1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Governance (2000 - 2009)

Volunteer Action and Local Democracy + 5: Partnerships for a Better Urban Future?

Date: 5 Jun 2001

  • Time:
  • Location: Conference Room 2, United Nations, New York, USA
  • Donor(s): Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC)
  • Project Title: Urban Governance


Five years ago, on the eve of Habitat II, researchers and community activists from Johannesburg, Lima, Mumbai, Chicago, East St. Louis, Ho Chi Minh City, Jinja, and São Paulo met to review the preliminary findings of their research on the state of collaborations between community organizations and local authorities. The main concern was to see to what extent such collaborations were leading to sustainable improvements of life and livelihood conditions for low-income and marginalized groups. Contrary to the early expectations of the organizers and researchers, the case studies showed that many of the collaborations were extremely fragile, flawed and often fraught with conflict. Indeed, from the perspective of the neighborhoods involved, many appeared to have a limited future.

Since Habitat II, if not in part because of it and other global summits, the call for community-local authority partnerships has grown ever stronger. All the major development institutions and most of the associations of cities and local authorities have emphasized such mechanisms as crucial components of solutions to the seemingly intractable social and economic problems facing many cities.

Five years have passed and urban problems continue to grow. UNRISD thus asked the researchers to go back into the field to ask if the partnerships reported on in 1996 had matured and overcome their early limitations, and if not, why not? In this workshop, the researchers described the current state of the collaborations that still existed from 1996, examined what happened to those that had disappeared, explained whether the groups involved five years earlier were still involved or had moved to other issues, etc. The researchers also identified why some of the causes or community groups disappeared over time, and how this affected collaborations more generally. The positive and negative impacts of globalization on collaborations were addressed as well.

This UNRISD workshop for Istanbul + 5 was carried out with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC).