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Archive for January 17th, 2013

Kenya: Delays and skirmishes marred ODM, URP and TNA Party Nominations

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, Kenya API

With tomorrow as the deadline for presenting list of the nominees, political parties’ nomination exercise across the country has been marred with delays of ballot boxes, papers and chaos.

A spot check in various parts of Kenya revealed that nomination exercise had not kicked off as ballot boxes, register and papers were missing in most of the polling stations.

In Nyanza region ODM party primaries have been marred with delays and chaos with most of the outgoing Members of Parliament (MP) accused of electoral malpractices.

In Kisumu County, some of the constituency, the exercise had not kicked off with some having ballot papers which have been marked in favor of former MP.

And in Homabay County, primaries had not kicked off with violence reported last night where a senior ODM member having been accused of planning to rig the lections. The incident triggered police officers both from General Service Unit, Prison and Administration department to intervene to save the situation.

While in Siaya County, chaos was reported in Rarienda Constituency with no injuries recorded at the time of going to press. It is said voting started at 1pm making line so long that is anticipated to end at midnight.

In Migori County, situation was worse when a woman aspirant was attacked by her rival supporters. However, the exercise kicked off in some of the polling stations with others missing the materials.

Despite of the delays, the ODM party Secretary General, Prof Anyang Nyong’o however assured the aspirants that all was being looked into and promised that there will be a helicopter moving around to distribute materials in areas where delays were witnessed.

He said the delays were due to loading of the materials yesterday and registers of participants from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to be used during the exercise.

The same problems faced the National Alliance (TNA) Party and United Republican Party (URP) forcing the parties’ officials to extend their nomination exercise up to the following day before submitting their nominees.

Addressing members of the press in Nairobi County, TNA party Chairman Johnson Sakaja flanked with Secretary General said that they were keen to ensure credible elections.

Nakuru, Kericho, Bomet, Gigil and Naivasha among others were some of the areas where the exercise failed to kick off in time due to delays.

However, aspirants have largely accused the officials of various parties for shoddy primaries which have led to malpractices and chaos in most parts of the country.

 

END

 

 

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Kenya: ODM party nominations marred with delays of Poll Materials

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

By Maurice Alal,API Kenya

ODM nomination exercise in Kisumu County failed to kick off smoothly due to delay in delivery of poll materials. Despite thronging poling centers by 6 am, voters had to wait till 10 am for the exercise to kick off.

In Kisumu Central constituency, confusion marred the exercise after an aspirant’s name was found missing in the ballot papers.

George Kwanya Okidi’s name was conspicuously absent from the papers despite having paid the requisite Ksh. 100, 000 nomination fee. Okidi says his efforts to address the anomaly with the ODM electoral board has been fruitless and has threatened to take the party to court.

In Kisumu Town East constituency, voter bribery was rampant as various aspirants dished out monies. A similar scenario was witnessed in Kisumu Town East with aspirants trading accusations over bribery claims.

However in Nyando constituency, the exercise had not kicked off by 1.00 PM with 4 out of the 5 aspirants gunning for the parliamentary seat alleging that outgoing MP Fred Outa had been granted the ODM ticket beforehand.

END

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Kenya: Political Parties in Nomination chaos

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

  • BY JACK MARWA

TNA has been warned of voter apathy after it postponed its nominations in various counties in the country.

In Naivasha and Gilgil constituencies irate aspirants castigated the directive saying that they would incur huge fanatical losses.

The aspirants expressed their concern noting that many of the voters would shy off from the exercise that kicked off on the wrong footing.

Immediate former Naivasha Mp John Mututho said that they would be incurring huge wages over the move.

“We had hired our agents and transport vehicles for one day but the postponement will see us incur extra expenses which had not been planned for,” he said.

The Naivasha parliamentary aspirant termed the decision as poor noting that tens of flower farms workers who had been given permission for one way would miss out.

