The Importance Of Urban Informity
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Janice Perlman - Urban Informality
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Apart from the increasing professionalization of local organizations, three new trends of urban mobilization and opposition to the policy of growth began to emerge simultaneously. The third trend was the transnational activity of anti-globalist movements, demanding the democratization of international institutions, but also access to urban public goods and services.
As a result, in the last years, we can observe the development of a global network of organizations and initiatives representing the rights of residents such as the Social Forum, Attac or Future of Places , guided by slogans of spatial justice and residents well-being. At the same time, global demands for democratization are translated into the local context and actions of urban movements see, e. While the processes of global networking continue until today, one may posit that the urban movements are entering a fifth phase of localization, associated with politicization in the form of local election committees, with leaders of urban initiatives becoming part of local power structures e.
However, history suggests that, as long as urban policy fosters social inequalities and excludes large numbers of citizens, the slogans of the right to the city retain the ability to mobilize bottom-up initiatives. As in the case of other social movements e. As shown by the historical analyses, over time the level of diversity and complexity of this network increased, and its composition was dynamically changing with the transition of some organizations from the area of civil society to the field of public services or party politics and the emergence of new allies like squatter movements and tenant associations.
As a result of its liquid and multi-level character, operating as a loose network of organizations, initiatives and individual actors function now both on the global level, and in individual cities and even local communities. In some cases, also national or regional urban movement platforms operating at the meso-level are emerging, as is the case with the Congress of Urban Movements in Poland Domaradzka , Right to the City Alliance in the USA Sinha and Kasdan or Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca movement in Spain Santos Typically, the first impulse to formulate an urban movement initiative was to organize a protest against the existing policies e.
The grassroots groups of protesters soon realized that their opposition had limited effectiveness and that real impact would require the introduction of social consultation mechanisms and participatory planning tools see, e. Searching for support for such solutions has contributed to the formation of wider coalitions between activists from different districts or cities to change the rules of decision-making processes. At the same time, however, more radical groups appeared in the cities, contesting marketing efforts of local governments, through actions aimed at reducing the attractiveness of cities—emphasizing existing problems, conflicts or hidden enclaves of poverty and exclusion. So from the one hand, radical movements focused on active resistance and disruptive behavior to challenge the status quo, while milder activities of the middle class or the intelligentsia groups focused on abstract issues related to the privatization of public space and right to self-expression.
What is more, as the campaigns against the privatization of public and political space are becoming a topic for intellectuals and cultural activists with limited outreach, the remains of wider movements become increasingly isolated and compete with each other for the small residual resources and spaces. The slogan of the right to the city, though intuitively understandable and extremely fashionable in recent years De Souza , is a complex concept requiring a theoretical analysis.
Following Harvey , I will define it here as both the individual liberty to access urban resources including space, services and infrastructure and the ability to exercise a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The first group consists of excluded social groups and low-paid working class. The second group includes the alienated representatives of middle and high classes, especially young people, small entrepreneurs, representatives of the intelligentsia, artists and officials. Ultimately, the source of the frustration of both groups is that the city services and initiatives do not meet their important needs.
According to critical urban theorists Marcuse ; Mayer ; Brenner et al. Those incumbents often trigger mechanisms that can dissipate this dissatisfaction of actors deprived of the right to the city by arousing emotions around moral issues, fueling nationalism, homophobia, fundamentalism or chauvinism, and even sports fanaticism that weakens the mobilization potential of right to the city. Both Harvey and Mayer refer to the concept of the right to the city as both a political ideal and a mobilization frame. As Soja points out, the right to a city is not only legislative, but also moral, referring to human rights as well as the concept of social and spatial justice Soja The values that such a city should embody are justice, the rule of law, democracy, capacity development, as well as balance and diversity Marcuse : Analyzing the changing slogans and forms of collective action in North and South America and Western, Central and Eastern Europe, we can see the relationship between the meanings given to the right to the city and the dominant forms of exclusion and oppression prevailing in a given period.
Presenting the right to the city in opposition to the capitalist order is one of the leitmotifs of the literature on the subject. Most authors remain critical of the dominance of the capitalist system or neoliberalism , pointing out that its mechanisms exclude large numbers of citizens and thus prevent the democratization of cities Swyngedouw ; Smith ; Purcell ; Brenner and Theodore As Harvey and other authors point out Harvey ; Nawratek ; Smith ; Soja ; Appadurai , rejecting the logic of profit Footnote 1 is the only way to seek solutions that serve a decent life and create a supportive environment for inhabitants.
While Marcuse and Harvey treat the slogan of the right to the city as a moral postulate referring to ethical principles and values such as justice or goodness, it must be noted that urban movements interpret the slogan in different ways. Some are based on the original concept of Lefebvre, according to which urbanization involves a negative controlled by the logic of profit transformation of human life, which must be opposed by lobbying for new methods of city management. In their view, the right to a city is the right to redistribute resources, primarily to those who are deprived of privileges and whose basic needs are not met. This revolutionary version of the right to the city, whose roots Lefebvre sought in the protests of s, is now represented by the actions of Right to the City Alliance in the USA and similar networks in countries around the world Derecho a la Ciudad movements in Latin America or Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca in Catalonia.
This approach opposes the existing allocation of resources and the dominance of the rules of the market in areas such as housing, employment, social services or planning. Networks on regional or national level are developed to create lobbing platforms that not only express alternative vision of city development, but also embody the preached values in their practice, through, e. Other movements interpret the right to the city less radically, using it as a general claim for developing urban democracy, involving residents in decision-making processes and focusing on quality of life in urban areas see, e. According to the World Charter provisions, the right to the city is a conglomerate of specific laws such as the right to housing, social assistance, work, a decent standard of living, leisure, information, association, access to food and water, participation and auto-expression, health, education, culture, privacy, security, etc.
The goal of such defined right to the city is to lobby for policies and legislation that would connect the development of cities with social justice. The documents define a list of specific rights that these policies should protect, combining human rights with the obligations of local and national authorities. Critics see, e. Although certainly useful, the tools themselves do not affect the essence of the problem of uneven distribution of power. Also, as Mayer points out, the problem with their general category of urban residents is that it assumes the existence of a relatively cohesive civil sphere that requires protection against the effects of liberal policies.
The result of those new documents is paradoxical—the slogans and postulates of grassroots urban movements are on the one hand strongly supported by the involvement of international institutions such as the United Nations; on the other hand, the same commitment deprives these slogans of inspiration for a deeper social change. Bottom-up pursuits are institutionalized as part of a professional NGO network, appearing as a body representing the needs of all city dwellers and supporting the cooperation of these residents with local authorities for sustainable development.
Moreover, as a result of the growing professionalization and politicization of urban initiatives in some of the cities e. Recent interviews with developers Domaradzka ; unpublished illustrate how even the private actors claim their right to profit from the city. The right to the city also remains alive and radical among the diverse groups of activists for global justice, both on the local level and transnationally. As Mayer notes, as part of these local symptoms a new form of urban mobilization emerged:. Media-savvy, organizationally conscious activists are connecting the political agendas of citizens initiatives, social service organizations, and a variety of social movements and NGOs, as well as church organizations, in an explicit effort to overcome the segmented local patterns of protest and to build organizational continuity.
As with the transnationally active movements before them, they combine traditional repertoires built up during previous cycles of protest with new tactics of civil disobedience and flexible organizational formats, but apply them to local manifestations of the global neoliberal trends Mayer : To summarize, in different national contexts described in this issue, we could observe the convergence of numerous local groups into coalitions and alliances around a shared set of objectives, which see current urban practices as the common problem and the right to the city as a common cause.
Many of urban initiatives emerge in order to protect a certain space or place, like in case of heritage protection groups, but also schools, cultural or social centers, squats or important workplaces. Another interesting hybrid form of social engagement that often supports right to the city claims is urban social entrepreneurs engaged in solving specifically urban problems like lack of access to fresh and healthy food, offering spaces for start-ups, bringing skills and services into dilapidated neighborhoods focusing on generating profit through pursuing social goals and community-embedded impact Bilewicz and Potkanska ; Bilewicz ; Domaradzka et al. To better illustrate the multifaceted character of right to the city frame, Table 1 presents a simple typology of urban initiatives organized by different facets of right to the city around which they mobilize.
As the papers included in this special issue illustrate, the slogan of the right to the city became a common conceptual framework Benford and Snow for activist groups around the globe, enabling mobilization around an alternative vision of the future of cities Mayer et al. Despite all differences, most of the right to the city activists agree in their criticism of the liberalization of markets. Unlike previous generations, however, modern urban activists do not seem to be planning a revolutionary takeover of power, but are working to weaken profit-oriented logic in a pragmatic, concrete and gradual way.
A wide range of research methods and theories were applied to the study of urban civil society actors Mayer and Boudreau Authors working on urban movements drew on the classical theories of social movements Diani ; McAdam et al. While analyzing the history of urban movements, this paper combines several theoretical concepts to allow for a better understanding of urban mobilization phenomena and their actors. First, it fuses the framework of social movements as networks Diani grounded in localities Diani with the concepts of diffusion and translation of ideas, borrowed from authors like Finnemore and Sikkink , Strang and Soule and Sahlin and Wedlin This approach is useful for studying urban civic networks in cities Diani ; Diani et al.
The mechanisms of network emergence can be illustrated by Finnemore and Sikkink concept of organizational platforms, playing the role of network hubs and stabilizing structure. In cases presented in this special issue, urban activists play the role of challengers in their local policy fields, as they focus on contention of an existing order and resistance to mainstream rules, in search of an opportunity to reshape urban power structures or more generally the direction of urban development. Apart from the locally defined opportunity structure, however, we can also point out to the emergence of transnational debate about the right to the city as an important impulse facilitating the mobilization of urban activists in different localities.
This ideological frame, borrowed from Lefebvre by Right to the City Alliance, quickly gained momentum and became a global reference point to geographically scattered local urban initiatives. The first stage of norm life cycle is norm emergence , when norm entrepreneurs are motivated to adopt a norm, either by altruism, empathy, or ideational commitment. Norm entrepreneurs often use organizational platforms Finnemore and Sikkink —either already existing ones or created specifically for a cause—as tools to promote the new norms and to persuade others often governments or other public sector actors to adopt them. As Finnemore and Sikkink point out, when enough actors are convinced, the stage of norm cascade begins, during which multiple actors are motivated to adopt a norm in order to enhance legitimacy or reputation.
This includes politicians, other activists, international organizations, etc. The final stage of the norm life cycle is internalization , where the bureaucratic procedures, the legal system and professional training incorporate the norm so it becomes part of common knowledge. For example, in cases such as Brazil and Poland the norm cascade resulted in the institutionalization of the urban movement claims in the local policy setting Estatuto de la Ciudad de Brasil ; Polish Urban Policy The complexity of the urban reality is reflected in the complexity of urban movements and forms of protests, adapting to specific places, scales and context.
Interestingly, as post-industrial cities are becoming urban regions Vogel and Savitch , the collective action generated by urban movements begins to spread geographically, covering wider areas and addressing both environmental and other spillover effects of urban centers. However, at their core, urban movements remain locally based and focused on the particular needs and conflicts, which gives them fuel for continuous contention. The rapid changes related to the weakening of the state and the economic crisis create a new opening for the radical interpretation of the right to the city, as the demand for the democratization of cities and changes in decision-making practices resonates stronger than before. Although challenging, the changes connected with the refugee crisis and the intensification of various social conflicts may be conducive to the implementation of alternative models of urban development.
However, in the pursuit of politicizing the crisis, urban movements need to act cautiously and systematically, building social legitimacy, while simultaneously lobbying for the democratization of cities. This special issue starts with four papers addressing the idea of right to the city directly and then moves on to discussing diverse housing struggles, ending with a piece on social entrepreneurship. The first article by Eynaud, Juan and Mourey analyzes a case study from France to describe participatory art activities as urban commons practice that allows participants to exercise the collective right to the city.
The second paper by Diani, Ernstson and Jasny applies a network analytic approach to the role of right to the city as a symbol and a broader frame, to understand the patterns of relations between CSOs in Cape Town. The paper by Grazioli and Caciagli presents the case of Roman housing rights movements, their role in developing practice of grassroots urban regeneration and their evolution toward polycentric political actors.
Another take on housing struggles is presented by Florea, Gagyi and Jacobsson in their paper on Bucharest and Budapest, advancing the relational approach to urban mobilization and laying emphasis on different forms of urban collective actions and their relationship-building capacity. The final paper by Molina, Valenzuela-Garcia, Lubbers, Escribano and Lobato discusses the dynamic of the social entrepreneurship field in Catalonia during the crisis, to illustrate how different actors shape values and practices of those environmentally or socially focused organizations.
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More productive and equitable cities are created when the contributions of urban informal workers are recognized, when informal workers are involved in decision-making and rule-setting processes, and when their livelihoods are integrated into local economic and urban plans. WIEGO engages at multiple levels — carrying out action research and focused activities with membership-based organizations MBOs of informal workers in select cities, and bringing the insights and demands of informal workers into global agenda-setting processes. Public space is a public good. However, competing uses of public space cause conflict, and often the most vulnerable users, poor informal workers, are excluded. WIEGO believes that regulated public spaces offer possibilities for diverse uses to co-exist, ultimately making cities more vibrant and inclusive.
Our Public Space for All project, launched in in partnership with Cities Alliance, helps city officials, informal workers and other stakeholders realize the potential of inclusive public spaces. Learn more. It builds the capacity of informal worker leaders and their organizations across multiple sectors, and fosters dialogue between informal workers and municipal authorities. The process resulted in the New Urban Agenda NUA , a document that sets global standards and priorities for future equitable, sustainable urban development.
These efforts are reflected in the NUA document. Held every two years, WUF is the foremost global arena for interaction among policymakers, local government leaders, non-governmental organizations and expert practitioners in the field of sustainable urban development and human settlements. The delegation brought attention to the need for cities to work with informal worker organizations to achieve truly inclusive cities. A full slate of events brought home that message.
A networking event highlighted forced evictions and explored innovative policies and practical approaches to increase spatial, social and economic inclusion. Another presented a case study of how a city slum in western India was redeveloped through a public-private collaboration. Read: Against the Odds: Resilience, Solidarity and Community Spirit Keep Warwick Markets Alive Despite these contributions, informal work is often stigmatized by city authorities and residents as being illegal or unproductive. Read: Including the Excluded: Supporting Informal Workers for More Equal and Productive Cities in the Global South by Martha Chen and Victoria Beard, published by the World Resources Institute Inclusive Cities Work Better More productive and equitable cities are created when the contributions of urban informal workers are recognized, when informal workers are involved in decision-making and rule-setting processes, and when their livelihoods are integrated into local economic and urban plans.