of flows and interactions between these subsystems. Each city has embedded within it multiple complex systems – land, transportation, environmental services like water, sanitation and solid waste, housing, education and health care. Each is different with complexities of its own. However, most have some common attributes. A boundary defined in both space and time because even cities decay and die.

Stocks of people, assets, ecological and financial resources flow within the subsystems and between them. In short, cities have an entire metabolism like the human body and often more complex as they have both natural and human made parts. As important, all viable urban systems have an internal mechanism of governance and information flows. This enables self-regulation, adaptation to external shocks, the ability to learn, adapt and sometimes even transform and evolve. To take an example, water is an important ecosystem service that a river or a groundwater aquifer below a city can provide.

Groundwater may be extracted from a natural aquifer and after it’s treated, delivered through pipes to households at a cost. The price of this water may be set high to help reduce waste and incentivize households to invest in water recycling. Both the cost and the price are determined by the economic system.

Because the poor may have no water or toilets, they defecate in the open creating a health risk that seeps into the ground water. This not only makes them sick because their vendor provides untreated groundwater but contaminates the aquifer which then impacts better off households in the city.

They then start paying more for medication to address episodes of severe diarrheal disease. For a city to become sustainable, we have to understand this complex chain of cause and effect that flow through each of its subsystems – the social, the economic and ecological. Instead of treating the symptoms which is a common practice across the world, for example, in this case, by trying to force poor people out of the city or setting up treatment systems in each middleclass household, it is more sustainable to find the root causes of the problem and find systemic solutions to them.

One such solution would be to provide universal water supply and sanitation to all residents in the city. Setting an affordable lifeline tariff to ensure that the system works for everybody and monitoring the quality of both ground and drinking water to ensure that nobody gets ill.

The savings in health expenditure and losses in employment to the poor people who fall ill may often be more than the cost of these measures. As we can see from this highly simplified example, cities are socio ecological systems that have interdependent and dynamic sub systems.

The interaction between the parts is often in flux, creating counter intuitive behavior that’s difficult to address unless one takes a holistic or a whole systems view. This is not easy but if done can deliver long lasting, cost effective and often sustainable results. How can this be done? One immediate challenge is that of governance. The functioning of typical local governments is organized around a 20th century imagination that sees cities and countries not as systems of systems but as broken down into a set of functional sectors- Law and order, water, finance, health and education.

Sometimes these sectors enable systemic responses. But more often than not, they inhibit, integrated, joint up action. Especially when tied up to bureaucracies that tend to defend their home turf. The fundamental challenge as cities get more and more complex is that specialized sector by sector approaches to problem solving take long, are rarely effective, are expensive and often ineffective in delivering outcomes. The SDG’s for the first time in decades provide us a global opportunity for an integrated joint up action around sustainable cities. The challenge of integrated development is simultaneous delivery across all these subsystems and goals. Because cities are at a smaller scale compared to countries and because of the need to deliver all these outcomes at a local level, cities have a natural advantage when trying to address sustainability solutions.

Another challenge is that SES’s across the world have been in a process of transition. A transition from agrarian or biomass economies in many low income countries of Asia and Africa through fossil fuel driven or industrial economies like china, to information and service sector led economies in most high income countries. Each are characterized by different levels of material, energy and information throughput, levels of human development and hence performance on the SDG’s. Not all areas in a country or territory make this transition at the same time. This is an important constraint to urban sustainability as cities cannot be separated from the regions in which they are located.

Urban centers in regions of significant agricultural surplus like market towns and cities such as Chicago in the 19th century have a very different material and energy metabolism.

There are largely service sector in information driven city such as Bangalore which will need to import and pay for much of its food, ecological services and often industrial products.

The sustainability transition of one city even within the SDG frame could be very different from another. Since sustainable cities are always situated in regions, both need to make a joint transition.

Therefore, we need to take a territorial approach to sustainable cities that link city and regional initiatives. We see that urban sustainability and rural territorial development and their prosperity are two sides of the same coin.

On the positive side, urban systems have inbuilt advantages as well. As cities grow in size up to a particular limit, the cost of provision of networked infrastructure and services reduces dramatically because of the economies of scale. These agglomeration economies in water supply and sanitation, for example, or health and education provision make it easier and cheaper to provide services to larger and denser concentration of people who live in cities than in lots of dispersed villages or hamlets.

This is an important principle that can help us achieve the SDGs in cities. Similarly, internet connectivity allows urban areas to exhibit a significant increase in productivity and value addition both in economic and social capital terms because of the ability to learn, share knowledge and common infrastructure.

This can lead to geographic clustering, development of corridors and other similar urban or regional patterns of development. One such example is the north east corridor in the United States that takes us from Boston down to New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC creating an almost continuous hub of industry, innovation and services. But to create such clusters, we need to think holistically about space and the territorial development of sustainable cities. Each city has an almost unique metabolism of material, energy and information flows that powers its everyday economic and social life. The metabolism of most cities today is unsustainable and often in

ecological deficit. Cities either over-consume natural resources or pollute them or are so unequal in their resource distribution that they create serious economic and social imbalances.

In many cities in Latin America and Asia, you see gated luxury apartments sitting next to informal settlements where people have no tenure security, limited employment and no access to basic services.The metabolism of cities is strongly influenced by technology and the kind of infrastructures that we build.

Infrastructure choices in cities are especially important. Not only because they require a large amount of investment, that’s, you know, often difficult to mobilize but they lock the city in for decades into particular pattern of development that could have unintended consequences for equity and sustainability. Let’s consider the example of Los Angeles and its romance with the idea of the car. In LosAngeles, and California more broadly as in other parts of the world, the risk of climate change because of this carbon intensive economy often driven by the car and urban sprawl can only be mitigated in the next 20 or 30 years by an almost complete de-carbonization of urban systems.

This means consuming only what is absolutely necessary by eliminating waste. As well as deploying energy efficiency measures in all end uses such as lighting, LED’s that reduce demand by at least a factor of four, heating, cooling, industry and in transportation systems of which addressing the car is one of the most dramatic challenges that California and Los Angeles have demonstrated their innovation over the last few decades. It also requires a transition from carbon intensive power production using coal and gas to solar pv, wind and geothermal and other renewable energy resources. This needs to be backed by changes in economic incentives and institutions that manage, deliver and regulate this energy use. The good news is that if you manage to do this with new cities that are yet to be built in Asia and Africa, we could slow the onslaught of climate change in the next 20 or 30 years. The challenge of implementation is that a wide range of institutions and stakeholders need to be brought together. In California for example over decades this was done by consulting communities, businesses, trade unions, and other stake holders. This demands a new set of strategies and processes where multi stake holder engagement and democratic participation become a rule rather than an exception. The process of participative budgeting in cities, for example, that now extends over 1700 cities across the world is just the beginning of this process. Can the SDG’s actually enable transformative change in the contemporary world? In a seminal paper, the famous environmental scientist Donella Meadows suggests that there are many leverage points within a complex system like a city, where a small shift could enable significant change.

Altering indicator systems for the SDG is an important way of changing system feedback and the structure of information flows. Changing SDG targets is the way of changing the rules of the system and by making commitment of inclusion like leaving no person behind or no place behind, changes the power relationships behind the rules effecting significant systemic change. The real power lies in changing the system goals. Like United Nation’s political process of defining the SDG’s that can have a very powerful influence on system behaviour. This is the real importance of having an urban SDG, goal 11 and its connection with all the other goals. The only more powerful instruments are changing mindsets and going beyond existing paradigms which of course are the basis of the revolutions that underpinned the socio-ecological transitions that we are talking about. History will tell whether the urban SDG’s mark an important milestone in this transition to a new sustainable paradigm.

Urbanismo e Dignidade Humana IV – Urban theories and history

What I thought would be useful for us to pick up on, is how we look at cities. And in a way to think about the issue of theory and the value of looking at history. We need to know what theory is, as well as what different theories there are. There are different ideas about what theory is. I think for me the most helpful way to distinguish that is to think about really big meta theories, if you like. Ideas that are kind of all embracing, where there are large models and paradigmatic ideas. Ideas about neoclassical economics might be a good example where the logic of the market becomes a central principle which leads to theoretical and research tools, ideas of class which we associate with Marxism and Neo- Marxist ideas with the other kinds of ideas, lots of post-structuralist form of ideas.

Different ideas have got different origins and it’s important to train our minds to understand what those differences are. Because they do make a difference to how we see cities.

I find it very important and the reason why it is important for practitioners to understand theory is that, depending on when you were trained and where you were trained, you were probably exposed to different kinds of theoretical ideas. And because people, when they are training often think quite closely about theoretical ideas, they forget, later on, when they begin to start practising that those are ideas that shaped how they think.

Those are ideas that give a formative articulation to the way they define problems, what they see the problems as and what they think might be solutions.

When you are in a room full of people, as most of us are when we are talking about cities, whether we are working with civil society people, whether we are working with communities and especially if you’re working in places where there are lots of trained professionals, people come from very different theoretical perspectives.

Sometimes what you think is a conflict of personality is actually a conflict of your theoretical base. Theories aren’t the same as your normative base or value base. I’ve already given some example of, what I think different theoretical ideas are as they relate to cities.

And the big ones would be some of the earlier ideas of cities which come out of the Chicago school. Which are schools of ideas about modelling which come out of logic from ecology actually.

There is some kind of state that is somehow a way that if we put pressure here, it relates to a pressure there. There are old models of cities like the Burgess and Hoyt that some of us grew up on, which in some senses predict that the overall structure of cities have their origins in ecological thinking.

It’s a system’s thinking. We’ve seen a return to that kind of thinking today. The one that has probably had the most influence in the last 50 years has been Marx and the ideas that flow from Marx. There’s the idea that there is a central logic of capital in a way that money operates in a system. You have labour and you have capital and depending on the flows of capital, Marx talks about very different kinds of processes which impact on cities In order to continue to make money, capital has to continue to expand.

But there is also a contradiction because in order to make money for individuals you’ve also got to consolidate.

Some people like David Harvey then talk about what that means for money.

People have worked very systematically following that. People like Smith and others, have worked on how that impacts on the city. So basically the idea is that you will get investment in different circuits of capital, different places to put your money. So when money isn’t flowing through resources and it has stopped making as much profit as it might, it will switch into the built environment. A lot of people critiquing that say that it is not very helpful to understand the informal economy. Some people say that the informal economy is a separate circuit of capital. But others say it is all part of the same system. Other people who I think of as Marxist have big theoretical ideas. Or are at least some kind of a materialists, political economists – if you like don’t focus as much on money but they focus on the fact that there’s a working class set of people who have nothing to sell but their labour.

So they are no longer agrarian and are no longer dependent on their land but they have to work. That was the idea what Engels was very keen on and his ideas were about how the working class should organise and whether or not they should participate, for example, in home-ownership, has probably been one of the most influential debates. This issue of home-ownership and its relationship to a working class organisation has been a prevailing idea. When we talk about contemporary literature that is very influenced by the Marxist ideas and continues to be, either they adopt them or they are in opposition to them. So think of much of the literature on gentrification. Why do we see re-investment in particular parts of the city.

There are very different kinds of ideas about that. Tied to this is the question of home-ownership, whether it is a good idea or a bad idea, an example of where theory lands. What’s most useful for me is to untangle that we have different theoretical ideas. So that we don’t get confused and have fights like religious views It helps to know that somebody in the table is a Muslim, a Buddhist or a Jew. Not because you are going to change each other’s minds but you recognize that the way that you see the world, has different starting points. And that enables you to learn from each other sometimes, it enables you to define what you think, because you do see something differently and you don’t agree on everything. But also sometimes to see things from somebody else’s point of view. So while I’m saying “Don’t try in the early stages, to be appropriate about how you make theoretical contributions”, I’m also saying that it is worth trying to have a set of building blocks out there that exposes you to different theories.

