City Development Strategies: Opportunities for Poverty Reduction
According to the Cities Alliance, City Development Strategies (CDS) are intended to be "action plans for equitable growth in cities," which focus on urban governance, local economic growth, and poverty reduction. This seminar sponsored by the Comparative Urban Studies Project convened representatives from Brazil, Morocco, Rwanda, and Cambodia in order to discuss different approaches to poverty alleviation and equitable urban development.
Ricardo Lima, Deputy Director of the Regional and Urban Studies Department at the Instituto de Pesquisa Aplicada, Brazil began the session with an in-depth discussion of the CDS for the Recife Metropolitan Region (RMR), the 4th largest metropolitan region in Brazil. He noted that Recife faces similar challenges as other areas in Brazil such as a stagnant economy, unequal income distribution, a high concentration of poverty, and violent crime. However, Recife has a number of potentialities that can be developed in order to improve the current situation. Some of these potentialities include a strategic location, a well-developed information technology sector, and a good education system. These problems and potentialities made the RMR an excellent region to prepare a CDS. The objectives of the CDS are to create an environment of innovation and competitiveness, higher social inclusion, and improved living standard in the region. Throughout the process, Mr. Lima noted that the participation of stakeholders was considered above average; unfortunately, the participation of the private sector was below expectations. The importance of industry and private sector involvement cannot be overlooked, especially in terms of investment and financing. Mr. Lima is confident that investment will increase in the future and stressed that the CDS was developed with a very realistic financial plan.
Since January of 2002, a new process of decentralization has been initiated in Morocco. Filali Belhaj Abdelaziz, Executive Director of the Moroccan Slum Upgrading Agency presented his experience of participatory planning and the CDS for the greater Tetouan area of northern Morocco. The goals and objectives of the CDS are ambitious and focus on the need to develop good governance, as well as dialog and consensus among stakeholders. Mr. Abdelaziz emphasized the importance of participation from all sectors of society. He also identified a number of obstacles to the process, many similar to those facing Recife, emphasizing the need to formalize both the economy and the housing sector. The Teotuan region also has a number of potentialities that can be developed such as an international port and the tourism industry. Mr. Abdelaziz noted that they have made significant progress in identifying slums and clandestine areas and the elaboration of a pre-diagnostic study is well underway.
Joseph Behenda, Head of Finance for the City of Kigali, Rwanda, presented the Kigali Economic Development Strategy Plan (K.E.D.S.). The plan was devised to reduce poverty and create a framework to implement specific programs and projects, as the last master plan in Kigali is over 20 years old. In order to reduce poverty, jobs must be created. Inevitably, Kigali must build a foundation to be competitive in the global economy. The plan outlines a number of areas for development and investment; women's participation in the economy, land reform, infrastructure, small business, industry, tourism, and information technology. K.E.D.S. also outlines the need to create key agencies, such as an Office of Economic Development, and identify stakeholders. Mr. Bahenda explained that little reliable statistics exist to develop strategies as well as a number of legal obstacles and cultural attitudes stand in the way. He also noted that significant progress has been made and they are coordinating with an outside agency to develop a land management system using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that will help fill the information gap.
Sok Visal, Manager of the Urban Poor Development Fund (UPDF) in Phnom Penh City, Cambodia, gave an informative presentation on the participation of civil society in the planning process. Mr. Visal emphasized the function of UDPF as a tool for the local population; "It is a people's fund with their control guaranteed as the board majority is community leaders, together with the municipality, ACHR (Asian Coalition for Housing Rights), local NGOs, and other development agencies." UDPF was established to help finance the resettling of evicted communities and promote a community-driven housing model in Phnom Penh. They have conducted consultation workshops with over 400 community leaders, representatives from NGOs, and local government officials. The UDPF is currently working in coordination with other local agencies to update information on the urban poor in order to better understand the city and potential strategies for development.
The meeting provided insightful case studies of projects in action. There were a number of similarities to be found in both the potentialities of the regions as well as the obstacles they face. These projects provide valuable lessons and have significant potential to be used as models for other metropolitan areas both nationally and internationally. However, as both presenters and attendees noted, many obstacles lie ahead and the need to secure financing and develop concrete monitoring plans are vital to the successful implementation of the CDS's.