Regularisation of informal settlements in Latin America: when civil society influences policy-making processes

By Felipe Bosch, Editor at Le Grand Continent and Co-founder of the Groupe d’études géopolitiques’ Americas Programme

The pandemic has shed light on the unavoidable need for concrete answers to the challenges of urban informality. The “best practices” discourse tends to oversimplify policy-making processes aimed at providing such answers. While regularisation policies are mainly associated with technical prescriptions imposed from a top-down perspective by international organisations, a detailed study of them in Latin America, based on a comparative case study of Mexico and Argentina[1], elucidates how bottom-up solutions to development problems might arise.

It is true: since the 1970s, through their recommendations, international organisations have had an incredible influence on policy-making processes for the regularisation of informal settlements. With the rise of neoliberal restructuring, these processes evolved from an exclusive focus on granting legal security of tenure to comprehensive packages of urban integration measures. However, it is essential to understand regularisation policies at the national level in relation to their specific socio-political contexts; in other words, to understand them as governance strategies. As such, the challenges of urban informality acquire a privileged position on the public and political agenda when threats emerge to the political system’s stability and/or when the latter endures low levels of legitimacy. It is possible to discern how civil society might take an active role (or not) in (re)formulation by building an initial theoretical model of the fragmented and conflictive institutional environments in which these kinds of policies are constantly (re)formulated.

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Climate resilience building in informal settlement upgrading processes

By Jorgelina Hardoy, Instituto Internacional de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo, IIED – América Latinai

More than half the world’s urban population lives in urban centres with less than a million inhabitants; for Africa, it is 63%; for Asia and for Latin America and the Caribbean it is 54%. These cities get far less attention than their demographic, economic and governance importance deserves – and far less attention to developing their climate change policies. One difficulty facing climate change policy and action in cities is that so much of what is needed is not considered part of climate change policies. Another is that when there is attention paid to climate action, both nationally and internationally, it usually concerns larger cities. We know far less about how intermediary cities are responding to climate change, whom they are engaging with, the types of constraints they face, etc.

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Fighting COVID-19 in Africa’s informal settlements

By Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‐Habitat)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Boris Golovnev/Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the world’s richest cities but poses an even greater threat to cities in the developing world. There are now more than 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa, in all 54 countries, with South Africa and Egypt the worst affected.

One of the most pressing concerns for Africa is that over half the population (excluding in North Africa) live in overcrowded informal settlements. In these areas where several people have to share one badly ventilated room, diseases such as COVID-19 spread fast and it is impossible to practice physical distancing whether in homes or outside. Continue reading