And certainly for urbanists it’s helpful because we come from such different disciplinary bases. I am a Geographer, you are a Planner, you are an Ecologist, you are an Engineer, you are an Architect. So we already have different disciplinary sensibilities and yet another sieve. We talked a little bit about theory. We talked about how different disciplines use different theoretical ideas. Typically I talked about how ecologists would use systems thinking. Engineers also come out of systems thinking and some of the new complex data people are very systems oriented in their world view. Similarly many economists come out of the neoclassical understanding of theory. If they are on the right or if they are on the left, they come from a Marxist to a neo Marxist interpretation. Sometimes you recall all of the people who do that kind of theoretical work- Structuralists, in some senses.

Then there’s a whole group of people whom we would call post structuralists. We talked sometimes about the cultural turn. There is a group of scholar for me, who do really important work, who are historians who don’t fit neatly into this. It’s not that history isn’t a theoretical discipline. Although it has had that critique levelled at it but it tends to get much more concerned with evidence, narrative, storytelling and the evidence for that. History really matters for understanding cities. Some people talk about historical turn where there has been a growing recognition that it is actually very important to understand the urban past. It is a very easy case to make because it sounds obvious when you say you want to solve contemporary problems and you are trying to make sure to build better cities for the future.

It makes an awful lot of sense to understand how you got to be where you are and why the systems which are in place, are there, before you start to change things. But in fact we haven’t done that. The skills that are required for undertaking urban history are often marginalised and people who study the history of cities do so in a way that are not especially useful for contemporary practitioners. There’s a sort of dissonance between a lot of work done on cities as opposed to a historical understanding of some of the processes which are in at the moment. For example, There is not a lot of work on the history of sanitation or the history of building codes.

There is quite a lot of work done in some parts of the world on really interesting questions like the origins of city politics and the mafias which lie behind certain kinds of decisions which get made. Certainly, something like the US is extremely well understood in that Sometimes using, what I would call little theoretical ideas, the smaller scale, not the meta theoretical idea that we talked about, like the Regime theory, have quite often gone back to say, “What are the coalitions of power here? How do these people come to be in the city? And whose interest correlates in order for decisions to be made?” So how do we explain that an area that was supposed to be protected actually got a major development on it. It wasn’t just one developer who went in, There was a coalescence of interests that came together, because actually people who were living there were being brought out somebody who had just invented a new technology or had railway interests These things came together.

So they are are regimes of power and that is part of a theoretical idea that has some historical traction in the way that it is undertaken. To some extent, some of the work that’s been done now on systems theory can have a historical inclination in the sense that we need to understand the multiple components and the way that they interact. And as soon as you do that, of course, not everything interacts at every moment, you have to go backwards because systems thinking is quite present at the moment there is a return to historical work.

The difficulty is again, when we begin to try to understand cities in a global south, and this is where the general question is, are the theories that we have at the moment, up to interpreting the global south? There’s a big debate about that question. But there is absolutely no question that there is insufficient historical material about the places that we are now desperately  trying to engage with. We simply don’t have the histories in any kind of depth across enough different scales, enough different sectors. South African cities are probably the most well studied of any, outside of perhaps Egypt, from a historical perspective. And their fundamental things that we know nothing about. How did the land tenure system come to be in place? What’s the history of the zoning codes. Where actually are the sewers? Why is it that at certain points the financial system change? Why did they choose that financial system? Things that are really really important before you start to make that sort of amendments, but we don’t have that kind of information on. For other cities, the lack of historical material is even worse.

There are really crucial kinds of questions where we have no record of population change. We don’t know when people began to come into the city. We have no understanding of who in fact, the really powerful players are in the city and what the economic base is. We don’t know why they managed to get that purchase. So we start to try and change things. We begin to start engaging in things where we don’t know the real political dynamics are So the informal land markets are probably the best example of that. So if you think of an Indian city, I’m quite sure that you will know that there are major interests that control large informal settlements that are probably very reluctant to allow development to come in for very particular kinds of reasons.

Yet we’re signing up to use sustainable development goals, which say we can have waste collection, water collection. We can have personal bunch of services but the political ramifications of that can’t be anticipated unless you understand the underlying political economy of the city. And that political economy is based not just in the financial systems but also in infrastructure and the social systems, in any number of different variables and so we need a whole hoard of historians to be out there documenting and presenting that material for us. An even bigger problem is that in a lot of cities that are undergoing the fastest transition the ones where poverty and inequality are greatest, where there are the most exciting opportunities to change things, it’s not just a case of going to the archives and finding those records because they haven’t been kept.

And so this presents a really really difficult challenge for us because if you have a city like Paris, not only do you have fantastic contemporary data but you have a full archive, a full municipal scale archive, a full local archive. You have university archives, you have newspapers and everything is terribly neat and its ordered. All you have to do is go and read it. Spend the time, do the analysis and you can actually come up with something quite sensible. When there is no obvious place where this record has been kept, it is a much much more difficult task.

We’ve got to start not just undertaking some in depth narrative interviews with people, which we must do quickly while our elders are still here who can tell some in depth stories that we need. But we also need to start protecting the resources about the city and it’s evolution for future generations. So i’m thinking here for about photographs, I’m thinking here that our communications in city hall are no longer archived because many of them are emailed. So what are the protocols that we have? Both the formal and the informal spaces. So I would make a very strong call for us to begin to start looking at history.

Urbanismo e Dignidade Humana III – Challenges of politics, planning and governance



How can you view the politics, planning and governance in your area differently, through the concept of the “power cube” that Edgar Pieterse shows us?

