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Empowering Bangladeshi slum dwellers through transformative city wide resilience planning - Post expert feedback - updated Dec 18

Forge a city wide systemic understanding of urban climate resilience challenges affecting slums in Bangladesh

Photo of Omar

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

We are addressing the lack of slum dwellers meaningful participation in resilience planning and decision making in Bangladeshi cities by establishing city resilience forums in three secondary cities in Bangladesh linked to the planning, investment and overall decision making of the local governments - Sirajganj, Narayanganj & Comilla.

Integrating environmental concerns, such as city wetland, coastal management and climate change, in planning and decision-making processes through community engagement and dialogue mechanisms is a crucial tool to ensure environmental sustainability and poverty reduction. The effects of climate change and urbanization impacts on wetland and coastal areas will need to be addressed through this engagement --- sea level rise, saline intrusion of water tables, recurring floods and sanitation contaminating water supplies in slums.

Our approach involves in the first instance organizing currently fragmented slum dweller communities around existing data on resilience in their communities linked to housing, services and livelihoods. Through community organization and strengthening of an organized slum dweller federation to organize around resilience challenges facing their community, we will convene city-level resilience forums which build active and informed citizens and provide a platform for regular engagement with local authorities for more risk informed resilient outcomes directly informing planning and investment decisions of municipalities.

WHO BENEFITS?

The initiative will establish a sustainable community platform for at least 25,000 slum dwellers in the 3 secondary cities in Bangladesh (Sirajganj, Narayanganj & Comilla) to directly influence local government decision making and investment concerning climate change and resilience issues which impact their daily lives, whilst leveraging larger resources from National Urban Poverty Reduction and Informal Settlements programmes being rolled out by the GoB, World Bank, DFID & UNDP in these cities.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

Despite an increasing focus on the most vulnerable and poor residents of cities, there has been little interaction of the global resilience community on the issue of informality. This is particularly apparent in developing countries such as Bangladesh where climate-vulnerable cities are concentrated, where cities are characterized by high levels of population density, slum concentration, informal settlements with chronic habitat inadequacies and dependence of the urban poor on informal livelihoods characterised by unreliable and low levels of income. A high proportion of urban population in the country are vulnerable to shocks and stresses (e.g. assets damaged by periodic heavy rains or flooding).

The project will support the establishment of city wide forums in three secondary cities in Bangladesh to build active and informed citizens and provide a platform for regular engagement with local authorities to ensure climate related shocks and stresses are integrated within city resilience strategies. This shall provide active citizenship of the urban poor in city level investment strategies and settlement plans working with the affiliates from the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), leveraging larger resources from flagship national urban programmes from the World Bank, DFID and UNDP. These forums will serve as essential spaces to unite currently fragmented slum dweller movements in the city, for reflection on community urban resilience data, for dialogue between communities and authorities on local climate policy and strategy formulation.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

The Cities Alliance is a global partnership for urban poverty reduction and the promotion of the role of cities in sustainable development. The Cities Alliance partnership brings together a broad range of members, including local authorities, national governments and slum dweller associations.

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

Since 2010, the Cities Alliance has been supporting slum communities in secondary towns in 5 countries – Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Burkina Faso and Vietnam - to negotiate with local governments to access services from improving habitat conditions in their settlements. This is being achieved through communities increased participation in governance and partnership with other stakeholders for improved delivery of services. The focused is on gaining ‘right to the city’ for slum communities and addressing chronic habitat service deficiencies in their settlements. Delivery. These programmes do not address the climate change issues and are not strongly focused on building resilience of communities and cities to climate change shocks. This is the additionality that is proposed to be built into the Project in Bangladesh thereby strengthening communities to address various resilience factors in partnership with various other urban stakeholders.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

