GOLD VI - Political recommendations : Pathways towards achieving urban and territorial equality


Cités et Gouvernements Locaux Unis - United Cities and Local Governments (CGLU - UCLG)

Five principles are proposed as political recommendations to help advance urban and territorial equality. These recommendations are the result of the intersection between the different pathways and the principles discussed.

Principle 1: A rights-based approach

The pathways to equality discussed in GOLD VI require a grounded rights-based approach if they are to flourish in ways that recognize local people’s needs and aspirations. The pledge made by LRGs to respect, protect and fulfil human rights obligations and commitments has been converted into several ambitious initiatives, networks and mechanisms. However, the different pathways discussed in this Report invite LRGs to embrace an expansive approach to rights that goes beyond these obligations. They encourage LRGs not only to push for a new generation of essential rights, but also to recognize the multiple forms in which collectives are demanding and advancing entitlements on the ground. LRGs can make a substantial contribution to the rights and capabilities of human beings in order to advance equality and sustainability.

They can do so:

(a) by fostering solidarity and care, creativity and innovation, trust and tolerance, and democracy and civic life;

(b) by facilitating the rights of communities to access basic services and protect the commons;

(c) by guaranteeing connectivity and livelihoods that ensure the inclusion of different communities within the urban fabric;

(d) by ensuring just ecological transitions that support dignified life and sustainable futures.

Adopting a rights-based approach to urban and territorial equality invites LRGs to actively engage with the rights of present and future generations, in relation to a range of entitlements, which include both rights recognized by international conventions, and also new essential rights:

(a) the rights to water and sanitation, adequate housing, education and health;

(b) the right to care, whose importance has been evidenced by the current pandemic;

(c) rights related to accessibility and sustainable mobility for all;

(d) digital rights, and the right to time for personal and leisure activities;

(e) the right to enjoy a healthy environment;

(f) the right to decent work;

(g) the right to participate in public life and decision-making processes; and, overall,

(h) the right to the protection of human rights for structurally discriminated people and groups with specific needs, such as women, children, the victims of violence, LGBTQIA+ people, older people, persons with disabilities, migrants, and people in charge of care activities, among others. LRGs must regard this expanded understanding of rights as representing the core values for a renewed social contract that will advance the Right to the City.

Furthermore, LRGs have the opportunity to address inequalities by recognizing and supporting civil society-led efforts which advocate, and seek to expand, the rights of groups that have historically been systematically marginalized. As discussed earlier in this Report, everyday practices have a crucial role in expanding rights from the ground. This includes cultural occupations, saving groups, self-enumerations and mapping in informal settlements, commoning land, and other processes of social production of habitat. When adequately recognized and supported by LRGs, these practices can create synergies and extend the fulfilment of other rights, such as access to decent work and/or adequate housing. This implies understanding the ways in which rights are experienced in different territories, and recognizing diversity across gender, class, age, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, migration status and sexuality, amongst others.

Principle 2: Addressing the spatial dimension of inequalities

The way that space is organized is not only a mirror of existing inequalities, but also a driver of their reproduction. It is therefore in the planning and management of space that LRGs must help to defend and promote rights. Dealing with the spatial manifestations and causes of disparities should therefore be central to local strategies that seek to advance the interconnected pathways discussed in GOLD VI.

More sustainable, responsive and fairer planning mechanisms are consequently some of the most powerful tools that can be used for addressing socio-spatial inequality and fragmentation. These include instruments to promote greater social and functional mixing, pluricentric cities, more inclusive public and green spaces that recognize the social function of land, and universal access to affordable and quality public services. Prioritizing proximity lies at the core of this approach. Guaranteeing neighbourhood access to services, livelihoods, infrastructure and care facilities, at the appropriate scale, is crucial for ensuring more equal conditions for everyone. Importantly, LRGs can promote proximity as a powerful means of supporting those who receive and provide care. This strategy can be used for reducing the use of motorized vehicles and travel; reducing CO2 emissions; supporting opportunities for local livelihoods that are compatible with different identities and ways of living; and strengthening local civic life in ways that promote democracy and participation.

Urban and territorial planning can also offer a way to implement spatial strategies and to decouple urban development from environmental degradation. This requires several mechanisms that can foster more equal and sustainable territorial development which is compatible with just ecological transitions.

These include, amongst others:

(a) renewing existing approaches to urban-rural reciprocity and accessibility;

(b) providing key services and sustainable infrastructure;

(c) promoting active and clean mobility and connectivity;

(d) seeking and promoting complementarity and solidarity between territories;

(e) advancing local strategies for food security, sustainable energy and waste management;

(f) rebuilding the interaction between urbanization and the environment from a renaturing perspective.