Hello my name is Edgar Pieterse, I’m a professor in urban policy at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and I’m also the director for African Center for Cities. It’s a great pleasure for me to talk to you today on Politics planning and governance in the context of sustainable cities.

And what I hope to do today is to, first off, start by discussing what the challenges are associated with getting urban sustainability operationalized and that takes us straight to the question of politics, planning in governance. I’ll then explore specifically how we can think about urban politics, who are the key actors involved, and try and explain how the literature on governance, planning and power helps us to understand these things better. Towards the end, I will then briefly touch on what is happening in the city of Johannesburg and how they have dealt with the questions of politics, planning and governance and in particular, to deal with questions of and in particular to deal with questions of redistribution but also putting the city on more sustainable path.

The challenges is best understood as a tension or competing pressures on urban resources and urban governance. And these tensions are between powerful interest in this city and those who lack power or who lack resources in this city. Most prominently tends to happen in the domain of real estate where people want to use land value and real estate investments as a way of growing their businesses and their profits and their resources, versus investments in locating people without access to opportunities in this city on the same parcels of land.

Another pressure could be where people settle voluntarily or they settle by necessity but that land is not basically suitable for human habitation because of environmental pressures or vulnerabilities. These are two examples but they go to the heart of the contemporary governance context in these cities. And it is important that we recognize these value of using concepts around politics, governance, planning and power to make sense of these competing pressures.

So onto then the question of urban politics, now traditionally people thought of cities and urban politics as very, in a very simplistic way, that there are people in government who make decisions and there is the residents who are impacted upon.

And this is what we call in literature a duality, simplistic duality between those with power and those without. In truth, cities are more complex and political terrains are more complex and there are multiple relations at play, this is the key to understand.

So if we look at the diagram well see that there is one domain called “represented of political arenas” and this is the elected officers, the mayor, the council members and so forth. And they of course have a bureaucracy that underpins and executes the decisions that they take.

On the right hand side, still part of the formal system, is what you get in many cities, which are neo corporatist forums. These are planning rooms, where you have representatives from the private sector, from the trade unions, sometimes from the civil society and of course the local authority sitting around a table deciding on what’s the best long-term and short-term interests of the city. And this often tends to set priorities but also provide legitimacy to decisions taken in the formal arena.

If we then turn to civil society and the societal domain we can again differentiate between two kinds of actors. One, are people in what we call the domain of development practice. These are organizations at the grassroots, working on everyday problems working in slums, informal areas, in communities. To try and alleviate the acute poverty and, if you will, disempowerment that most urban residents face. So it can take form of a food garden, sanitation project and so forth. What binds them together is that they are all trying to meet a very practical need, they are driven by residents from these communities and they are trying to organize themselves so that they can become better at what they do.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have what we call social movements who believe that you need to, if you will, set the political arena alight. You need to use direct action to challenge dominant power relations to challenge the decisions taken by the formal authority and to continuously contest the legitimacy of their decisions because the impact of those decisions is not good for the city, as a whole.

Finally, the last domain within this relation framework of urban politics is what we call symbolic power.

This is the terrain of the media where we construct ideas called discourses that help society understand what is going on, how to make sense of things and what the various narratives are that compete in this city.

All the actors in this urban system weather they in the formal government, weather they in the organized private sector or labor or in civil society, have to actively use discourses to advance the interest to make their claims and to contest narratives about what the city is and who it is for.

So it is very important and increasingly, in an era of heightened media awareness, cell phone based social media communication and importance of mobilizing ideas in that form, this arena is more important than ever. Now this helps us to understand that it is useful to think in this relational way about how all urban problems are defined and mediated in the political arena.

Thinking about politics in this relational way takes us directly to the concept of governance. What governance refers to, is the process of relations between the formal state or the formal government and other actors in society.

And the governance concept helps us to understand the nature and the quality of those into actions. It is different to the idea of government because government, denotes the formal institutions that are endowed by law to regulate public affairs nominally in public interest.

Although as we know historically, and as we know from contemporary urban life, that this isn’t always the case. So governance helps us to begin to say who are the actors on the chess board, what is the relationships between them, what is the relative power and how can we understand the way that politics and planning mediate the way in which the urban system functions.

In order to really activate the concept of governance and in relation to the idea of relational politics, we have to pause at the concept of power. And this regard a very important French philosopher Michel Foucault? was really helpful.

And I will very briefly read a quote from one of his most important books and he says “we must cease, once and for all, to describe the effects of power in negative terms. It excludes, it represses, it senses, it abstracts, it masks, it conceals. In fact, power produces; it produces reality, it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belongs to this production.”

Now this quote by Michel Foucault? is important because it challenges us to not just think of power as something that is domineering, that’ll oppress us, but to recognize that in all relations in the governance field, in the urban landscape, there is a to and fro of power.

There is certainly intentions to use oppressive or domineering power but there is also, always resistance. And so, when we try and understand the quality and the dynamics of urban governance, we have got to pay very careful attention to what one can call the episodes of power; how power was exercised, and how power was resisted, and how power has always reconfigured in that dynamic process of contestation

One of the really practical ways in which we can think about this really abstract idea of Foucault, is to consider the work by very important Development economist at the Institute of Development Studies, in Sussex. They’ve introduced the idea of power cube. What they refer to in that regard, if we look at the diagram, is that you get different scales of power: local, national, global but you also get different arenas where power gets played: like you get spaces that are closed such as the neo corporatist forums over the closed-door council meeting or committee meetings.

And you get spaces that are created by the government that’s invited, where civil society gets invited to, but within the rules in the game set by local authorities.

Thirdly you get spaces that are created by civil society themselves. What they then say, and this is the third dimension, which is why they call it a power cube, is that you can then correlate with what they call visible power so that’s the obvious power, the local authorities endowed with certain power et cetera.

But also what you call hidden power. This is the deal making in the city. The way in which behind closed doors powerful actors can co-opt politicians and institutions or bureaucracies to get certain decisions made.

And very importantly the third dimension is invisible power. Now this is the problem where large numbers of people in the city at, if you will, at an interior level psychologically imbibe the certain identity.

And they believe that they are either of lower cast or of lower standing or that, as a woman they don’t have the same rights or as someone comes from minority ethnic group et cetera. This is what they call invisible power. And in all cities, you’ve got the co-mingling of these different kinds of power that operates in these different arenas.

And again, in this way we can begin to see that this city, the political arena and the way in which governance is exercised is always layered in these multiple ways.

And so we’ve got to pay very careful attention to what is the institutional form we are talking about, what is the nature of the conversion happening in that institutional arena and who is included and who is excluded and the power and the power cube framework helps us to begin that analysis

I want to turn to the question of planning.

Now ultimately, urban politics boils down to making decisions in a context of very scarce resources between competing priorities. These decisions can have short term, medium or long term impact. If we take, for example, infrastructure, these are very important decisions; because any infrastructural investment lasts 50 to a 100 years.

And so it is really important to understand the value of planning as a way of opening up or creating and awareness about what the implications are of certain decisions and  why those decisions are being made.

In this regard we can differentiate between different kinds of plans.

There is the most commonly known form of planning, which is spatial planning. This is where comprehensive territorial overview is provided of landscapes and land uses.This typically tends to be the form of a map, that is color coded with a legend and so forth. Then you get a more recent generation of planning which we call strategic planning or, in an even more recent iteration, growth management plans.

This is when you begin to relate what is happening in the regional economy to different land uses and to space. And you begin to try and map out how to growth of the economy impacts on the use of space and the changing nature of urban form. If we then move on from a strategic planning or growth management we can consider another kind of planning which is more bottom-up, more grassroots, and I call this spatial literacy.

This is when residents or representatives from local organizations engage in intersectional neighborhood level planning. In other words, they begin to try and figure out for themselves what are the different elements that they require in their neighbourhood to guarantee wellbeing and to ensure that there is a flourishing Expression of livelihoods in their area.

Now this is mirrored then, by what local authorities could do which is called precinct level planning and similarly a tries to underpin area based integrated development programs with a spatial framework.

All of these plans of course, ideally should interrelate and if we have participatory processes functioning well or optimized then in fact you get that into action correct across these different scales. Which deal with long term, medium term, the city wide scale right down to the neighbourhood the hostel.

So to conclude then, to draw all of this together, it might be useful and instructive to consider what has happened in the City of Johannesburg in South Africa over the last twenty years.

When south Africa democratized in 1994, it inherited a racially based fragmented local government system; a new white paper was required to integrate the system, and by the year 2000 were the local elections that happened in December, we had the establishment of a single metropolitan government for the city of Johannesburg covering about four million people.

Now this was significant, but it also presented acute problems for the city, because it inherited what we call a dual economy, a dual city, a dual society and the duality was physically manifest between the north and the south of the city.

In the north of the city, you had the aggregation of wealth and the middle class suburbs and the new financial centers of the whole country, in fact.

And in the south, you had these large spoiling townships that mushroomed out from Soweto to the to the southern extremes where orange farmers / a range of farms are located.

And the challenge that the city was faced with, was how do you support the economic heartland of the region because you derive you derive your rates based on that and rates account for almost 50% of your local income and at the same time deal with the popular demand for universal access to basic services and economic opportunities in the south.

And because of the long term neglect of infrastructural investment it was a mass of deficit on both the north and the southern side. And so the city was confronted with the problem how do you prioritize your investments in a way that can satisfy everyone and what is important to notice that in 2000 the city did not have a capital budget because it simply didn’t have the financial base.

And if we then review what Joburg had to do, it had to produce in the first instance of spatial development framework because that was required by law and that took a fifteen to twenty of you. But then it all so within two years produced something called the growth and development strategy, which tried to understand the political economy of the broader region, what its trajectories were over the long term and how it had to make decisions about what to invest in and where.

And it made all of that explicit on the basis of evidence and analysis and a participatory process. Moreover, then understood that the key to effective planning is to understand land markets and started to track decisions for land use applications and how real estate values were changing in regional economy.

And on the back of that, it was able to calculate what is the best return of investments so that you can ride the wave of real estate value addition, but at the same time, begin to knit the city together.

And so what they did was they said that actually the most important priority for us is not the north, and not necessarily the south, although there was a human rights imperative, but in fact, to create a hybrid zone that connects the two together, which the mayor, in 2011 called the corridors of freedom. And in that hybrid zone, at then said / at the inside we have got to find a different way of living, in another words, in a more dense form, but also mixed incomes living together and structured around public transport investments. This was radical, in a sense, that didn’t satisfy the north/ north’s old vested interests and it didn’t satisfy the electoral base of the ruling party the ANC in the south, because they wanted basic services to be concentrated in the south.

What they then did was, by carefully managing the rates base, they were able to grow the capital budget and they could do a little bit every way, but then within that prioritise these integrative zones.

Now it’s been five years of that being implemented, which is significant because the returns on that will only be seen can only be seen in 15 to 20 years time. And in some ways, one can see the feat of the Mayor in the last local election, as an expression of taking an unpopular decision of focusing on the long term.

Joburg really illustrates the complexity of planning, the multiple political pressures on the decision making and the centrality of leadership and leadership focusing on the long-term. But even when that happens, there is no guarantee, that that leadership will remain in power.

Urbanismo e Dignidade Humana II – Cities are centers of cultural and social transformation

Discussion prompts:

  1. Do you think there is a link between the economic power of cities and their ability to accelerate social change?
  2. This chapter gives a range of examples on how cities are sites of cultural experience and transformation. What societal changes have you witnessed in urban spaces near you? Specifically, what have you seen that demonstrates how cities can be re-imagined for a more sustainable and inclusive future?

Many of us see cities primarily as places of economic activity: of production, consumption and employment; commerce and finance; as places of residence of those engaged in these activities; or sometimes places in which power is exercised: capital cities and administrative centres.

This is a modern obsession with the city as an economic entity, an engine of growth and sometimes development. But a few contemporary cities are also sites of social, cultural and religious relevance such as Cairo in Egypt and Kyoto in Japan. But this is a very limited view of the city. One that glosses over a deeper and richer heritage, a 5,000-year old history of cities as crucibles of social and cultural accretion, cultural transmission and periodically of transformation. The great European migrations to the cities of New World in search of safety from religious and political persecution and escape from poverty are an interesting example from the past.

Dr. Ambedkar – one of the framers of India’s constitution made a call to Dalits who were deeply socially excluded communities in India to come to the cities to create a new future for themselves far from the caste oppression in Indian villages or the LGBT rights and environmental justice movements all speak to this role of cities.

In an earlier age, towns and cities were often seen and experienced as a part of a sacred landscape, that linked people and communities, the ruled and rulers; to the earth, to the heavens and the flow of life and energies in the universe that is so well experienced in Beijing.

As urbanisation sweeps across the globe, some cities such as Jerusalem, Varanasi, Mecca, Bodh Gaya, still remain sacred sites of perennial culture and religion; compared to new sites of secular power, manufacturing or trade.

Others like Rome, Baghdad, Constantinople- Istanbul and Imperial Xian have always combined both sacred and secular power, in a complex interplay of social, economic and political systems. Many cities like those, along with trading and commercial cities of the Old Silk Road like Tashkhent and Samarqand or ocean-based trading routes of the 20th century like Cape Town, Mombasa and Singapore bring together diverse sets of people, institutions and cultures; sometimes into contest and conflict; but often into a syncretic dialogue where each attempts to preserve their unique identity, their symbols, language, food, ways of dressing and cultural practices; some tend to accommodate the other; by taking from or contributing.

Historically, cities have provided safe spaces to many institutions that help preserve the knowledge, ways of working and culture of its citizens and the world, to enrich and transmit them from one generation to the next. Successful cities tend to concentrate and curate: centres of craft, manufacturing and innovation like historical Isfahan; universities, museum and, libraries like in Florence; sites of pilgrimage and religious instruction and even those that have centres of banking and enterprises.

Many cities like Jerusalem have served as centre of cultural reproduction and continuity, preserving and enrich our ideas of what life and the cosmos are about, what it is to be truly human? At times, cities such as Prague in 1989 also served as crucibles of social and cultural transformation where new ideas and movements of reform meet established regimes; in others where conservative and avant-garde spiritual and religious congregations converse and contested as historically in Cordoba leading to new social practices and cultural arrangements. It is here that we encounter rich conversations around new ideas of self and society; new social roles and forms of engagement; contests between old and new institutions; between the status quo and disruptive technology, media, mythology and popular culture.

As a counterfactual, villages and smaller towns, often serve similar social and cultural functions especially of maintaining and reproducing continuity. But they often don’t have the scale, the population, the institutional density and connectedness to play the important role that larger cities have in defining and framing ideas of development and progress, multiple imaginations of the future and how to get there.

Even a simple well accepted idea situated in Goals 1 and 2 of the SDGs – of the state taking responsibility to end poverty and hunger, was not mainstream even a century ago as we see in historical reflection, writing and art on the city: Engels wrote “The Condition of the Working Class in England” about industrial workers in Manchester; Kathe Kollwitz’s painting’s About the dire condition of the poor in Berlin; Dostoevsky and Gorky on “Moscow and St. Petersburg” or Bhattacharya’s paintings from the Famine in Bengal. It is important to note that the destruction and decay of city systems often leads the destruction of cultures and the decay of entire civilisations as when the Aztecs were pushed out of the Mexico city . On the other hand, we must not forget that cities also concentrate, are driven by and perpetuate inequality and exclusion.

Historically, elites residing within cities which are often walled extracted rents, tributes and lived off the labour of people in the villages and the countryside. Even within cities, like historically Athens, the crucible of Western democracy, only propertied males were entitled to become citizens. Women and slaves were clearly not seen worthy of any status, excepting as property. The economies of many European empires, their colonies and city systems were built on the enslavement of large populations and often the slave trade. This would be seen as completely unacceptable in a sustainable city by contemporary standards. Most forms of exclusion have been actively practised in cities across the world; and hence, form the basis of multiple identities, contests and violence that sit below the surface of many contemporary cities. Ironically, many of the ideas and movements that provide the moral, legal and operational foundation of the SDGs were born often in difficult circumstances and in cities across the world, and are contested even now. It is in cities that contests between classes are sharpest, the ability to mobilise and organise the easiest, the concentration of power and decision-making institutions that could be influenced the highest; and very often inequality and exploitation extremely harsh. It is also in cities that intellectuals, artists, musicians, activists and often revolutionaries congregate in large enough numbers to be able to share experiences and thoughts as in inter-war years in Berlin. Many ideas that helped frame our worldview; social and cultural practices were created in particular urban circumstances.

This ranges from ideas like that of a free people who can take the choice of their destiny into their hands and reclaim it from a monarchy with the divine right to rule that electrified Paris in the late 18th century; a breakaway from centuries of feudal domination to become a modern, educated and an industrial power that transformed Tokyo after the Meiji restoration; the acceptance of historical responsibility for the travesty of the Nazis and a commitment to unity and international responsibility that is expressed so strongly in the built fabric of Berlin after the 1989 reunification.

Is there a link between the economic power of cities and their ability to accelerate social change?

The power and attraction of cities is closely tied to the economic opportunities they often provide. Successful and sustainable cities tend to create wealth for their elites and livelihood opportunities for others.

