As the new century begins, we observe the world caught up in a fast moving process of urbanisation that is unprecedented in the history of urban settlements. In the last twenty years, more than a dozen mega cities have appeared and an urban population of 10 million is not uncommon. If estimates in the Economist are to be believed, " in the next decade an extra 100 million people will join the cities of Africa and 340 million in the cities of Asia: equivalent of a new Bangkok every two months. By 2030, nearly two-thirds of the world, population will be urban. "

It could be argued that this rush to the city from the countryside is part of a historical process that had similarly been experienced in the West at the end of the Industrial Revolution. But there are important differences, which could have significant implications for current policy formulations that are intended to support economic development in the developing world. These differences are:
  • Many parts of the developing world are without effective central authority.

  • The migration to the towns is caused by push factors related to the growing insecurity in the countryside.

  • There is little evidence of growing investments in industrial infrastructure that could absorb this influx of urban population. Unlike at the time of the Industrial Revolution when the enormous rise in factory production and investment offered jobs to the urban migrants, today's developing world migrants often have few employment opportunities that would result in value being added to the economy. On the contrary often this migration gives rise to hidden unemployment.

  • There is either an absence of or the presence of weak state structures.

  • Effective intervention often takes the form of an imposed military presence.

  • The identity of the Nation State is being compromised by increasingly militant expressions of regional or ethnic identities that are cantered on territorial claims.

  • These conditions are prevalent not only in many parts of the developing world but also in large parts of the erstwhile Soviet Union territories that, at one time, had already experienced high levels of industrialisation.

The historical precedence is therefore reminiscent is not so much of the post-industrial experience of the West as it is of other periods in the history of Europe. Eric Hobsbawm explains:

" I believe that the disintegration of the states in these regions of the world is mainly the result of the collapse of the colonial empires, of the end of the era in which the great European powers controlled large portions of the world, where they had found non-state governed societies, and had imposed a degree of external and internal order. This also applies to the territories conquered by Russia after 1800, such as the Caucasus."

" What has occurred in these parts of the world seems to be similar in some ways to what occurred in Western Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire. There was no longer any central authority. In some cases there were local authorities, which still managed to function, in other cases there was conquest by groups from outside which came to establish order. However, in reality vast regions of Europe lacked normal and permanent state structures for a long period of time. I believe that this is occurring again in parts of the world."
The motivation for this sudden spurt in urban migration in many parts of the developed world needs to be viewed not just as a move towards greater job opportunities but more significantly as a move in search of greater security from the growing anarchy in the countryside. The implication on the search for solution to these crises can be significant if one is weighing up the merits of a rural versus an urban-based development initiative.

It is clear that development policies need to urgently address the lack of adequate state authority in order to effect gain from development initiatives. State authorities need to be strengthened. Their presence in the urban centres would therefore make it imperative to focus the primary thrust of development initiatives in the urban centres. For if the growing anarchy of the countryside is to be effectively tackled, it will need to be tackled by the urban based state authority that needs to be strengthened through urban-based development initiatives and programmes.

The need to strengthen urban-based state authorities could therefore be a precondition to establishing a sense of order in the country as a whole and the tendency towards the growing disorder in the countryside could be reversed by influences that are urban based. However, the need to bolster up the capacities of state administrations cannot presume that strong urban-based rule is per se acceptable without qualitative conditions.

A strong urban-based non-democratic dictatorial regime, for instance, would not be conducive to development. Although such a regime could be seen as a strong counter-force to stateless disorder, its very definition as an undemocratic system of governance precludes it from being development friendly. Such regimes introduce arbitrary military priorities that often counter people friendly development goals. There is ample analysis about the importance of participatory policies in development theories to demonstrate that elected friendly governance is a pre-requisite to successful and lasting development.

Sen's contention is that the development process is inextricably bound up with a process of ever expanding freedoms that need to be granted to the individuals of a community. In enhancing the capabilities and potentials of the citizens of a developing society, or for that matter any society, policy makers need to focus the thrust of their efforts to those areas that will give the greatest impact.

