Thursday, 23 January 2014

Making the Urban Poor Safer: Lessons from Nairobi and Mumbai

By Jean Pierre Tranchant

Nairobi and Mumbai are very good examples of highly unequal megacities. 40% of Nairobi's inhabitants and 60% of Mumbai are slum-dwellers; in Nairobi it is estimated that half of the people live on about 1% of the land area. Yet both cities are also very modern metropolises with plentiful opportunities to offer; are key engines of growth, and are poised to recieve even more people coming from rural areas or smaller towns.

Both cities are also affected by urban violence, including crime and (ethnic) riots. These different types of urban violence are inherently linked. In both Nairobi and Mumbai, neighbourhoods where riots or post-electoral violence occurred tend to have prevalent crime and gang activities rooted in poverty.
Research was done by IDS researchers in urban Maharashtra and IDS and CHRIPS researchers in Nairobi, which included the use of original data, the participation of key local actors, and extensive desk-based review, on how we can make the urban poor safer. A policy brief summarising the main lessons learned has now been published as well as two longer evidence reports for each case study

IDS Evidence Report 17 Addressing and Mitigating ViolenceUnemployment, Service Provision and Violence Reduction Policies in Urban Maharashtra
Jean Pierre Tranchant 2013
IDS Evidence Report 39 Addressing and Mitigating Violence
Missing the Point:Violence Reduction and Policy Misadventures in Nairobi’s Poor Neighbourhoods
Mutuma Ruteere, Patrick Mutahi, Becky Mitchell and Jeremy Lind November 2013 [1]

We draw some key lessons from the research:
  1. Existence of a strong connection between vulnerability and violenceIn Nairobi and Mumbai, urban violence concentrates in the poorest areas where lack of employment, adequate housing and public goods, and individual and collective coping strategies are most acute. As a result of these vulnerabilities, criminal violence and protection provided through hybrid criminal organisations in Nairobi have become a way of life in the city’s poor neighbourhoods. Vigilante groups mushroomed from the late 1990s in response to worsening security in poor neighbourhoods and ineffectual, corrupt, or altogether absent policing of these areas. Original data in Mumbai and urban Maharashtra suggests that, even among  violence-prone areas, those where the lack of service provision and unemployment are most acute are also those most affected by episodes of violence. Within violence-prone areas, it is the most socially and economically vulnerable households who suffer most from disruptions caused by the presence of urban violence.
  2. To tackle urban violence, policies must address the vulnerability-violence nexusPrevailing responses to violence and crime in Nairobi’s poor neighbourhoods assume that there is a lack of law and order and that more robust policing and tougher laws can increase security. Police action in Maharashtra is also disconnected from development efforts, as seen in the absence of thinking on safety issues in the slum relocation and rehabilitation schemes. In urban Maharashtra, we found that concerns about crime and riots are second only to unemployment (pdf); and given that conventional development policies are bound to have effects on safety and crime, such a disjointed approach is unwelcome.There have been efforts such as the Safer Nairobi Initiative, which was endorsed by the Nairobi City Council, that aspire to a more coordinated effort to improve urban security by involving agencies and departments with mandates to deliver public services and create work opportunities. While these have had mixed outcomes, the spirit of such efforts to develop a joined-up approach is essential to improve security for the urban poor.
  3. While top-down joined-up approach proves difficult to implement, community-led initiatives have had successSlum-dwellers routinely link up issues of urban vulnerability and safety. As a result, a number of community-led initiatives aimed at improving safety through vulnerability have emerged. In Nairobi, the GettoGreen initiative includes clearing public dumpsites and starting micro-enterprises for youths such as carwashes. The group’s chair explained, ‘If you are economically stable, your community will be stable. Having money prevents us from needing to steal or from being manipulated by politicians.’ (See this slideshow: How can providing access to basic services and economic opportunities improve security for people living in slums in Nairobi?). 

    In Mumbai, more formal initiatives such as the Slum Police Panchayats (SPP) and Mohalla Committees attempt to bring together slum dwellers and police to improve safety. The SPP consists of a long-term partnership between one community police officer and 10 representatives of slum-dwellers (seven women and three men). At the heart of the SPP is the idea that the social distance between slum-dwellers and police is too high and that the former have a wealth of local knowledge on the best ways to improve local safety that the police could benefit from.