Generally cities view climate change response as the subject within the purview of national governments and/or adopt a top-down approach in incorporating resilience aspects in planning and city development. The project proposes to adopt a participatory, bottom-up and collaborative approach to resilience to build strong local ownership and promote concerted efforts to addressing the climate change challenges. These success factors are generally ignored in city development and the urban agencies tend to adopt a siloed approach. The bottom-up approach would help identify ‘hot-spots’ in the city and also local solutions to addressing them. The approach would help cities to be resilient to climate change shocks, in the bargain protect the urban assets and contribute to sustained economic growth. In addition, slum communities would be able to engage with various city stakeholders to address the chronic and acute service deficiencies in their settlements, thereby improving their habitat conditions and quality of life, in general.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

The multi-stakeholder engagement would help find local solutions to chronic resilience and climate change shocks. These solutions are yet to be found in the absence of city-wide hot-spot mapping and a city platform for a dialogue with various urban actors in the city. Concerted efforts to addressing city-wide challenges would also require engagement of national, provincial and parastatal agencies and drawing on resources available under various development programmes. The matrix for such complex implementation arrangement and multi-sourced flow of funds has not been drawn and tested in Bangladesh within the country’s legal and institutional framework and would need to be addressed.

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

The key success factors in the proposed project are assigning central role to elected local government, community participation in city planning and development, and convergence of action of various stakeholders. Although Pourshava Act has been legislated assigning more functions to elected local governments, it is still in works and effective decentralization is yet to happen in Bangladesh. In addition, and more importantly, local governments lack capacity to engage with communities and other stakeholders for planning and developing resilient cities. The capacity issues would be sought to be addressed in the proposed project through delivery of handholding support to municipalities.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

Promote a participatory, bottom-up and collaborative approach to planning and developing resilient cities in Bangladesh, focusing on secondary towns. This is sought to be achieved by designing this proposed project to complement the DFID-funded National Urban Poverty Reduction Programme and World bank-funded Pro-Poor Slums Integration Project. This would ensure not only investments for building resilience in the 3 secondary towns but also an opportunity to scale up the approach to other secondary towns being/proposed to be covered under these programmes. A communications strategy will also be developed to disseminate the learning from the 3 selected secondary towns to scale up the approach.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

The ultimate objective is to develop a culture of partnership between organized slum dwellers and local governments enabling the mobilization of both community talents and resources and local government institutional capacities better enabling the planning for and implementation of resilient cities in Bangladesh. Our next step to get there is to create the institutional space that enables slum dwellers and local governments to build an understanding of each others objectives and ultimately working towards finding common solutions.

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Omar,

Below is some feedback from our experts. We'd love to hear you response.

How will you avoid this idea being a slum-specific initiative without a genuine city-wide dimension and the engagement of government?

Having studied another such initiative (in India) at very close quarters I would recommend that the team running this initiative- A) Aim to adopt a mode of programming/project deliver that is 'adaptive. This essentially means that there should iterative cycles of learning and reflection that provide a space to correct the course of action that has been adopted. B) Build spaces of engagement with slum communities that are genuinely participatory and where the opinions of the most vulnerable are assimilated. C) Understand the incentives for local government actors to participate in the initiative. These can sometimes be material & quite personal (publicity,international travel etc.)

Photo of Omar
Team

Dear Chioma,

The review questions from the experts has really helped us refine the project further with our partners in Bangladesh!

The project has a narrow remit to strengthen the quality of dialogue between slum dwellers and the Pourashava in 3 secondary cities via the mechanism of a Municipal Development Forum. The proposed activity and its focus on resilient slum communities has been prepared in the perspective of high slum concentration in the 3 selected secondary towns in Bangladesh. The project, however, avoids exclusive approach to developing resilient slum communities and proposes to engage with multiple city stakeholders, including the local government, to integrate the communities-driven slums resilience plan within a city development strategy. The proposed city urban forum, in each of the 3 selected towns, will provide the platform for collaboration between multi-stakeholders, integration of slums resilience plan with city development strategy and negotiation for city action to address challenges faced by slum communities. The project is proposed to be linked to the national programmes for urban poverty reduction and pro-poor slums integration project, and the city urban forum would provide the platform for positioning local governments in centric role for implementation of the national programmes in the selected secondary towns.