“This is one the biggest party in the country and we are surprised at the poor planning which will cost us dearly,” he said.

The sentiments were echoed by Gilgil parliamentary aspirant Francis Wanyange who said that the move would cost them thousands of shillings.

The former Naivasha Mp said that they had prepared for the exercise for a long time only to be disappointed by TNA headquarters.

“The move is going to cost us a lot and its going to be hard to convince voters to turn up for the second day for the nominations,” he said.

A political activist Timothy Githogori admitted that the move would have its implications but called on the aspirants and their supporters to co-operate.

“All that we are calling for are peaceful elections despite the emerging issues which have left many disappointed,” he said.

Ends.

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Espen Barth Eide to sign Host Country Agreement with Arctic Council

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide will take part in the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø on 21 January. On the same day, Mr Eide will also sign the Host Country Agreement between Norway and the Arctic Council, which will now have a permanent secretariat in Tromsø. Members of the press are invited.

The Arctic Council is the most important arena for discussing common challenges in the Arctic. It will now have a permanent secretariat in Tromsø. Mr Eide and the secretariat’s new director, Magnus Johannesson, will sign the Host Country Agreement on 21 January at 17:00. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq will also take part in the event and the subsequent press conference. The venue is the Fram Centre in Tromsø.

During his visit to Tromsø, Mr Eide will also address the Arctic Frontiers conference at the University of Tromsø and visit the Port of Tromsø.

The Arctic Frontiers conference will take place between 20 and 25 January. This year’s theme is “Geopolitics and Marine Production in a Changing Arctic”.

End

source MFA-Norway

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Treating HIV/AIDS

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

Aids Treatment Technology

Aids Treatment Technology focuses on aids symptoms and treatment, after all, knowing about early aids symptoms is of great help in curing aids. And prevention is always better than treatment.

End

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Kenya: My Candidacy Won’t Ruin My Brother’s Bid, Says Aspirant

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, API Kenya

A Kisumu East Parliamentary aspirant on a United Republican Party (URP) ticket has denied claims that her candidacy will ruin her brother’s re-election bid.
Irene Odhiambo Onunga, the URP Kisumu East candidate said her bid will not affect her brother, Jacktone Onunga’s bid to be re-elected as Nyalenda Ward councilor on a ODM ticket.
“I know that my brother will be elected because of his development record and policies, my association with a rival a party will not hamper his chances”, Ms Odhiambo said.
Jacktone Onunga was elected the Nyalenda ward councilor in the last elections and is seeking to be re-elected in the Orange party for a second term.
She however stated that she was supporting her brother’s bid regardless of whether the Jubilee Alliance fields a candidate in the ward or not.
“I am fully behind my brother’s bid and I know he will triumph just as I know that he supports my bid despite the different parties”, she added.
Ms Odhiambo hit out at the former Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir whom he said had not adequately addressed the issues of the people. She promised to empower women and the youth if elected and to create job opportunities for her constituents.
“I was born and bred in Kisumu and I therefore understand the problems that affect the people, I therefore feel I have what it takes to tackle the issues”, Ms Odhiambo said.
The former human rights activist dismissed claims that URP was not popular in Nyanza lauding the people for accepting other parties. She added that ODM was no longer the popular party in the region and the March 4 elections would prove that.
“I know that the people will not vote on party lines but will vote according to the person’s ability and track record”, she said.
She also defended Jubilee presidential aspirant Uhuru Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto running for elective posts despite the charges facing them stating that the decision was for Kenyans to decide.
She said they would be vindicated and cleared of all charges allowing them to govern the country and implement their policies.
She promised to ensure that residents acquire title deeds for their lands, ensure farmers get loans and to improve the infrastructure of the constituency through the constituency development fund (CDF).
Irene is expected to vie for the Kisumu Central seat that was held by Shakeel Shabbir who is also seeking a second term and will be aiming to win the primaries at the nominations.