Depending on the economic circumstances of the city, large a proportion of the population can expect to see significantly better living and working conditions in the contemporary world, as demonstrated in many parts of East Asia, especially in China. A smaller proportion can expect to see some degree of prosperity; and wealth, as the urbanisation of North America and many parts of Latin America suggest. At the core, the process of urbanisation dramatically increases the mobility of people. This is especially true of agrarian populations who are often tied to the land or a particularly location with limited occupational mobility, even between generations.

Cities fundamentally change the mobility of people, giving them choices that may not have existed, but exposing them to new challenges and risks. Often families and communal bonds tend them to weaken leading to ill nation and questions of identities in contemporary cities. This combined with education, and the creation of new employment opportunities in towns and cities, has a dramatic impact on poverty in rural and urban areas, as China has demonstrated since the 1990s. Cities however, can be very harsh on the poor and vulnerable. Almost everything needs to be paid for; home grown food cannot be taken for granted; work is difficult to get, often demeaning with low and uncertain wages.

Access to housing and basic services is poor and at a much higher price than that paid for my middle class and elite households. In short, the poor and the vulnerable, subsidise the city by living in abysmal living and working condition by accepting exceedingly poor wages. The good news is that vibrant and sustainable cities can provide occupational and social mobility. Probably more important, the opportunity for women to join the workforce, to become more educated, economically independent and participate more fully in social and political life as equal citizens.

This often involves many decades of struggle as can be seen in the womens vote and right movements in Europe and North America that started in the late 19th century, made significant progress through the 20th century, but still has a long way to go, even in advanced high-income countries.

Few cities are mythical cosmopolitan melting pots. Many however, are diverse enough to provide the opportunity for different ethnic, race and religious groups to encounter each other and work together at city, and sometimes neighborhood level. The connection between such rather diverse urban groups is a key enabler of a rich social and cultural life of the city and helps build the social capital, that enable a range of social and economic innovations. Cities of the 21st century provide a remarkable opportunity for people to connect with each other, often using new technologies and Internet access.

This development of a Network society is one of the key drivers of social innovation, of social enterprise and potentially a more sustainable new urban economy. Finally, cities as sites of cultural experience and innovation provide a critical space for re-imagination. Re-imagination of the asymmetries of the past, the challenges of the present and the opportunities of the future – an important role that cities can enable in the sustainable development saga.

The most important social transformations of the last 250-odd years have been born, anchored and realised in urban areas. In some cases, this involved, social movements; in others, non-violent political contests such as the fall of the Wall in Berlin and in others violent conflict and often bloody revolutions as in the case of Tehran. The end of slavery, the struggle for workers rights and better living conditions, the end of absolute monarchy, universal suffrage and the right to vote by women, decolonisation, the century long struggle for gender rights and equality, the ongoing battle against caste discrimination; are all examples of social transformation that could not be possible without cities.

Urbanismo e Dignidade Humana I – The Urban Oportunity

Welcome to our cours on sustainable cities. This is based on the experience of urban leaders, practitioners, policy makers, activists and of course, researches from across the world. This builds on a global campaign that led the United Nations to create a stand-alone goal for sustainable cities. Goal 11 within the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs that define what all countries of the world seek to achieve for their citizens and the planet by 2030.

In this course we will first understand how cities function and how to make them inclusive, productive, safe, resilient and therefore sustainable and we will examine what institutions and processes can enable this to happen.

Over the next several weeks, we will examine the different facets of urban and the path to achieving sustainable cities.

Do you believe cities are a great developmental challenge or opportunity?

I guess the first question is: do you believe Cities are a great development challenge? Cities have long been seen as part of the problem. They cant feed themselves, most are politically volatile and economically fragile. They pollute & destroy nature; many are full of filth, slums, disease and violence.

They concentrate great riches and poverty; are often too complex to plan for and too difficult to manage. That has of course been a popular perception, but if you look at the evidence: Cities and urbanization are far from being an intractable problem. They present us with a unique 21st century opportunity to end poverty, start the journey towards prosperity and inclusive development, reduce disaster risk and address climate change impact. The world has changed a lot since 1950, just after the UN was created. At that time it was only 30% urban, with just 750 million people living in cities; 60% of whom lived in European or American cities as you can see in the map that we are showing you. The economy of the world was just three trillion in size at that time. As we watch the Earth from space today with its 7.3 billion people, most continents are overlaid by a fine mesh of cities and towns. Now over half the world now lives in urban areas. That will of course rise to 60 percent by 2030. Most people dont know: close to two-thirds of the world economy today comes from cities today. At 2030, this will rise to over three-fourths. Close to $90 trillion a year of economic output will come from cities across the world. Where has this economic and demographic explosion come from? New urban geographies different from North America and Europe? New million cities in East Asia; South Asia and soon sub-Saharan Africa? But the growth of these cities has come at a huge price. Large environmental impacts and contests around air & water pollution; unsustainable forest and resource extraction.

Cities also concentrate risk due to natural hazards. Remember- Haiti, Hurricane Sandy or Cyclone Hainan and technological ones Bhopal, Chernobyl and more recently Fukushima Preparing our cities for disasters, reducing vulnerability by strengthening housing and improving services can protect lives; improve livelihoods and the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people across the world. A recent IPCC report, which I was involved in, presented a stark message to the world. There is clear scientific evidence of climate impact that will deepen if we do not take drastic steps over the next 20-30 years. Most of these steps will involve cities across the world. If not, there will be clear limits to our ability to adapt to climate change that will be reached in our children’s lifetime.

Even, the wealthiest, technologically most advanced cities may not be able to survive water and food scarcity that come with this process. If we are able to integrate disaster risk reduction, climate mitigation and adaptation with good development practice, the good news is that we can help transform most existing cities to make them more sustainable. We can also build new sustainable and resilient cities in Asia and Africa, where two-thirds of the future demand for buildings and infrastructure is still to be met. This could well turn the tide over next 20-30 years, creating new economic opportunities and hundreds of millions of jobs that young people from these regions require. This aspirational process, to transform the lives and livelihoods of 5 billion people who will live in cities by 2030 lies at the heart of the SDGs. Implementing this will require a compact between countries, their citizens, city and regional governments and enterprises to deliver the end of extreme poverty, the end of hunger and gender inequality; universal access to health, education and basic services like water, sanitation and energy. But, can we do all of these before 2030. And if so, how?