To conclude, we found that there is a strong need to (i) generate data on violence in development processes; (ii) to learn from previous institutional efforts and (iii) to seriously engage and help evaluating current small-scale community initiatives that have the potential to link up effectively safety with issues of vulnerabilities, as well as linking vulnerable citizens with police and institutional actors. Concerted actions between citizens, state, builders and urban planners are unlikely to succeed if root causes of powerlessness and social distance are not tackled.


[1] Interested readers can also the read the following policy briefing on our conceptual approach: Understanding and Tackling Violence Outside of Armed Conflict Settings

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Economics: Part of problem, or part of the solution?

by Allister McGregor
Allister McGargeor

Leonardo DiCaprio, are you part of the solution or part of the problem? The film, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is receiving very positive reviews: it portrays and caricatures the behaviour of ‘out of control’ capitalism. Apparently (I have not seen it yet) it does not overtly judge this behaviour and comically portrays the possible returns to a ruthless and unscrupulous pursuit of wealth that some still dream of. It’s a comedy and a caricature, but this is still essentially what many experts see as necessary for the continued growth of the global economy.

The global financial crisis that emerged in 2008 and its related financial and commodity price crises should have taught us some lessons. The fundamental lesson is that the economics that has for so long guided and shaped how we think about development has become profoundly misdirected and dysfunctional (Krugman 2009, Smith and Max-Neef 2011, Skidelsky and Skidelsky 2012). A narrow and anti-social conception of economics that has focused on economic growth and profits, almost at any cost, is generating more problems that we can cope with globally. One of those problems is the persistence of debilitating and destructive poverty for many men, women and children in countries around the world.

Lest this be misunderstood, this is not a criticism of the insightful analysis or the many useful tools that economic science provides; it is a criticism of the way that economics and ideology have become fused at the level of policy and in public political narratives. This fusion provides a justification both for reckless profit-oriented public policy decisions and for individual behaviour that evidently produces damage to other human beings. This ideology is one that myopically champions individualistic gain as the driver of economic growth and relegates to secondary considerations the many problems that the underlying individualistic pursuit of profit produces. Thus, in this approach to economic development we must deal with environmental damage as a global side-effect; we must deal with persistent chronic poverty for some people around the world as a discrete technical problem; and we must cope with the increasing levels of social and individual damage that our development path is producing as if it had nothing much to do with the economic policies that have been promoted by the ideology.

But the problem is not solely ideological: a new kind of economics is also required. We need a global post-2015 anti-poverty initiative, but the nature of the post-2015 MDG settlement has the potential to be as much part of the problem as part of the solution. Or to be more precise the economics that we apply to the analysis of major global problems can be as much part of the problem as part of the solution. 

The post-2015 debates should provide a global opportunity for new thinking and new development measures. To achieve this however will require a rethinking of how economics is formulated and is applied to the analysis of major global development problems. The challenge, as implied by the Sarkozy Commission Report, is whether economics can be reoriented to focus on improvements in human wellbeing as the fundamental purpose of societal development and economic growth. To do so involves a major reconception of the relationship between economic behaviour and society and
this hinges around how we conceive of human wellbeing.

In a Working Paper released by IDS this week, myself and Nicky Pouw, a colleague from the University of Amsterdam, begin to explore what an economics of human wellbeing might look like. We argue that such an economics would shift to build on a social conception of human wellbeing and a shift away from an individualistic notion of wellbeing[1]. The problem for economics is to find modes of analysis that support us in meeting the challenges of living well together and away from legitimising the pursuit of living well as an individual. In ontological terms this involves a rejection of the pure methodological individualism that lies unquestioned at the heart of much popular economics.

Human beings are social animals and most of our major global problems - whether conflict and war, climate change and environmental degradation, poverty and inequality - represent failures to find ways to live well together. Currently, narrow and selfish economistic behaviour is a driver behind most of these problems, but we then expect ‘politics’ to solve the problems. This approach to politics and governance doesn't work. Rather an inclusive economics that focuses on the challenges of living well together must be seen as a necessary foundation for governance at all levels. In this formulation economic growth would undoubtedly be a feature of enabling some people in the world to live better than they do currently, but it must be growth that is designed in a way that meaningfully supports human wellbeing and which seeks to avoid damaging the wellbeing of others, either in the present or in the future.

In this sense the challenge to effective global governance for the coming decades is the challenge of finding ways of living well and sustainably together with others, from global to local levels. The reorientation of economics in a progressive and sustainable-post 2015 MDG settlement could make an important contribution to that effort to live well together.


[1] See Deneulin and McGregor, 2010 and the Final Report of the Bellagio Initiative, 2012