Ends…

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Kenya: Today’s Party Nominations – Parties unable to keep time disappoint voters

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

  • BY JACK MARWA

Anxiety has gripped Gilgil and Naivasha constituencies after the much touted TNA nominations failed to kick-off in time.

Confusion, finger-pointing and rumor mongering became the order of day as five hours down the line the exercise was yet to start.

In Naivasha hundreds of flower farm workers who had turned early left a disappointed-lot after it emerged that the exercise could be delayed.

Security was heightened in the town and in all the 67 polling stations into the two constituencies.

A parliamentary aspirant John Kihagi said that the delay could affect the outcome of the nomination saying that they deserved a credible exercise.

“We are calling on the voters to be peaceful and challenging TNA to come clean on the delay which is causing unnecessary tension in the area,” he said.

A flower farm worker Mary Muiruri said that they had arrived in KANU grounds at 6am and had been forced to leave after waiting for over two hours.

The sentiments were echoed by another worker Joseph Gitau who said admitted that they could not wait any longer and had decided to return back to their work place.

“We have given up waiting and we have to return to our work place as there are no indications of this exercise starting any time soon,” he said.

Speaking on phone, TNA election coordinator in Naivasha Reverend Cosmas Kinyanjui said that he was holed up in Nakuru waiting for the materials.

“We slept in Nakuru waiting for the materials and we have been told to be patient as the TNA headquarters works on the problem,”

A visit to various polling stations into the two constituencies found idle youths loitering around as armed police kept vigil.

ODM is not conducting its nominations into the two constituencies.

Ends.

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Kenya: Lee Kinyanjui welcomes use of ID and IEBC register in party nominations today

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

  • BY JACK MARWA 

Assistant minister for roads Lee Kinyanjui has welcomed the use of ID and IEBC register in the party nominations saying that this has averted a major crisis.

Kinyanjui who is seeking the post of Governor Nakuru County noted that of the 8m Jubilee members who had registered only 1.2m were reflected in the party registers.

The Nakuru Mp welcomed the move to use IEBC list saying that this would give the electorate a chance to freely nominate their leaders.

“Many of the parties do not have the capacity to electronically register all their party members and we expect many to turn up for the exercise,” he said.

Kinyanjui called on the electorate to be cautious when nominating their leaders as a wrong move could affect their lives for a long time.

“The leaders you will elect for the County government will set the foundation and you need credible people whose past is not tainted by any corrupt deal,” he said.

The Kikuyu council of elders also welcomed the move to use IEBC register saying it had averted a major crisis.

Speaking in Naivasha, the elders called on area residents to turn up in large numbers and reject leaders whose credibility was in doubt.

According to the chairman Kikuyu council of elders Naivasha district Daniel Kigochi, the nominations gave the electorate a chance to vet their leaders.

“Some of the leaders seeking various posts have been involved in land scandals and misappropriation of funds and they should be rejected during the nominations,” he said.

A parliamentary candidate for the Naivasha seat Elias Ng’ang’a Kihonge said that the Jubilee alliance had identified 39 polling stations in the constituency.

“We have already identified out polling centers and make sure you nominate people who will be readily available,” he said.

Ends

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South Sudan refugee camps: The 29-year-old mother of four knows how vulnerable she is – sexual harassment

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

Many women moved to the camps without their husbands (file photo)

MABAN,  – Mahasa sits in the dust outside the hut she built herself, holding her youngest son in her arms.

The 29-year-old mother of four knows how vulnerable she is. “I’m scared,” she said.

Mahasa* is one of many women who have fled, unaccompanied by their husbands, to Maban County in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State, escaping the fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile State between government forces and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North. Mahasa’s husband is still in Blue Nile, fighting alongside the rebels.

She now lives in Doro camp, which houses more than 44,000 refugees. There, she – like other female refugees – faces daily threats of harassment, exploitation and violence, and the persistent fear that, as a woman, she will be unable to provide for her family.