Global experience illustrates that such dialogues tend to mature over time. Typically the dialogue is catalyzed by very local issues, which soon start to find connections with the functioning of the city as a whole. The dialogue is useful for slum dwellers as they find common purpose and for officials as they learn about neglected parts of the city but most of all they seek partnerships between slum dweller organizations and government officials. 
  
We fully appreciate understand that there cannot be a cookie cutter approach. The Cities Alliance has learnt a great deal about community organization and public community dialogue over the years in multiple contexts in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These lessons include ensuring that both sides of the dialogue receive support in understanding each other. In this light the project will monitor progress and adapt the method and process to ensure the best possible fit to the local context.

In detail:

A. The project proposes a cyclical approach, adopting a step-by-step approach from ‘Identify’ stage to ‘invest stage’. Investments and learning in initial cycle of activities would influence priority setting in ‘identify and agree’ stages in subsequent project cycles.

B. Community development Committees, created under the UPPR Programme from DFID/UNDP in each of the slum settlements in the 3 selected towns, are proposed to be strengthened though introduction and capacity development around the concepts of resilience and handholding support to become the platform for community engagement.

C. Incentives for local government participation and leadership in city urban forums include strengthening the quality and responsiveness of service delivery and other support to often hard to reach and “invisible” communities. The proposed linkage between the project and national programmes also provides the local governments with a delivery platform to attract international and domestic climate finance as well as influence the implementation of large international programmes from the World Bank and DFID/UNDP in their towns.
 
How does our idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

Each and every slum is part of the functioning of the city. Slums however by virtue of exclusion tend to be the most susceptible to climate related shocks and stresses. The city forums will bring these issues to the table and will explore ways in which the services, environmental, economic and community systems can better include the needs of the urban poor and explore how city governance can provide a better platform for voice for and partnership with the urban poor.

Rather than being a separate standalone forum and resilient plan, we will refine the process so that the outputs of the forum dialogue and planning processes will be integrated into existing city wide development strategies and budgets to ensure alignment into the broader planning and investment system.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Omar,

Thanks so much for your detailed response! I'm curious, could you tell us a little more about out what a handholding approach means as it relates to members of the local government with limited capacity?

Amplify support is 18 months long. For this project, what do you hope would be achieved in this time period?

Photo of Omar
Team

Hi Chioma,

Again very useful and important questions for the teams in Brussels and Bangladesh!

Handholding support would specifically include back-up technical support by the Project team (Cities Alliance and the partners - United Cities Local Governments Asia Pacific for local governments and Asian Coalition for Housing Rights for the slum dweller federation) to the city stakeholders to supplement their capacity to discuss and prepare a city resilience plan, and implement community driven projects to address the priority city shocks and stresses under those plans. The handholding support is in variance to the consultancy approach –the former is a form of capacity building through on-the-job training to lead the process and achieve the deliverables while latter is focused only on the deliverable.
 
Regarding the second question - The primary outputs during the 18 months:

- Shared understanding in the city(ies) of resilience issues and what it means operationally for slum communities within a city wide perspective.
In terms of city, we define this in functional terms so it does not stop at the administrative boundaries. This is very important for addressing resilience challenges.
- Strengthened capacity of communities to prepare settlement improvement plans to address both chronic resilience issues and climate change shocks.
- Dynamic City Urban Forum setup and consultation processes installed and institutionalized among the city stakeholders (slum dwellers, middle class, local government, private sector, etc.)
- Enhanced capacity of city stakeholders in preparation of a participatory city resilience plan
- Participatory city resilience plan integrated with city wide development strategy, sector plans, budget and statutory spatial plan.
- Increased financial support to deliver against the resilience plan in the long term through continued negotiated development support between the local government and organized slum dweller associations through integration of cities into World Bank national slum upgrading programme and DFID/UNDP national urban programme (both which commence design in earnest in 2016).

Hope this helps!

Omar

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

It does, thank you! 

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