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Housing the poor in urban economies: local government capacity building in Asia and the Pacific through virtual communities on the Internet

Background:

In Asia, rapid economic growth resulted in growing numbers of evictions of urban poor from their neighbourhoods and in their relocation to peripheral areas, far from centres of employment and where they cannot benefit from new economic opportunities. The evictions only declined with the Asian financial crisis that led to the collapse of the real estate sector. With the resumption of economic growth, local governments need the policy instruments to protect the housing rights of the urban poor and to achieve a significant improvement in the lives of slum dwellers by 2015, as stated in the Millennium Declaration.

Over the past 20 years, non-conventional approaches to urban low-income housing have developed across the Asian region and in other parts of the world. They have proven to be effective means to improve the lives of the existing and future urban poor where they were applied. Examples from Asia include land sharing, community infrastructure construction, incremental infrastructure development and community mortgages. Such approaches need to be reviewed to determine their potential for replication and up-scaling in cities where economic expansion and trade and investment liberalization are increasing the competition for urban space. There is a need to learn from each other and establish a dialogue between partners. ICT is an efficient tool for networking and knowledge management. It can create virtual communities of stakeholders and experts on the Internet. This can provide opportunities for identifying, analysing and documenting good and innovative practices, exchanging ideas and experiences, discussing the conditions required for its application, and reviewing any problems encountered.

ESCAP, the Centre for Education in the Built Environment (University of Wales, Cardiff) and the Urban Management Centre (Asian Institute of Technology) have been collaborating to develop the Virtual Policy Studio (VPS), an Internet-based environment for collaborative training and learning, which has already been tested in other substantive areas with good results. The proposed project will use this previous VPS experience to provide an on-line resource facility that offers capacity building and knowledge management in the area of housing the poor in globalizing urban economies.

For its implementation, the project will work with two existing regional networks (CityNet and LOGOTRI), established by ESCAP in 1987 and 1999 respectively. CityNet is the Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements; LOGOTRI is the Regional Network of Local Government Training and Research Institutes.

Objective:

Enhance the capacity of local governments in Asia and the Pacific to achieve improvements of the lives of slum dwellers in cities where economic expansion and liberalization is increasing the competition for urban space

Expected accomplishments:

  • Establishment of an online regional resource facility on urban low-income housing
  • Increased capacity of local government research and training institutes in participating countries to undertake online distance learning training on urban low-income housing
  • Successful adaptation and replication of good and innovative practices in urban low-income housing through pilot projects in three towns or cities

Implementation status:

Major achievements in 2006 on the regional and national levels include the following:

On the regional level: information resources, such as a searchable database, a annotated bibliography and a discussion board on low-income housing

On the national level: National resource centres were established and strengthened in Mongolia, Nepal and Timor Leste. High-level national policy symposia on low-income housing were held in all four countries. Training programmes were completed in all four countries. In addition, ministerial-level study visits on housing took place in Thailand. Participating countries were Cambodia, Mongolia and Timor Leste.

For more information please go to Housing the Urban Poor website