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Transformative power of public participation

In the age of new age development, community participation is becoming increasingly important for improving urban local governance. The initiative of Government of India to engage public in finalising area-based development plans and pan-city plans for ‘smart cities’ is considered a pioneering step in strengthening local governments. Similar initiatives could help in achieving the SDGs and targets under New Urban Agenda. This year’s SAC Summit will focus on building such platforms where people, city leaders and officials can work together on a common mission of building better cities

Linking public participation with policy-making and project finalisation for municipalities is instrumental in making inclusive cities for all. All India Institute of Local Self-Government (AIILSG) is organising the 4th SAC Summit-2018 to bring all stakeholders together and accelerate the process of public participation in charting the layout for cities’ future.

To create livable and inclusive cities in India, urban governance by city leaders has to be restructured to ensure that the urban environment and mechanism of governance they create and maintain for their citizens is socially just, ecologically sustainable, participatory, productive and culturally vibrant. The role of knowledge-sharing and collaboration between cities within India and in the South Asian region is going to be significant. And, I am sure that the events like SAC Summit will provide a platform to all cities to come together and discuss their problems and share their experiences for mutual benefit. I am glad that the representatives from more than 15 countries and over 100 cities will take part in the Summit taking place in Delhi. This year, we have the provision for providing the city officials and municipal leaders space for meetings.

The 3rd South Asian Cities Summit witnessed the participation of over 300 national and international delegates, and over 70 city mayors and commissioners from India and other South Asian countries. This year, we are expecting over 500 participants from the world over. I am hopeful that all of us together can work together to transform our governance systems and in turn transform our cities into livable and inclusive habitats.

The last edition of the Summit was to explore the new avenues of urban development in evolving urban agglomerations in the South Asian Region. The theme of the Summit was ‘Smart Cities—Aspirations and Challenges’. On the basis of deliberations during eight sessions held at the two-day conference, city leaders from South Asian cities along with dignitaries from national and International development agencies, donor organizations, civil society organizations and representatives of wider urban development fraternity signed an 11-point declaration to make cities inclusive, better governed, smart and sustainable. You can refer the archives of our magazine to know the details of the commitments made at the last Summit. Since then we as an institution are making all efforts to strengthen local governance and empowering local bodies with training their workforce. We have trained more than 3000 municipal officials in last two years. We are still committed to do our bit to transform cities and our new program in the City of Nagpur is closely working with the corporation and the local community to ensure equitable delivery of municipal services and diversify the municipal workforce. This is being done in close coordination with the local community in the city.

The 3rd South Asian Cities Summit witnessed the participation of over 300 national and international delegates, and over 70 city mayors and commissioners from India and other South Asian countries. This year, we are expecting over 500 participants across from the world. I am hopeful that all of us can work together to change our governance systems and in turn transform our cities into livable and inclusive habitats

Collaboration and community participation

For too long, cities have under-leveraged the opportunities provided by collaborations. One city can certainly learn from the experiences of another city and can offer a helping hand. We need to reach out to each other for help.

The new Urban Agenda also talks about: “Adopt sustainable, people-centred, age- and gender-responsive and integrated approaches to urban and territorial development by implementing policies, strategies, capacity development and actions at all levels, based on fundamental drivers of change, including … Strengthening urban governance, with sound institutions and mechanisms that empower and include urban stakeholders, as well as appropriate checks and balances, providing predictability and coherence in urban development plans to enable social inclusion, sustained inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and environmental protection.”

Technology is continuing to move at an immensely fast pace, and cities need to keep themselves updated with this change by implementing new innovative technologies in their systems. Our government has already taken such an initiative under Smart Cities Mission and the result was encouraging. An action-oriented approach like this can tackle the fundamental challenges of urban governance and public participation. The experiments in India in urban governance and public engagement can be shared with our friends in South Asia region.

A variety of forms of citizen-state engagement are in practice around the world. However, we need to assess how such initiatives work in practice, for whom and with what social justice outcomes.

These experiments and learning from these programs can build on the momentum for smart and sustainable urban development elsewhere too. For the 2018 Summit, we will focus on bringing together small and large cities to build on collaboration and address the common problems through shared knowledge and resources.

We are also making efforts to widen the horizons of South Asian Mayors’ Forum and have regular such dialogues in different cities.

 

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