In September 2015, the UN provided a mandate to all governments and all people everywhere to Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This is a huge step forward for cities and the world. Sustainable cities are a 21st century idea whose time has come; not only to save us from ourselves but also transform our perspectives on development.

The question is how will we implement the urban SDGs, starting in 2016? There is no single answer, no magic bullet to this question. There are many pieces to a dynamic puzzle tied to the diversity of cities and regions in this world that we live in. Cities like each person are almost unique, but they share so many common processes. There is much to learn and understand in each one of them.

Let’s start with the critical rural-urban question.

Cities cannot survive on their own without food and water that largely come from rural areas. Villages in a networked world cannot survive without the industrial products, technologies and services that largely come from cities. Hence strong rural-urban linkages can help end extreme poverty and enable prosperity in rural areas and resilience in cities. In the 21st century, cities and villages will complement each other, rather than being in stylized conflict. Migrants will help link them together, through remittances, improved educational and job opportunities. Now back to cities. Most people come to cities for work, especially the additional 1.1 billion new urban dwellers, who we expect in cities by the 2030s.

They need productive employment. They also need safe, well serviced housing to dramatically reduce 2 billion people currently living in slums. To do this we must solve the challenges of land and labor markets for the poor. We can do that by integrating land use, economic and transportation planning in our cities. This, if it works effectively, can help end extreme urban poverty, increase prosperity and potentially reduce inequality, as we have seen demonstrated successfully in countries as diverse as China, Brazil and Singapore. Sustainable water systems which support universal access to safe drinking water, and environmental services, worked very effectively as we can see in this example from Bangkok.

Linked to this, secure regional food systems, urban agriculture and universal access to adequate nutrition has been done very well in Vancouver and slowly in other regions of the world. To keep the city running and enable a diverse and resilient economy we need reliable, sustainable energy for all households and clean manufacturing, which has been pioneered in Denmark and Germany.

Citywide access to safe, energy-efficient transport systems; improved road safety; expanding public transport, walking and cycling that have transformed Curitiba, Bogota and Vienna. A secure and inclusive built environment at human scale that includes affordable and green housing and universal access to public and green spaces like in Stockholm and some parts of London.

The employment of disruptive technologies, especially ICT to enable learning, commerce, access to knowledge and to mobilise change like in Bangkok and across many parts of India. But beyond, these ecological, technical and economic interventions; cities are centrally about people; their values, their identities and their culture. The urban transformation that we are living through is fundamentally a cultural transformation. For sustainable cities to be effectively realised, we will need to embrace a new social compact that will help to address four persisting asymmetries. First, the artificial divide between the urban and the rural that has no place in a networked world of the 21st century.

Sustainable cities and towns and the countryside are not in contest they are extensions of each other. Second, the forced separation between humans and nature, setting us apart from our environment which would have been useful for frontier cultures, but no longer works for much of the world.

The world in now full of 7.3 billion people who place tremendous pressure on the biosphere. Our Cities have to be reimagined as vulnerable places dependent on fragile environments for their food, water and clean air. Third and most pressing: greater intra-generational and gender equity that will give fiber and strength to our yet fragile urban cultures. Today, a spark in one place can set another location alight, unless we address the clamouring needs of billions of people especially those who live in poverty, insecurity and deprivation every living day of their life.

The immense wealth, technology and knowledge available with us can and must be put to use to address these core urban concerns. Fourth, unbridled consumerism has helped convince billions of us that our immediate wants, our need to consume more and more; trumps intergenerational equity – the well-being of our children, our grandchildren; and with them all of life on the planet. We need to realise the potential of all cities and towns to go beyond mere sites of production and consumption.

We need them to become centers of celebration and transmission of what is best in local culture: livability and access to open spaces in Vancouver, Canada; the celebration of public places in Marrakesh; the river ghats of Varanasi; the west lakes of Hangzhou in China. To address this implementable urban solutions exist across the world. They need to be woven into a coherent fabric that links economic, social and environmental

concerns via this new social compact. Cities are just at the right intermediate scale between the local and global to operationalise this compact. They can deliver impact much more effectively than if we only work bottom up through hundreds of millions of households or only top down via 200 countries and lets say a few hundred corporations.

Yet, this is going to be a tough ask. Only a handful of cities and regions, have been able to make progress on most of these dimensions. Therefore, the challenge before us is to multiply this, first ten, then a hundred fold, to reach a tipping point that will help transform development as we know it, by the 2030s. The SDGs are a major step forward in this pace after decades, especially the idea that no-person and no-place will be left behind. Cities thankfully are a lot more nimble than countries and sometimes even large corporations, even though they are poorly resourced and usually disempowered.

The nation states and the UN will be greatly strengthened in the SDG process, by an alliance that embraces cities and regions. It is time this synergy is invoked: ~2,000 cities and about 200 member states can collectively transform development more effectively, and with greater impact than either of them alone. In Summary, What can sustainable cities and the SDGs deliver for us? Education and health care for all 5 billion urban citizens. 1-2 billion people moving from slums into secure housing and adequate services. 600 million meaningful, new jobs with better working conditions. Building resilience and addressing informality in a $90trillion global urban economy. Building a more compassionate and inclusive culture via cities across the world.

Is this impossible?

So did some people think of the contest against slavery; absolute monarchy; universal voting rights; emancipation of women; and more recently climate change. All of which not accidentally were incubated in cities. The time of cities is here. They can of course drag us down into the dregs of human nature. Alternatively, they can help save us from ourselves and transform our very idea of humanity and development. The choice of pathway lies with us. There is no opportunity for delay our time to enable Sustainable Cities starts now.