Urbanization and development – highlights from the conference

What is the relationship between urbanization and development? how do cities as new frontier zones affect the development processes? are cities engines of growth or poverty? how are violence dynamics produced in the relationship between cities and youth? what are the inter-linkages between urbanization and poverty? How can international migration improve the situation in cities and slums? How should cities react to criminality and environmental issues?

All these questions were addressed at the GDN 13th Annual Global Conference, which took place on June 16-18 in Budapest, Hungary. According to Gerardo della Paolera – GDN President – this year’s conference was particularly important as it opens the door for the next GDN Global Research Project.

Watch highlights from the Conference:

Gerardo della Paolera – GDN President

Ramona Angelescu Naqvi- Sr. Political Scientist/Director, Program Management

Read and watch more about the conference

How the World Bank Institute supports knowledge exchange on urbanization and cities

Christine Kessides, Urban Practice Manager at the World Bank Institute, participated in the closing round-table of the 2012 GDN Annual Conference.

The World Bank Institute works to foster the links that allow knowledge to get translated into action. At the GDN conference, Kessides was not only interested in getting to know the latest research on the topic but also to see how to link practitioners and the researchers. WBI focuses on capacity development as a way of enhancing the application of knowledge. For that, there’s a need to first understand what are the constraints to reform and innovation.

WBI strategy does not focusing anymore just on technical training but increasingly the attention is put on how individuals acquire knowledge and change the way they work with other stakeholders. In this sense, WBI works on codified knowledge (structured learning) but also on practitioner-to-practitioner knowledge exchange, with a specific attention to South-South knowledge exchange.

This strategy has proved to be very effective, and has been deployed in various forms, through study tours, video conferencing, community of practice (online and through local government associations), direct support to local knowledge institutions and by helping governments to develop their own capacity development programmes.

According to Kessides, there is a clear need for more research on cities; likewise, there is also a need for researchers to link to practitioners and for these to be part of research.


Urbanization and development: The enabling policy environment

Urbanization, development, and the enabling policy environment were the themes discussed in the fifth plenary session at GDN’s 13th Annual Conference, chaired by Santiago Levy (Inter-American Development Bank)


Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Center, offered an interesting perspective on a changing world geography, triggered by a variety of events. Pezzini posited that all countries are experiencing a new geography of growth, where the middle class is growing. A middle class from the South, or developing world, adamant on changing the status quo for the better.

He then moved on to a discussion of a number of cities, citing that each city offers a different context, making generalizations about urban phenomena hard at best. The unit of analysis in question then must depend on a variety of factors, based on the uniqueness of context.

Read more of this post

How much do we really know about the relationship between urbanization and poverty?

In the fourth plenary session of the 2012 GDN Annual Conference, focusing on urbanization and poverty, we took one step closer to seeing the inter-linkages between the two. It quickly became obvious that it is very hard to get a handle on urbanization without addressing poverty.

Plenary session 4 'Urbanization and poverty' - Photo credits http://www.vegeldaniel.com

Plenary session 4 ‘Urbanization and poverty’ – Photo credits http://www.vegeldaniel.com

Chaired by Gabor Kezdi, Professor and Head of Department of Economics, with the Central European University, the session discussed the interplay between these two notions, to better understand how to create maximum impact for the developing and undeveloped worlds.

Robert Buckley (New School of Research, USA) was the first speaker. He magnified themes related to urbanization and development and pondered whether cities were becoming Malthusian. Still optimistic about the market, Buckley argued that it is mainly a public policy issue, characterized by speculation.

Read more of this post

Awards and Medals Competition: Recognizing innovative ideas

Launched in 2000 with the support of the Government of Japan, the Global Development Awards and Medals Competition aims to recognize innovative ideas and to encourage talented young researchers. This year, 21 finalists had the opportunity to presented their papers and projects on urbanization and development during the 2012 GDN Annual Conference. Interesting discussions emerged throughout the conference’s parallel sessions where researchers presented their innovative work.