Not only is there a need for the greatest impact, there is also the need to intervene in those areas where the multiplier effect of the consequent benefits will be the greatest. It can therefore reasonably be argued that, under certain circumstances, the impact of development initiatives may give significant benefits to unfree communities in the rapidly expanding urban centres.

Sen's view of development process being the enhancement of freedom for individuals to live the life they want to live is of course valid in a society as a whole and which includes rural as well as urban settlements. I have argued elsewhere in this paper that, currently in many countries, the fragility of social, political and economic conditions in the urban areas needs urgent support because of the type of urban migration that is taking place. One needs therefore to consider the potentials and capabilities for self-improvements in the livelihoods of urban citizens, and to make them the special subject of our concern.

The analysis of the status of development in any society requires evaluation that is grounded on some sort of informational base. Clearly there is a need to identify the characteristics, which are seen to be relevant for evaluating the development potential of a society and to measure them as indicators. A wide range of indicators can be used to compose the information base. As has been pointed out earlier, there is no unique and exclusive way to compose this information base. Currently perhaps the most complex exercise for evaluating development on a common index is the one carried out by the United Nations Development Programme for their Human Development Report.
The choice of the information base as well as the particular indicators that are metrically measured influences the resultant policy. But, as Sen has pointed out in his book. "There is no royal road to evaluation of economic and social policies". In order to maximise the usefulness of evaluative techniques, one needs to reflect on the variety of considerations that influence each individual of the community.

Existing development policies are inevitably multi-layered. This is partially due to the multiple institutions that are involved in sponsoring development. There are national governments, international agencies and a host of multi-lateral arrangements that influence development policies. National governments sponsor development initiatives through a wide range of accelerators such as neighbourhood organisations; community-based institutions, NGOs, municipalities as well as national bodies.

International institutions direct their initiatives through NGOs, United Nation agencies (UNCHS, Habitat, UNDP, etc) as well as national governments (IDCAs). A multi-layered approach thus provides flexibility that can be inclusive of the special interests of these sponsors. To a certain extent, this approach provides a flexibility that could be considered as being more responsive.
Let us consider the approach that has been taken towards development by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) as an example of a multi-layered approach to policy making and influencing policy. It is part of the International Development Co-operation Agencies (IDCAs). Its approach towards development has been varied for a number of reasons that relate not only to its internal changing perspectives but also to the shifting ground in the political status of the host countries where its programmes are implemented. As Michael Mutter has explained in his paper:

" At the turn of the millennium there are mixed messages within government policies - both for national governments, and for international development Co-operation Agencies - in approaches to Urban Development and Shelter Programmes. Whilst national governments have come to understand the importance of having coherent strategies for urban development, the IDCAs have taken a different course."

" The UK is such a case, the national government putting much emphasis on new thinking - for example the methodologies for regeneration and sustainable development, and more recently, the government's Urban Task Force - as much as traditional thinking that emanated from the emergence of town planning as a statutory requirement in UK from 1947 onwards."

Further endorsement of such mixed messages and variable responses to these can be seen in the two papers recently presented by Sue Unsworth, a long time employee of DFID. In these papers, she contends that donors find it easier to say "what" needs to be done rather than "how" it is to be done. Her analysis of the 'how' problem is extensive and far ranging. Indeed it could almost be considered nebulous in the range of issues that are identified for corrective measures. The range of such issues is illustrative of the plight of many donors who are trying to understand and then tackle underdevelopment.
In using the word "underdevelopment" one is being, perhaps, somewhat classic in one's terminology since over the last two decades, a whole host of new terms have superseded this word with alternatives descriptions about the conditions of poor societies such as chronically poor, disadvantaged, economically challenged, exploited, stateless, anarchic, unstable etc.

The condition of under development has not only persisted across historical time periods, it also extends spatially across large parts of the more densely populated parts globe. Understanding it has been the subject of a continuous search for generations of economists. Five decades ago it seemed that it was the economists who had a prerogative to explain theories about underdevelopment, but as the other disciplines such as sociology, political science and anthropology joined in to broaden the definition of underdevelopment, this search for an acceptable definition of underdevelopment has become a shared pursuit.

From the earlier and simpler theoretical formulations that advocated industrialisation as a single point cure for underdevelopment, current development literature is multi-disciplined and advocates multi level, multi- directional approaches. Sue Unsworth's analysis reflects this multi-sect oral approach to tackle the wide range of symptoms that could be termed as underdevelopment. She mentions historical legacies, geography, social, economic and political processes, the role of institutions and the state as being relevant to the understanding the causes of poverty. Her formulations are grounded in the effort to clarify the aims and objectives of donors while assisting underdeveloped societies.

However, in advocating a wide approach or what I would term as a nimble footed approach, she almost advocates an approach that relies more on the instinctive understanding of situation by the donor rather than on an evaluated one. There is a possibility that such an approach may not answer the donor's "what and how" questions adequately. While explaining the Key Themes, Unsworth has mingled the symptoms of underdevelopment with those of policy directives when the two need to be distinguished from each other simply because the ideals of the recipient seldom coincide with the more technical and bureaucratic concerns of the donor.

It would be an ill-advised policy that aims at forcing the varying perceptions of the recipient and the donor to become identical as a precondition of donor policy. While focus on such key themes is undoubtedly a useful basis for a brainstorming session or a workshop to evolve strategies, it may not provide a sufficiently reliable framework for donor policy.

While the condition of underdevelopment is inherently unstable, there is a need to have a stable framework to view it for policy purposes. Such a policy framework needs to be not only simple but also broadly acceptable to the international community as one that ensures co-operation between all the parties concerned (see last section for such a framework). In identifying the various issues of underdevelopment and donor responses, Unsworth may have given inadequate attention to two issues, which to my mind, are important enough to need more focused attention. Firstly there is the issue of the relationship between the countryside and town in underdeveloped countries. This is not only an important issue but also an unresolved one. It is one that is debated heatedly by donors while considering their spatial and regional priorities in locating projects and directing policy thrusts. I have already commented, earlier on in this paper, on the importance of urban centres in the midst of the crises that are unfolding in this century.

Secondly we need to consider the important issue of inter- donor co-ordination. In order to tackle the wide complexities of underdevelopment through the extensive initiatives advocated by Unsworth, one would need to cast a much wider net than any unilateral aid agency could do on its own. Since it is easier to identify the problem of underdevelopment than to tackle it, one needs to consider more fully, the role of international co-ordination in tackling it.

Unfortunately, recent events that emphasise a diminished American confidence in relying on international agencies have damaged the possibilities of effective international co-ordination. As George Soros has commented, those international institutions that deal with trade and global financial markets are much stronger than those that deal with social investments. Issues of peace, political stability and poverty alleviation have been subjugated at the expense of issues related to trade, currencies and the movement of capital around the globe .

For instance, the reluctance of the United States to pay its UN dues has undermined the role that an organisation such as the UNDP could play in coordinating inter donor efforts. Such undermining is also reinforced by E-U strategies in many countries. For instance, during my own extensive engagement with initiating employment programmes in the Balkans, it soon became clear that, despite the fact that the programme was E-U financed through the UNDP, the E-U saw its identity as a contestant to the UNDP. This had led to a number of futile obstacles being placed in the smooth running of an obviously successful programme.

While I am not specially advocating the case of the UNDP, I would like to stress here that unilateral donor strategies often strike against the potential role of lead agencies because their own agendas are narrower than those of a lead agency. The wide policy and strategic aims being advocated by Unsworth cannot be successfully implemented without lead agencies. As I have argued in the last section of this paper, such a lead agency could hold up the framework through which donors could address their individual concerns in each country.

Inevitably each donor has a unique relationship with the recipient country that is based on special historic links as well as their own metropolitan compulsions. These unilateral concerns need to be addressed in each donor programme. However, if one were to define a simple framework at the lead agent's level, then donors could enter the field through this common framework and submit the results of their initiatives to a common evaluation procedure thus formulating a shared platform for the evaluation of successes and failures.



Cities without Slums
Cities Alliance
Cities without Slums

Shaping the Urban Environment
Shaping the
Urban Environment
in the 21st Century

ustainable Urbanisation
Sustainable Urbanisation
Achieving Agenda 21

Sustainable Urban Development
Towards Sustainable
Urban Development

Copyright © Removing Unfreedoms 2004-2007. All rights reserved.