Pathways as a response to inequalities

GOLD VI - Recommendations for achieving urban and territorial equality


GOLD VI has discussed the arenas in which local and regional governments (LRGs) are taking action to address urban and territorial inequalities, with multiple chapters presenting different pathways for LRGs to join in trajectories for change and implement future-oriented courses of action. This text begins by revisiting the main findings that each pathway to equality has offered in this Report: Commoning, Caring, Connecting, Renaturing, Prospering and Democratizing. It then offers some reflections on the challenges of scaling up these pathways in transformative ways.

As noted in this Report, the challenge of tackling urban and territorial inequalities is mainly a question of governance and cannot be exclusively addressed through sectorial or siloed approaches. GOLD VI recognizes that addressing structural inequalities and current unsustainable development trends requires planning and building alternative trajectories of action that can turn sustainable and rights-based visions into practical realities. These courses of action are the pathways proposed by GOLD VI. The complex and interconnected nature of current trends in inequality invites LRGs (local and regional governments) to find spaces for action through multiple, interconnected pathways: Commoning, Caring, Connecting, Renaturing, Prospering and Democratizing.

Providing access to adequate housing and basic services, in response to the global social crisis, and recognizing the needs and aspirations of diverse individuals and collectives, lie at the heart of promoting greater urban and territorial equality. It is therefore the duty of LRGs to deal with the current housing crisis, and its different manifestations in cities and territories, and also the consequences of the financialization of housing, land and services. Understanding the multiple aspects of inequality manifested in these challenges, Commoning practices offer LRGs a significant opportunity to redefine the social contract and to advance towards greater urban equality. They can do this by fostering collective efforts that guarantee access to decent housing and basic services for everyone, which must include not only access to water and sanitation, but also to culture and collective goods, in general. LRGs can engage with commoning practices in several ways to productively implement this pathway by: advocating and recognizing, protecting and regulating, investing in, remunicipalizing, and scaling these collective practices.

Among the many ongoing difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, the care crisis has probably been one of the most visible, particularly within the generalized crisis of social protection. One central dimension of urban equality lies in acknowledging the usually invisibilized, gendered and racialized labour of care. Alongside recognizing existing caring activities, LRGs can acknowledge that many functions within their mandate can promote cities and territories that care for their residents. These functions include questions such as the provision of education, health care and security, and working with segments of the population with particular needs, such as children, older people, migrants, people with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ people, from an intersectional perspective. Importantly, this also implies highlighting the needs of those who have historically carried the burden of caring tasks: mainly women, racialized persons and migrants. Caring is therefore a pathway via which LRGs can help to promote equality. This can be done in different ways, such as through interventions that prioritize proximity in their responses and that focus on: recognizing and democratizing care provision; redistributing and decommodifying the provision of care services; and reducing the burden of care activities and defeminizing care. The fragmentation and socio-spatial segregation of cities and territories is one of the most visible manifestations of inequalities and presents challenges for territorial and urban planning, urban design, infrastructure and transport.

These are usually old challenges that have had different trajectories in different countries, and which have often been shaped by particular colonial, economic and/or socio-political backgrounds. Today, more than ever before, cities and territories are confronting dramatic gaps in terms of mobility and access to infrastructure, as well as a pressing digital divide. Within this context, Connecting has become a pathway to ensure adequate, sustainable, physical and digital connectivity for everyone and to guarantee access to livelihoods, services, public spaces and the different components that make it possible to lead a dignified life. By enabling physical and digital encounters and connectivity in a way that recognizes diverse needs and aspirations, as well as formal and informal practices, LRGs can make a huge contribution to the ability of human beings to communicate with each other. This can also foster values such as caring, creativity, innovation, trust and tolerance. Addressing the climate emergency and environmental degradation that humanity is currently confronting is certainly a central pillar for building more sustainable and equal urban and territorial futures. This implies that LRGs should make every effort to mainstream the challenges of pursuing just ecological transitions and decarbonization, and transcending the existing economic dependence on natural resource extraction and carbon-intensive development. T

he Renaturing pathway has emerged as an approach to address both socio-economic inequalities and socio-environmental injustices. It can do this by creating a renewed and sustainable relationship between humankind and the ecosystem and natural resources. LRGs can promote this pathway by breaking with path-dependency and lock-in trajectories of urban growth, carbonization, environmental degradation and exploitation by: promoting the protection of natural resources, resilient communities, and rehabilitation in-situ; protecting the use of land for common purposes and safeguarding it from speculation; adopting sustainable procurement mechanisms; regulating land and real estate to prevent green gentrification; and securing the right to housing and land in order to prevent urban displacement.

Sustainable economic growth is one of the key ways to build more equal cities and territories. At present, economic development is not only hindered by extractivist development models and increasing inequalities between territories, but also by the increased segmentation of labour markets and the precarization of working conditions and livelihoods. Understanding the multidimensional character of a prosperity-based agenda, LRGs have a key role to play by advancing a Prospering pathway. It invites LRGs to support and guarantee the creation of decent and sustainable jobs, livelihoods and local economic development that are more inclusive and adapt to the diverse conditions of different social identities. These efforts can also help to promote social, green and circular economies, as well as inter-territorial cooperation, to foster more sustainable and equitable endogenous economic growth.

Democracy and equality are deeply interconnected. It is well acknowledged that the growth of inequalities has been closely linked to global and local threats to democracy. It is not, therefore, surprising that as inequalities increase, we witness growing calls to improve and strengthen the existing mechanisms of representation and decision-making. In this context, the Democratizing pathway offers a lever with which to press for more inclusive principles of governance that recognize everyone’s voice, and especially those of the historically and structurally marginalized. LRGs can promote greater equality by encouraging citizen engagement through a range of innovative means of local participation, which may include: instituting political quotas, creating partnerships, creating cross-sectoral coordination mechanisms, recognizing diverse forms of knowledge and data-collection, and incorporating democratic values and rights-based approaches into all LRGs activities.


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