GDN Awards and Medals winners

GDN Awards and Medals winners

Housing and basic infrastructure for all: A conceptual framework for urban India

India is projected to have an urban housing shortage of 29 million units by 2017.  This deficit persists because housing interventions to date have been delivered in an ad hoc and fragmented manner in the absence of an enabling framework to facilitate housing delivery. In light of this, the paper presented by Pritika Hingorani (IDFC, India) during the GDN’s 13th Annual Conference develops a conceptual framework which stresses integration – an alignment of the economic, legal, planning, financial systems and a clear mapping of requirements – tenure mix, associated infrastructure that can help ensure targeted and productive investment.

According to the paper Housing and basic infrastructure services for all: A conceptual framework for urban Indiahousing provision must dovetail with a framework to deliver basic infrastructure – in particular, water supply and sanitation, access to transit, electricity and solid waste management. This is crucial to mitigate the externalities associated with urban growth. Planning and economic policies in particular can help create a strong link in delivering both housing and infrastructure.

Titling programs: Physical vs. human capital effects

Land titling programs are programs that allocate legal ownership titles to lands’ occupants. Not only titling programs affect human capital, but is also associated with a wealth effect as it induces higher expenditure on normal goods such as home consumption, education and health services. Moreover, titling programs have a substitution effect: the elimination or reduction of expropriation risk makes investment in the home more attractive and therefore increases the opportunity cost of other forms of spending. As for the effect on human capital, it remains ambiguous.

The paper “Inter-Generational Effects of Titling Programs: Physical vs. Human Capital” presented by Néstor Gandelman (Universidad ORT Uruguay) at the GDN’s 13th Annual Conference introduces a simple model illustrating the above with a focus on Uruguay as a case study where human capital investment is proxied by investment in education and healthcare.

The results of the paper confirm that titling programs favor home investment to the detriment of some aspects of human capital investment for children of 16 and under, particularly education investment (school enrolment, private school attendance, extra lessons beyond school) and healthcare investment (medical and dentist visit).

As Néstor pointed out, “aiming good is not enough”! Although effective in several dimensions, titling programs may have some undesired consequences. Therefore, it is advisable to monitor for side effects when implementing programs that change individual investment decisions.

Are water and sanitation policies in India gender responsive?

Is gender taken into consideration when budgeting, planning and implementing water and sanitation policies in India?

The paper “Gender Responsive Budget Analysis in Water and Sanitation: A Study of Two Resettlement Colonies (Jhuggi Jhopri Clusters) in Delhi” presented by Gyana Ranjan Panda (Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability) at the GDN 13th Annual Conference is an attempt to study the Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) in the field of urban water and sanitation in Delhi region, with a focus on two resettlement colonies (Bawana and Bhalaswa) as primary areas of inquiry. The paper aims to ascertain the hypothesis that budgeting and planning significantly and disproportionately impact the lives of women and girls.

Read more of this post

Urban sprawling and urban master planning

Most development plans are routed on how master plans are implemented in fast growing in cities. Bad urban planning or unplanned urban sprawl can hinder the development of cities. During the  GDN’s 13th Annual Conference Venkatesh Dutta (School of public policy, University of Maryland) presented a research paper entitled ‘War on the dream – How land use dynamics and Peri-urban growth characteristics of sprawling city devour the master plan and urban suitability’. The paper examines how master planning is being implemented and how much it differs from reality.

Elite capture in urban society: Evidence from Indonesia

Scholars argue that potential gains of community-driven development (CDD) approach in poverty program are large as it may result in a sustained poverty reduction. However, recent literature show that community’s involvement promoted by this approach might increase the risk of elite capture towards the program’s benefit.

During the GDN’s 13th Annual Conference, Rivayami Darmawan (Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen, Germany) presented a paper that looks at urban poverty projects in Indonesia and see the effect of elite capture on urban societies.