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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Migración urbana y COVID-19: Las ciudades están en la primera línea de una respuesta inclusiva y de la recuperación

Por Samer Saliba, Líder de Proyectos, Mayors Migration Council1

Foto: Manoej Paateel / Shutterstock

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La comunidad internacional no está haciendo suficientes esfuerzos para apoyar económicamente a quienes más hacen por las personas migrantes, refugiadas y desplazadas durante la pandemia global: los Gobiernos de las ciudades. Aunque numerosas Alcaldías tienen el mandato de atender a las personas en situación de vulnerabilidad, tales como migrantes y residentes desplazados, frecuentemente las ciudades no cuentan con suficientes recursos económicos para responder a las crecientes necesidades de quienes van llegando. Asimismo, los Gobiernos locales de las ciudades han dejado de percibir ingresos debido a los impactos económicos del COVID-19, lo cual este año limita aún más su capacidad de brindar servicios fundamentales a los residentes. Según algunas estimaciones, los Gobiernos de las ciudades experimentarán una pérdida de ingresos de hasta un 25 % en el 2021, precisamente cuando necesitan incurrir en un mayor gasto para impulsar la recuperación y para atender a una población que crece continuamente. En una encuesta reciente, 33 funcionarios a cargo de las finanzas municipales de 22 países de todos los continentes expresaron que ya se observa una disminución del 10 % en el ingreso total y un aumento de aproximadamente 5 % en el gasto. Este “efecto tijera” de los ingresos y gastos de los Gobiernos locales tendrá un mayor impacto en las ciudades de países en desarrollo. Las ciudades africanas, por ejemplo, podrían dejar de percibir hasta un 65 % de sus ingresos en el 2021.      

Si bien la comunidad internacional está cada vez más atenta a las finanzas municipales en relación con el cambio climático, el desarrollo sostenible y el desarrollo urbano en general, no puede decirse lo mismo respecto a la migración y al desplazamiento urbanos. Pocos mecanismos de financiamiento municipal se centran exclusivamente en la atención de personas migrantes y desplazadas en las urbes, a pesar de que la mayoría de ellas reside en las ciudades. Además, muchas veces las agencias donantes con baja tolerancia al riesgo no toman en cuenta a los Gobiernos de ciudades en países de medianos y bajos ingresos.  Atendiendo a estas necesidades no satisfechas de las ciudades, mi organización, el Mayors Migration Council (MMC), lanzó recientemente el Fondo de Ciudades Globales para una Respuesta Inclusiva a la Pandemia, con el fin de apoyar a cinco Alcaldías en la implementación de programas de respuestas inclusivas y recuperación diseñados por ellas.

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Why governing data is key for the future of cities

By Carlos Santiso, Director and Marcelo Facchina, Lead Smart Cities Specialist, Digital Innovation in Government Directorate, Development Bank of Latin America

Leer este blog en español

Technology is changing city dwellers lives, as well as how urban centres evolve to meet their needs. The pandemic has accelerated this transformation, and the digital transition has generated an explosion of data, especially in cities. In this context, the ability of local governments to manage urban problems will be paramount for the recovery, and the pandemic has helped us better understand the missing elements we need to govern cities effectively. For instance, the World Bank’s World Development Report of 2021 underscored that a data infrastructure policy is one of the building blocks of a good data governance framework, both to foster the local data economy and promote digital inclusion.  

It is inconceivable not to consider cities as an integral part of the solution to challenges like tackling social exclusion, improving public services and reducing insecurity, among others. A key issue that has become increasingly prominent in city agendas is the good governance of data; that is how data is handled and for what purpose, its quality and integrity, as well as the privacy and security concerns related to its collection and use. In other words, city governments need to preserve people’s trust in the way they handle data to improve lives.

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Understanding migration as an asset: the Colombian case

By Adriana Mejía Hernández, Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs of the Republic of Colombia

The massive exodus of Venezuelan migrants is the world’s second largest migration wave and is unprecedented in the history of Latin America. Colombia, host to almost 30% of Venezuelan migrants, responded with comprehensive measures and most importantly, has approached the mass arrivals of migrants as an opportunity for development and growth. However, the lack of identity documents and irregular status of migrants are the source of many challenges to achieving an effective state response.