Harassment

The fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, which started in June 2011, has so far displaced more than 112,000 civilians to South Sudan. Humanitarians say they were “overwhelmed” during the rainy season in the second half of 2012, as tens of thousands of refugees, most of them women and children, came pouring across the border from Blue Nile State. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners scrambled to meet the basic needs of the new arrivals, who initially slept under trees and survived on fruit and stagnant groundwater.

Now, six months later, fighting continues across the border, but the rate of arrivals has eased and aid agencies are transitioning from emergency response mode to meeting the longer-term needs of the refugee population.

More than 80 percent of the refugees are women and children, says Myrat Muradov, a protection officer with UNHCR. The agency has begun to look at the particular vulnerabilities of this group, many of whom are completely dependent on food rations.

“Widows and pregnant women need much help,” he said.

Because the camps are spread out across large areas, women often have to walk very long distances to reach food distributions points, and then they must carry the heavy ration bags back with them.
Mahasa, for example, walks half an hour in each direction to collect the food she needs to feed her children.

Aid workers say that on these collection journeys, single women and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, sometimes being forced to part with a portion of their ration in exchange for assistance transporting it.

However, this is not the crime Mahasa fears most. One of the most difficult things she and other women must do is collect firewood from the bush surrounding the camp; not only is it hard work, it is also “dangerous,” she says, because members of the host community often approach and harass female refugees.

“They hit us,” Mahasa says. “They also take the axe from us.”

Tensions between the refugees and the host community have been mounting, largely over increasingly limited resources.

Maple*, an older woman in the camp, and Talitha*, her adult daughter, express similar fears, reporting that both men and women from the host community have hit them with sticks and chased them away as they tried to collect firewood.

“The only way to get the firewood is to hide yourself in order to protect yourself from the host community,” Maple said.

Sexual violence

The issue is of growing concern for protection officers working in the four refugees camps of Maban County. Firewood collection “exposes women to humungous risks in terms of sexual violence,” one officer working in the camps told IRIN.

Women walk long distances for food and water for their children

A Human Rights Watch report, released on 12 Dec 2012, documented instances of such sexual violence and pointing out that in Jamam camp – also in Upper Nile State – women regularly walk for an hour and a half each way to collect firewood.

The Danish Refugee Council released a sexual and gender-based violence rapid assessment of Doro in October 2012. “Adult women and adolescent girls recounted cases of rape, attempted rape, sexual abuse and harassment,” the assessment states. It also found that many instances of sexual and gender-based violence went unreported due to fears of stigmatization. Indeed, the assessment noted that healthcare providers in Doro camp had not had a single instance of rape reported to them since the beginning of 2012.

Support programmes launched

In an attempt to overcome the taboo against speaking about sexual violence, UNHCR has deployed a team to Doro for three months; its mission, Muradov says, is to disseminate information about the availability of post-rape care and get referrals to health services going.

The agency aims to establish a sexual and gender-based violence programme with focus groups to encourage women to talk more openly. However, the lack of female interpreters is a major barrier to this project, so, alongside income-generation projects, language training for women has been made a priority for 2013.

“It’s a large part of the strategy moving into a more sustainable operation,” Muradov said.

UNHCR has also launched “fuel efficiency talks”, which provide training for women across all four Upper Nile camps – Doro, Gendrassa, Jamam and Yusuf Batil – on how to reduce the amount of firewood they use by up to 50 percent. Reducing the quantity of firewood used would alleviating some of the tension with the host community and decreasing the number of firewood collection trips the women have to make, lowering their exposure to potential violence

Meanwhile, UNHCR’s Muradov says the American Refugee Council is focusing on psychosocial counselling, while Handicap International is looking at people with special needs. Other humanitarian agencies say they are in the initial phases of establishing income-generating projects for women, aimed at fostering economic independence for female-headed households to protect them from exploitation.

