Task: In what ways can local policy makers and local development planners overcome the disconnectedness between local economic development planning and physical, spatial planning in the city so as to target the majority disadvantaged urban residents (500 words)?
In the end of 2005 we had to witness what would happen when a mixture of poverty, desperateness and drugs explodes, resulting in fierce unrests on the streets of the Parisian “Banlieue”. The sheer hopelessness of the young underprivileged became evident when they started to go on the rampage (Focus 2005). Such uprisings in places like Clichy-sous-Bois, where unemployment rates nearly top 50%, are the consequences of exclusion. However, the increase in autonomy for local governments through globalization can be an asset in formulating plus implementing better coordinated policies, helping to overcome the disconnectedness with regard to local economic development and spatial planning within decentralized metropolitan structures regarding the poor. Hence, I will illustrate first in general, hereafter in more detail, how this gap could be overcome.
First and foremost, municipalities must identify the needs and priorities of the (disadvantaged) residents. Or better said, this process should happen in a cooperation between local administration together with the affected residents who know their needs best. People-orientation (“Bürgernähe”) is the keyword. Citizens should become more involved in the decision-finding process, as “decentralization works best when it is inclusive – that is, when authorities ask about and respond to community needs and interests and when community members participate in decision-making” (Population Information Program 2002, p. 16). On this note, citizens will also gain a better understanding of local politics, and additionally identify themselves more with the city they live in. These aspects can be concretely reached through an engagement in every-day decisions, e.g. in public hearings and meetings, through active participation in community activities, holding referenda, or opinion surveys, etc. (compare City Alliance, p. 2, Population Information Program 2002, p. 16).
More specific, policy makers in the economic sector should support small and medium sized enterprises (SME) through business development initiatives1. The visible trend of spatially extending cities has detached several groups of disadvantaged residents from the central business districts, where the wealthy and highly specialized elite is concentrated, while many poor work in the dislodged low-level and informal sectors. Instead of being restrictive or breaking up small businesses and informal markets, municipalities should put emphasize on their integration into the cityscape by relaxing legalization and through the creation of sustainable jobs (compare Population Information Program 2002, p. 17). Better training and education measures2 would ease the admission to formalization, respectively to the formal labour markets.
1 ACLEDA (The Association of Cambodian Local Economic Development Agencies) aims at raising the standard of living of the poor by promoting economic activities. It prioritizes disadvantaged groups, such as women heads of households and resettled refugees providing them among others with resources to improve their lives. Information online available at http://gdrc.org/icm/country/acleda.html, last accessed 23 July 2008
2 The Urban Libraries Council offers a quite interesting solution. The provision of library services has a wide reach in contributing to and enhancing general education (supporting literacy and workforce-readiness), which in turn helps to develop the local economy – “making cities stronger”. Information online available at http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/1001075_stronger_cities.pdf, last accessed 23 July 2008