All in all, when looking to advance pathways to equality, the centrality of the spatial dimension invites LRGs to understand the interconnected nature of interventions at different scales. This involves engaging with interventions that operate at the intra-, inter-urban and regional scales and should include advancing, for example, equalization mechanisms and national urban policies. Generally, this calls for identifying what is the most adequate scale of intervention, based on the principle of subsidiarity, and supporting democratic and community-led mechanisms, such as area-based plans.

Principle 3: A new culture of subnational governance

The pathways to equality discussed in GOLD VI require a new culture of subnational governance that is able to deal with the interconnected and complex nature of inequalities. This new governance culture needs to start by rethinking the role that LRGs play in addressing disparities and socio-spatial asymmetries, as well as in guaranteeing rights. This role, as the different chapters of this Report have revealed, implies understanding LRGs as active guarantors and not just as service providers. Their mission is to put into place legal and institutional mechanisms that ensure their developmental role, while also guaranteeing everyone’s rights, challenging asymmetries of power, and redressing inequalities. To perform these multiple functions, LRGs need certain capabilities – namely, power, resources and capacities – that must be facilitated by an appropriate enabling institutional environment.

To assume these roles, LRGs require effective political, administrative and fiscal decentralization. Among other considerations, this implies building an adequate architecture of collaborative governance that is based on the principles of subsidiarity, transparency and accountability. It also requires effective mechanisms that can facilitate multilevel governance. Importantly, appropriate institutional capabilities need to be in place to allow the promotion of integrated approaches. They also need to prevent the fragmentation of different governance structures across different territories and cities, and also different services and agendas. This is particularly evident in the fragmentation of caring services. Another example is the cost paid by the most disadvantaged sectors of the population as a result of the mismatch between connectivity, service provision, environmental policies and decent work programmes. Approaches such as “collibration” and other strategies for the “governance of governance” are crucial for facilitating these efforts, and especially when they are related to complex challenges such as those posed by the climate emergency.

The new culture of governance needed to fulfil the role of LRGs as guarantors requires certain preconditions, such as the existence of appropriate accountability and transparency. It is only then that it will be possible to mobilize participatory processes that can deepen democracy. Achieving this first entails incorporating participatory mechanisms into decision making, such as participatory planning or local assemblies. It also implies the consolidation of a culture of governance that is able to recognize existing practices and demands that are present outside formal governance structures.

It is necessary to:

(a) engage with, and coproduce, empowering civil society initiatives;

(b) support grassroots practices of commoning and renaturing, and diverse forms of city-making;

(c) recognize and support what are usually invisibilized and gendered care activities;

(d) integrate formal and informal practices related to connectivity, livelihoods, culture, energy and/ or waste management;

(e) meaningfully engage with processes of local democracy, and facilitate the right conditions and capacities for them to deal with asymmetries of power, amongst others.

Doing all of this also implies ensuring that all the required organizational conditions are in place for the effective delivery of adequate local public services to everyone and in ways that address existing disparities. Importantly, it also entails creating meaningful partnerships amongst civil society, the private sector and the public sector, through both formal and informal initiatives. These partnerships need a governance culture which is capable of establishing collaborative mechanisms that can ensure fair and effective alliances. LRGs need to recognize the existence of unequal conditions and then engage across different sectors. They also need to create supporting systems for historically marginalized voices – including those of women, structurally marginalized groups, traditional authorities, older people and young people. These mechanisms should allow these groups to engage more meaningfully in participatory processes and thereby combat entrenched power asymmetries.

Principle 4: Adequate financing and investment architecture

Without the appropriate public resources, any effort to tackle disparities will fall short of its goal. The localization of financing mechanisms is instrumental to LRGs being able to deliver their mandate of providing services and infrastructure to advance pathways to equality. In order to support Commoning, Caring, Connecting, Renaturing, Prospering and Democratizing pathways, it is necessary to develop new approaches which include actionable measures and which are able to unlock the necessary financing. LRGs need to go one step further in this regard: they require a governance culture and financial architecture that will increase their resources and enable them to build a new social contract with their citizens. Achieving this will involve recognizing, and mobilizing, the value generated by local stakeholders.

To this end, there is first a need

(a) to consolidate the local fiscal space;

(b) to strengthen LRG’s own revenue sources;

(c) to increase and stabilize formula-based fiscal transfers from national governments;

(d) to enable LRGs greater access to borrowing from banks, international development partners and the private sector.