The Colombian case is particular. During the 1990s thousands of Colombian nationals migrated to Venezuela making Colombia the country of origin. Nonetheless, the worsening of the social and economic conditions in Venezuela caused a reversal of the migration dynamics between the two countries. As of 2015, Colombia began to receive flows of regular migration that later, in 2019, were surpassed by the number of irregular migrants crossing into national territory, through various pathways along the border, risking their lives and belongings along the way.

The dramatic circumstances that irregular migrants have to face make them more vulnerable to suffering from human rights violations, including sexual or gender-based violence, discrimination, xenophobia, labour exploitation, as well as migratory-related crimes like human trafficking or migrant smuggling. They are more likely to fall victims to criminal acts, or even, in some cases, of becoming involved themselves in criminality due to a lack of job opportunities or access to basic services.

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Porque los datos son centrales para el futuro de las ciudades

Por Carlos Santiso y Marcelo Facchina – respectivamente, director y especialista líder en ciudades inteligentes de la dirección de innovación digital del estado de CAF – Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina

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Las tecnologías están cambiando la vida de las personas en las ciudades y la forma en que los centros urbanos evolucionan para satisfacer sus necesidades. La pandemia aceleró esta transformación de manera disruptiva.

Es imposible no considerar a las ciudades como parte integral de la ecuación para resolver los desafíos relacionados con la lucha contra las exclusiones sociales, la mejora de los servicios públicos y la reducción de la inseguridad, entre otros. En este contexto de rupturas y disrupciones, la capacidad de los gobiernos locales para gestionar los problemas urbanos será central para la recuperación y la pandemia ha permitido comprender con mayor claridad los diversos elementos que faltan para gobernar las ciudades de forma eficaz.

Un tema clave que ha surgido con fuerza en la agenda pública ha sido cómo se manejan los datos y para que propósito; pero también su calidad e integridad, así como las garantías de privacidad y seguridad. Es decir, la confianza que tienen los ciudadanos en la manera en que los gobiernos locales manejan sus datos para mejorar vidas.

Un gobierno local moderno no se sostiene sin una buena gobernanza de los datos, una infraestructura de datos segura, y talento digital para sacarle valor. La política de datos debe por lo tanto funcionar como un elemento articulador de las estrategias de transformación, definiendo el alcance, la dirección, las responsabilidades y los procedimientos para el camino hacia territorios más responsivos y resilientes.

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Urban migration and COVID-19: Cities on the frontline of an inclusive response and recovery

By Samer Saliba, Head of Practice, Mayors Migration Council

Photo: Manoej Paateel / Shutterstock

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The international community is not doing enough to financially support those who are doing the most for migrants, refugees, and internally displaced people during this global pandemic: city governments. While many cities have the mandate to serve people in vulnerable situations, including migrant and displaced residents, they often do not have enough financial resources to meet the increased demand and need of new arrivals. Lost revenue due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 will further curtail cities’ ability to deliver critical services to their residents this year. Some estimates suggest city governments could see revenue losses of up to 25 percent in 2021, precisely when their spending needs to increase to pay for recovery efforts and continuously growing populations. In a recent survey, 33 municipal finance officials in 22 countries across all continents reported already seeing a 10 percent decrease in their overall revenue and around a five percent increase in expenditure. This “scissors effect” of local government revenue and expenditure will be most felt in cities in developing countries. African cities, for example,  could potentially lose up to up to 65 percent of their revenue in 2021.

While the international community is paying more attention to municipal finance in relation to climate change, sustainable development, and urban development in general, the same cannot be said of urban migration and displacement. Few municipal finance mechanisms focus explicitly on financing for urban migration and displacement, despite the fact that the majority of migrants and displaced people reside in cities. Moreover, donors with low risk tolerance often disregard city governments in low to middle-income countries. In response to the unmet needs of cities, my organisation, the Mayors Migration Council (MMC), recently launched the Global Cities Fund on Inclusive Pandemic Response supporting five cities to implement inclusive response and recovery programmes of their own design.

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Transitions in development: the European Green Deal and Latin America

By José Antonio Sanahuja, Director, Fundación Carolina, Spain, Special Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

The response to COVID-19, the ecological transition and strategic autonomy are the three driving forces of the European Union’s (EU) broad transformative programme. This programme involves deep changes in its own social and economic development model and in its relationship with the world. It is a short-term reaction to a pandemic that has fast become a systemic crisis. But it is also the EU’s long-term response to an international context of globalisation in crisis and challenges to the international order. The future of EU-Latin America relations will be deeply affected by these transformations.  

