City Planning – As If People Matter
Democratising City Planning through Citizen Participation
Why is participation so loathed by most city managers and planners? Despite enormous normative agreement on the benefits of citizen participation, most city managers and planners would shy away and at times actively resist any meaningful participation of citizens in the city planning process. They often argue that participation is time consuming, costly, difficult to manage the diverse interests and opinions, and so on. However, what perhaps they would not say upfront is that participation changes the fundamental power relationship within citizenry and between citizens and city authorities. Most supporters of status quo would not like the existing power equations to change. What is the consequence, then?
Most cities are sites of inequalities across the developing countries. The fault lines in the urban planning process reinforce unequal access to decision making, opportunities, and public services for a large number of informals living in these cities. A substantive number of informals including migrants who live and contribute to city economy do not have access to decent housing, water, sanitation, health care and education for their children. The middle-class residents including professionals in these cities are often not only indifferent to the plights of informals but also hostile and exploitative. This situation is untenable and unsustainable.
Over the decades, many civil society organisations and social movements have facilitated access to information, organisation, and support system for the informals to enhance their bargaining power. In many instances, a few progressive city managers have become allies to include the needs and aspirations of informals in the city planning process. However, these innovative practices need to be mainstreamed and scaled up nationally. Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable would require new institutional architecture and mechanisms to scale up participation.
The webinar will specifically explore the following questions:
1. What are the innovative practices for mainstreaming and scaling up citizen participation in city planning and governance?
2. What institutional mechanisms should be in place to ensure the participation of urban poor in city planning and governance?
3. What social processes should be facilitated to reduce the ignorance, indifference and hostility of middle class toward informals?