For now though, Mahasa remains worried. “Without a husband, I may not be able to provide for the children,” she said.

*Family names withheld

nf-f/kr/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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French military air strikes in Mali against Islamist militants

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

A displaced child in Sévaré, whose family fled northern Mali in 2012 (file photo)

BAMAKO/DAKAR,  – Fear and rumour are rife in Mali as French military air strikes against Islamist militants continued for the sixth day in the centre and north of the country.

Information is limited on the number of Malians who have fled the violence, or fear being caught in clashes, but the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates at least 30,000 people have abandoned their homes in recent days.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says according to rough preliminary estimates, 1,230 people have fled to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, 90 percent of them women.

Refugees arrived in eastern Mauritania from Léré and surrounding villages; in Mangaize camp (north of Ouallam), as well as in Banibangou and Tillabéry towns and the Tillia area in Niger; and in Damba and Mentao camps, as well as the second-largest town, Bobo Dioulasso, in Burkina Faso.

Many people have fled Konna, Amba, Boré and Douentza in Mopti Region, where intense fighting took place on 12-13 January, according to eye-witnesses. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assessed 445 arrivals in Mopti and Sévaré, most of whom were staying with host families.

“People are continuing to flee for the south for fear of reprisal killings from Islamists who are now assimilated among the local population, and for fear of French attacks,” said a journalist and resident in Sévaré, Mamouou Bocoum. “I understand them, we are in a really difficult situation here.”

According to a partner of UNHCR, local NGO the Commission on Population Movements in Mali, unconfirmed estimates indicate 5,000 people – half of Konna’s population – have fled across the River Niger.

Recent movements add to the 400,000 Malians already displaced across the region.

Islamists mixing with civilians

Islamists remain in Konna and Diabaly – both scenes of heavy fighting – many of them embedding themselves within the civilian population, according to French forces and eye-witnesses.

Civilians and humanitarians are deeply concerned that civilians could be mistakenly targeted in the fighting.

More French ground troops are arriving imminently, bringing French forces up to 2,500. French military chiefs have said they will do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties.

Access shrinking

The wide dispersal of Islamist groups into the population has humanitarians worried that the combat zone will continue to widen, and humanitarian access continue to shrink, NGO workers told IRIN.

Mali head of NGO Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Sean Gallagher said staff are very concerned about accessing the displaced in Mopti Region, as the French and Malian military are getting increasingly restrictive.

A number of aid agencies suspended their operations in Mopti Region during and after the fighting in Konna and Douentza, angering some locals. Journalist Mamouou Bocoum told IRIN: “The humanitarian organizations have left town for security reasons – that’s not right. It’s now that we need them here to help the displaced.”

CRS pulled out of Sévaré temporarily but plans to continue working in the region and supporting the displaced with food and possibly cash transfers, once it has finished assessing the situation, Gallagher told IRIN.

ICRC and the Mali Red Cross are currently trying to step up their distributions of food aid, medical care and water to people in the north and in Mopti Region, said spokesperson Germain Mwehu.

“Our major concern is that this intervention is taking place in a [northern] context that has already seen a food security crisis, and very difficult humanitarian conditions,” Mwehu told IRIN.

As of 14 January just US$2 million of the $370 million needed had been raised to cover humanitarian operations in Mali in 2013, according to OCHA.

Northerners flee to bush

French air strikes in Gao and Kidal on 13 January in territory held by Islamist groups since April 2012, targeted rebel training camps, say eye-witnesses.

Since mid-2012 scores of displaced Malians have been living in these Red Cross tents in Sévaré (file photo)

Hundreds of residents of Kidal Region’s main towns, Kidal and Tessalit, fled into the bush where they have set up small camps.

Doctors of the World (MDM) advocacy officer Olivier Vandecasteele told IRIN: “Rumour is rife. People [in Kidal Region] are either staying in their homes or fleeing from towns, which puts their access to health care in jeopardy.” MDM, which runs the hospital and 20 health clinics across Kidal, is worried about hundreds of severely malnourished children whose treatment will be interrupted as a result.

MDM has treated 2,050 malnourished children in Kidal and Gao since September 2012 and admitted 400 new infants in Kidal in December alone, said Vandescasteele.

“Populations are exhausting their resilience – it’s been close to a year since their problems started. Families have gone through a major food crisis and a humanitarian crisis, and are now on the move again. This worries us,” Vandescasteele told IRIN. “We should do mobile health teams to reach these people, but we need to do some more security checks before we take the risk.”

Gao residents said Islamist groups fled following the air strikes. Before leaving, they brought 30 or so bodies to the hospital morgue, said Alousseyni Maïga, a teacher in Gao city.

Some residents expressed relief at their departure. Resident Amahani Touré told IRIN: “Thank you God. For two days we’ve worn what we wanted to and felt our liberty again… the religious zealots have been chased out. Let’s hope that they don’t return.”

Telephone lines to Gao have since been cut.

Air strikes have not targeted Timbuktu in the north. NGO Médecins sans Frontières, which works in the hospital there, said they had received patients injured by fighting that was taking place a seven-hour drive away.

More troops on way

In addition to more French troops, the first African troops are to set off within the week from Nigeria to Mali to shore up the French military offensive. Senegal, Niger, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso have all confirmed they are sending soldiers imminently.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), France and its fellow UN Security Council members want to speed up the deployment of a UN-mandated, 3,300-strong West African intervention force in Mali.

sd/aj/cb/oa source http://www.irinnews.org

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Lessons in urbanizing from BRICs?

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2013

Alexandra, one of the oldest black townships created by the aparthid regime in South Africa turned 100 in 2012 and is yet to be refurbished

JOHANNESBURG,  – In another four decades, urban residents will account for 66 percent of the population in developing countries, says the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

As climate change contributes to cyclical droughts and floods, many African and Asian countries are witnessing large numbers of people moving from vulnerable rural regions to urban centres. Poor countries have begun to respond to this movement of people. Some African countries, for example, are trying to promote rural development in a bid to stem the rural-to-urban migration.

This had been a goal of Brazil’s military regime back in the 1960s. It had tried to stimulate economic activity in outlying regions and to reduce migration to its cities – but those efforts did not deter people from moving into cities. In fact, it led to the promotion of urban inequality, with large segments of the population inhabiting poorly located and poorly served informal settlements, the now-famous favelas.

Similarly, the former Soviet Union imposed an internal passport regime to restrict access to its urban areas as early as 1932. These controls forced many undocumented migrants to live in deplorable conditions.

The efforts and missteps of these and other BRICS countries (together they are: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) offer lessons on migration policy for the rest of the developing world, says a paper produced jointly by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

The BRICS, which have the world’s fastest growing economies, have tinkered with every kind of response to rapid urbanization. Collectively, their experiences reveal some dos and don’ts.

Don’t

1. Don’t try to block the inevitable movement of people from the rural areas to urban centres and then haphazardly try to make up for it later, as Brazil’s subsequent democratic regimes later attempted. A participatory budgeting process was initiated in cities, providing an opportunity for every resident to have a say on the municipal budget. But this approach requires an organized civil society and informed citizenry, conditions that take time to cultivate. “Although these practices have made real progress, the problems were too large to swiftly eradicate,” says the paper.

2. Don’t be ambivalent to urbanization. South Africa’s apartheid forced many black residents to live in confined, unsafe spaces at the periphery of cities. Later, its democratic government decided to adopt a neutral stance to avoid the mistakes of the past, but it did little to “overcome the legacy of urban segregation”, according to the paper. The government does not have a consistent national policy for planning or managing the process of urbanization, which has created hostility towards informal settlements and backyard shacks.

“The overarching lesson is that the failure to plan for predictable urbanization causes serious problems.”