For the EU, as for Latin America, the pandemic is a catalyst for change. This time the reaction has been quite different in terms of monetary or fiscal measures compared to the self-destructive cycle of austerity adopted in the European debt crisis. Following an immediate response from the European Central Bank, the council adopted a first range of modest financial support measures. But in July 2020 the European Council agreed on an unprecedented package of 1.8 trillion euro, including the new 2021-27 budget and the “Next Generation” recovery programme. The programme involves linking budget, new common taxes and Eurobonds, paving the way to a common treasury. Therefore, this agreement is an important federal step forward, that just six months earlier would have been unbelievable. Beyond its macroeconomic and fiscal impact, these investment instruments will also push the EU towards an ambitious shift in its development model.

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We need a new multilateralism to bring about a better post-pandemic world

By Benigno Lopez, Vice President for Sectors and Knowledge, IDB

When discussing life after the pandemic, many express a longing to return to a pre-Coronavirus world. But instead of dreaming of the status quo, I hope Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) advances towards a better and “new normal”, born under the pressures of COVID-19, and far more equitable and collaborative than before. Critically, multilaterals will need to work together more than ever to help make this happen.

Bringing about a better, post-pandemic future will not be easy. LAC has been hit hard by the crisis. According to recent estimates, the region saw a 7.4 percent contraction of GDP in 2020, with 34 million people losing their jobs and at least 40 million falling into poverty. To further complicate matters, the region grappled with pressing challenges even before the emergence of COVID-19. Economic growth and productivity have been lagging for some time. And our region is the most unequal in the world: the richest tenth of the population captures 22 times more income than the bottom tenth, while the richest 1 percent captures 21 percent of the income in the entire economy — double the average in the industrialised world.

As the pandemic spread, so have concerns over inequality. References to inequality on social networks have multiplied by 10 since March 2020, according to our own digital tracking tools.

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Ciudades sostenibles, el nuevo desafío de América Latina: El rol de la innovación y de la cooperación pública-privada

Por Maurizio Bezzeccheri, Director de Enel para Latinoamérica y gerente general de Enel Américas

Según datos de Naciones Unidas, la concentración media de la población mundial en zonas urbanas aumentará del 55% en 2018 hasta casi el 70% en 2050. Sin embargo, en América Latina y el Caribe a día de hoy este porcentaje ya roza el 81% de la población. Las ciudades ocupan solo el 3% de la superficie de la tierra, pero representan entre el 60% y el 80% del consumo de energía y generan el 75% de las emisiones de carbono. De ahí su importancia a la hora de impulsar la descarbonización para así hacer frente a uno de los desafíos más urgentes de nuestros tiempos: el calentamiento global. Sin duda son retos complejos que requieren de un esfuerzo conjunto público y privado y entre niveles de gobierno. Pero al mismo tiempo, nos regalan una valiosa oportunidad de avanzar en la dirección correcta, trabajando para crear ciudades sostenibles, resilientes, seguras e inclusivas.

UNA VENTANA AL FUTURO

Alrededor del mundo, nuevas ciudades están desafiando el concepto establecido de cómo opera una ciudad mediante el uso de redes digitales que entrelazan los sistemas de electricidad, agua, desechos y gas, creando una matriz unificada de operaciones urbanas y un crecimiento explosivo en el intercambio de información.

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Why we need radical democratic innovation post-COVID

By Silvia Cervellini, Founder and Co-ordinator of coletivo Delibera Brasil

Although we have talked about inequality and sustainability in Brazil for a long time (we held the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992 and the first World Social Forum in 2001 in Porto Alegre), the COVID-19 pandemic struck us in the middle of a “quasi” economic crisis, a declining Gini Index and increasing evidence of biomass destruction in Brazil’s Pantanal, Mata Atlântica and Amazonia forests.1

We have seen some consensual and immediate solutions to the different crises Brazil faces, e.g. quarantine and extra resources allocated to public health to fight the sanitary crisis; temporary financial support and food for the most vulnerable to tackle the hunger crisis; and firefighting to extinguish fires in the jungle. None of these measures, however, address the root causes of these problems, nor can they be sustained as permanent policies.

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