1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Governance (2000 - 2009)

Urban Governance

  • Project from: 2000 to 2001


UNRISD's work on urban governance sought to identify emerging processes for incorporating the voices of the excluded in decision making at the local level. Research on these questions typically included inputs from and, where possible, collaborations among CBOs, NGOs, formal research entities and local authorities.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century more than half of the world's population was living in cities, and by some estimates that proportion will increase to two thirds by 2025. The number of mega cities (cities with populations over 8 million), which are often characterized as "ungovernable" as a result of the seemingly intractable nature and concentration of social problems they encompass, grew from two in 1950 to 21 in 1990. Sixteen of these are in developing counties. By 2015, the number of mega cities is expected to reach 33 with 27 in developing countries.

UNRISD has collaborated with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) to better understand the roles and impacts of community volunteer organizations in combating social problems in metropolitan areas, as well as the constraints that such efforts face. Collaborations began in mid-1994, when UNRISD and UNV launched the project Social Integration at the Grassroots: The Urban or "Pavement" Dimension, to document and analyse the experiences of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs) and volunteer groups in working with vulnerable or marginalized urban populations in 16 cities on four continents. This theme was taken up in another joint project, Volunteer Action and Local Democracy: A Partnership for a Better Urban Future (VALD).

Funding for the above research was provided by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and the Government of the Netherlands.

UNRISD research was also concerned with governance aspects of urban sustainable development in developing countries. Activities related to this theme included the commissioning of work for the N–AERUS 2000 Workshop in Geneva ("Cities of the South: Sustainable for Whom?"), Geneva 2000 (the Five-year review of the World Summit for Social Development) and Istanbul+5 (the Five-year review of Habitat II). The volume, From Unsustainable to Inclusive Cities, brings together the results of eight research undertakings on this theme. The volume can be consulted by selecting the link to Publications, on the right.

The funding for this work was provided by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation.