Urbanisation is growing at a rapid pace. It is driven by changing agricultural practices, the inability of people to sustain livelihoods in the face of climate change, people fleeing from conflict, etc. It will be but a matter of decades before the majority of the very poor live in cities. However this rapid transformation of the landscape of poverty is neither reflected in the international development agenda, nor in that of philanthropic giving. Thus it represents both a pressing need and a major opportunity.
The urgent issues at a personal level are security and ensuring that social networks are not destroyed through development. The urgent issues at a societal level are failures of governance, planning and taxation, and at the interface between them there are fundamental and unresolved issues about how the infrastructure development which accompanies economic growth displaces poor people and creates further inequality.
The key issues for philanthropists are listed below.
- How can we put urban issues higher up the philanthropic agenda? Rural issues have been articulated in a way that elicits giving, but urban issues much less so.
- Is it possible to develop a more strategic and long-term approach to investment -- with funding targeted at core issues such as governance failures as well as more 'glamorous' projects?
- If governments are driven by short-term results as a result of electoral cycles etc., is there a role for philanthropists to develop innovative pilots and take greater risks?
- Can philanthropists develop a greater profile in campaigning and advocacy -- well developed in the US but not in Africa and Asia?
The Global Dialogue on Urbanisation was held in Delhi in September 2011. It was co-organised by IDS and our partner PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia). The idea was to bring together practitioners and thinkers to explore through dialogue the key issues for a rapidly urbanising South both now and over the next 20 or 30 years. Participants are listed in the following table.
The dialogue ran from 2.00 pm on Monday 26th until 4.00 pm on Tuesday 27th.. The meeting was held entirely as a full group session and was both audio- and video-recorded for the whole duration. What follows is a record of the discussion. This report is a record of the main lines of argument, points of divergence and reflections on philanthropy. Not all of the rich conversation is contained in the report. There is no assumption that everyone in the room agreed with all of the points. Quotes are verbatim but have all been anonymised as voices from the group. Despite the diverse backgrounds of participants, this particular group was characterised by a high level of consensus about the issues and priorities.