India has also been largely ambivalent to urbanization, which could leave the country unprepared to add an expected 400 million people to the labour force by 2050. At the moment, agriculture-related activities provide a living to less than half of India’s current workforce, and this sector is unlikely to absorb many more people, which will compel many to seek work in cities.

3. Don’t assume creating progressive policies, laws and municipal institutions will be sufficient. These measures – which are often only on paper – are not enough to “harness the potential of urbanization”, points out Ivan Turok, an urban planning expert and author of an IIED paper on urbanization in South Africa. The real task is to ensure these policies – formulated sectorally – work as a whole. For instance, if a municipal council attempts to provide better housing for informal residents, it has to take into account ownership rights, access to cheap transportation, distance to job opportunities, and availability of health services and education. Another critical issue to consider would be whether suburbs have an equal share in any municipal spending.

4. Don’t exclude the voices of the poor. With municipalities in larger metros unable to raise enough taxes for maintenance, India has seen urban resident organizations enter into partnerships with the private sector for the provision of services in their localities, writes urbanization expert Amitabh Kundu. Poorer suburbs, unable to contribute financially, are mostly excluded from such initiatives. More affluent residents’ associations have even gone to the courts to remove informal settlements.

Do

1. Do accept that the poor have the right to be in cities. After that, prepare in advance for their land and housing needs within a constantly updated vision of sustainable land use, write George Martine and IIED’s Gordon McGranahan in a paper on Brazil. The most effective way to do this is to provide land and services for them before they arrive, rather than taking remedial actions that are much more costly to both poor city dwellers and the city itself.

2. Do invest in communities living in informal areas. Some South African municipalities have set up disaster-management units to help communities cope with the consequences of shack fires, flooding and other hazards. This has helped bring the number of disaster-related casualties down. Some have invested in infrastructure and services to improve its residents’ quality of life.

3. Do help people living in informal settlements and unsafe housing acquire cheap land. A new government grant in South Africa supports the upgrading of existing settlements and the creation of new housing opportunities in better locations by subsidizing the acquisition, servicing and release of land for low-income housing.

Q & A with Gordon McGranahan, the team leader on urbanization at IIED, about lessons for developing countries.
Q: What are the lessons from the BRICs?

A: The overarching lesson is that the failure to plan for predictable urbanization causes serious problems. In the BRICs, there have been a few largely successful attempts to halt urbanization – apartheid in South Africa and the Cultural Revolution in China – but these illustrate the extreme problems that can arise from trying to control urbanization directly. There are also positive examples – the social programmes in Brazil and the urban experimentation in China that helped underpin its amazing economic success. But there are no panaceas; getting urbanization right means making difficult trade-offs.

Q: Is urbanization inevitable? Some studies suggest rural development efforts are causing people to move to villages.

A: Urbanization is not inevitable, but as economies shift out of agriculture, urban population growth almost inevitably occurs, often at a rate disturbing to urban authorities. In India, some authorities seem to be curtailing urbanization by reducing the number of migrants and low-income households settling in their cities… My understanding is that [people moving to rural areas] reflects a failure to create dynamic and economically successful cities. Some studies do indicate counterurbanization in the face of economic problems, but it is difficult to think of a low- or middle-income country undergoing both sustained economic growth and de-urbanization. If rural investments can only be justified on the grounds that they prevent people from moving to cities, then I would argue they cannot be justified at all.

Q: Should urbanization be considered only the movement of people from rural areas to urban ones? Or is urbanization also the development of rural areas?

A: This raises important issues about definition and, eventually, about policies. Urban densities are declining, while rural lifestyles and occupations are increasingly similar to urban ones. There are still environmental and economic advantages to dense urban settlement, however; these need to be exploited. China went through a period when it seemed its industrialization would be much more rural than usual, but when the economy started to boom, enterprises in urban settlements outcompeted rural ones.

jk/rz

source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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