On the one hand, national institutions need to develop new financial models as part of their national urban and territorial policies and to reinforce technical capabilities that support the localization of financing. They need to ensure adequate and reliable intergovernmental fiscal transfers to LRGs, and that these arrive on time and are coupled with transparent equalization mechanisms that ensure more balanced territorial development. Special consideration should also be given to small and intermediate local government bodies and to lagging regions, in order not to prevent these territories from being behind. In response to their needs, national and local intermediations for subnational financing need to be strengthened (through, for example: subnational development banks, local government funding agencies, local green banks, and special purpose vehicles). Accelerated adaptation to climate change implies that the local, regional and national levels will need supplementary financing mechanisms. They will also need to establish new partnerships between different sectors and scales, especially in developing countries. On the other hand, LRGs in many regions need to strengthen their capacities and to become more creditworthy, gain greater authority, and achieve autonomy over their own-source revenues and the rebuilding of their own fiscal spaces (e.g. improving tax collection and land value capture).

This is a precondition for empowering them to use a wide array of financing mechanisms, including equity and debt financing, conducted either directly or via intermediaries. The rules of the game must be renewed to create local financial ecosystems and partnerships that are able to mutually support each other and which can work to secure financing for urban and territorial investments at the local, national and international levels. Local financial ecosystems are crucial for boosting endogenous territorial development. This can be achieved through: promoting livelihoods that recognize different identities; financing adequate connecting and basic service infrastructure; and promoting balanced territorial development and economic activities that guarantee just ecological transitions. Importantly, an adequate financial infrastructure also requires the effective monitoring of public resources, accountability and transparency. This can be delivered through the use of inclusive mechanisms such as participatory budgets and open government tools. These approaches must be based on strengthening local alliances, building capacity and developing participation to mobilize a wider range of resources. This means, on the one hand, valuing the diversity of the non-monetary, urban and territorial resources produced by everyday practices, and social networks, and the radical innovations taking place in territories. On the other hand, it means supporting the financial needs of those spaces and groups, as a way to increase the social and equality returns associated with their activities. This includes, for example, recognizing and providing financial support to the, usually non-monetized, work performed by carers and the social fabric that underpins their activities. This approach requires LRGs to advance in strategic and collaborative partnerships and to deliver more inclusive financing systems. These partnerships should be vehicles for recognizing the existing value produced by local stakeholders. This should include their reproductive value, how they help to deepen democracy, and promoting commoning, connecting, and/or renaturing. Importantly, this recognition calls for LRGs to innovate and to find more inclusive ways of distributing financial resources and integrating the formal, informal and hybrid sectors.

Principle 5: Engaging with time : past, present and future

The notion of pathways inevitably invites LRGs to rethink their strategies and interventions in ways that engage with time frames that extend beyond electoral cycles. Addressing inequalities entails recognizing the different entanglements of urban and territorial disparities with long-term trajectories, and engaging with time accordingly. In order to fully flourish, the pathways to equality discussed in this Report must meaningfully engage with questions relating to the past, present and future. Inequalities have been (re)produced over long periods and through different histories that underpin current asymmetries of power, structural constraints and patterns of exclusion. Recognizing these unequal historical legacies is an essential first step in the process of dealing with the roots of inequalities. It is therefore essential to engage in processes of active reparation related to dynamics of exclusion and oppression created and sustained by colonial, classist, racist, ableist and patriarchal trajectories.

For LRGs this implies, amongst others:

(a) considering the historically uneven, and gendered, distribution of the burden of care activities;

(b) responding to the historical intersection between environmental degradation, natural resource extraction, colonialism and social inequalities;

(c) actively repairing the uneven distribution of climate-related threats that affect cities, and particularly the residents of informal settlements, migrants, and historically marginalized groups.

Contemporary inequalities are grounded in these historical trajectories, which also reflect the ways that different individuals and groups relate to their current use of time. Giving attention to time in the present invites LRGs to address the problem of time poverty and the uneven distribution of the demand for, and scarcity of, time suffered by people of different genders, classes, races, abilities, and ages. When advancing towards better urban and territorial connectivity, LRGs should pay special attention to the way that infrastructure and investment are related to uneven pressure on time in different areas, and between different social groups. Likewise, interventions to promote decent livelihood opportunities, adequate housing, more public space, and better services should also allow a fairer use of time, particularly for certain structurally marginalized groups. Finally, LRGs will only be able to address inequalities by being bold when planning for the future. The pathways discussed above will only be possible if they rely on cocreated, radical visions of a sustainable and more equitable future. This implies that LRGs should take strategic action to deal with the previously discussed structural constraints, while also supporting radical incremental practices on the ground. Organized civil society and collaborative initiatives are currently building alternatives through everyday practices of commoning, caring, connecting, prospering, renaturing and democratizing. While in isolation these may seem insufficient, when properly recognized, supported and scaled up, they can reach tipping points and help bring about structural change. In other words, LRGs can support forms of radical incrementalism and expand upon them, over time, in ways that will transform bold local visions into more equitable futures.


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