Scholarly article on topic 'Urban Solidarity, A Key Issue to Sustainable Human Settlements'

Urban Solidarity, A Key Issue to Sustainable Human Settlements Academic research paper on "Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries"

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{"urban solidarity" / "decision making process" / governance / "sustainable human development"}

Abstract of research paper on Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, author of scientific article — N. Chabbi-Chemrouk, N. Driouèche

Abstract It is now quite clear that developing sustainable human settlements calls for a more holistic and collective approach. An approach that apprehend the city not only as an agglomeration of buildings, spaces and landscapes but also as that of many institutions, people and activities forming a collective whole. This paper focuses on the governing challenges faced by today's urban communities to achieve sustainable developments. It examines some “governance strategies” that most traditional cities have succeeded to implement over centuries with sustenance of social, economic and environmental order. Indeed, governance should not be one more imported concept, that we will have to automatically introduce to our environments without trying to learn from our traditional cities, as they even today continue to work as major places for employment, recreation and residence of the urban poor.

Academic research paper on topic "Urban Solidarity, A Key Issue to Sustainable Human Settlements"

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ProcediaEngineering21 (2011)002 - 710

Procedía Engineering

www.elsevier.com/locate/procedia

2011 International Conference on Green Buildings and Sustainable Cities

Urban solidarity, a key issue to sustainable human settlements

N.Chabbi-Chemrouka*, N.Driouechea

a Architecture and Environment research unit, EPAU, BP n°177, El Harrach, , Algiers, 16200, Algeria

Abstract

It is now quite clear that developing sustainable human settlements calls for a more holistic and collective approach. An approach that apprehend the city not only as an agglomeration of buildings, spaces and landscapes but also as that of many institutions, people and activities forming a collective whole.

This paper focuses on the governing challenges faced by today's urban communities to achieve sustainable developments. It examines some "governance strategies" that most traditional cities have succeeded to implement over centuries with sustenance of social, economic and environmental order.

Indeed, governance should not be one more imported concept, that we will have to automatically introduce to our environments without trying to learn from our traditional cities, as they even today continue to work as major places for employment, recreation and residence of the urban poor.

© 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of APAAS

Keywords: urban solidarity; decision making process; governance; sustainable human development

1. Introduction

Many organisations are referring to sustainable human development as opposed to development in order to emphasize issues such as the importance of participation in decision making process. Therefore, the term sustainable development goes far beyond the boundaries of economic and even ecological development to include human development, values, and differences in cultures.

Indeed, today's rate of social and cultural change and the complexity of the resulting social groups, show clearly the incapacity of conventional models of public action and management to reduce inequalities and to ensure social cohesion and equity. Moreover, these inequalities are very often translated spatially by territorial imbalances such as the concentration of the populations in some urban

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +2-213-561-216-6224 E-mail addresses: naima.chemrouk@gmail.com

1877-7058 © 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.proeng.20n.n.2068

zones, and the widespread of shanty towns.

This process of urban fragmentation itself increases the social disparities. And what was usually described as an "urban crisis" seems today, more than ever, associated to a "citizenship crisis". This situation explains the large interest to the concept of "governance" and the number of significant work developed in order to deal with challenges such as social fracture, and space fragmentation.

Indeed, such as it is conceived by some researchers, the principle of governance would effectively facilitate the integration of different groups, the coordination of the various actors and the implication/participation of the citizens in the building of more sustainable environments. Hence the "top-down" decision making process could be coupled with an ascending "bottom-up" approach emphasizing the principle of shared responsibilities, and therefore increasing the feeling of "urban solidarity".

2. Users and decision makers: the ever lasting gap

At one time public authorities, planners and designers assumed that they knew what was best for the public. They assumed they knew what the public needs and preferences were. It is now widely recognized that planners' and designers' conceptions of needs and preferences might be quite different from those of the public and that designers and the public are two groups with different values [1].

Some authors [2] suggest that this difference is due to the complexity of modern society were designers and users no longer share the same images and schemata, whereas in traditional societies images were clear and shared by everybody. In today's modern societies, the relationship between the producers and users of the built environment has become more complex [3].

With the widespread recognition of the pluralistic nature of societies and with numerous demands for users' involvement, finding ways of identifying users' real needs and preferences, rather than to rely on designers' intuitions has become the concern of an increasing number of researchers.

The most successful city governance "models", such as that of Barcelona in Spain [4], have been mainly based on public preferences in their regeneration policies. However, the level of participation in city governance in most developing countries is still very low if not inexistent.

This is the case in Algeria, where public participation in the urban development process is "a formality". The reasons for this can be found in the actual planning system, as citizens have hardly the opportunity to be directly involved in the decision making process, although they are supposed to exercise this right through their delegates and representatives in local assembly and municipality[5].

During the last few years, several NGO's became involved in some urban development actions, but their role is still restricted and they are usually invited to attend the last few presentation sessions of the proposed (and usually already adopted) actions. Effective involvement of citizen in preparing, discussing, adopting and implementing actions is therefore urgently needed.

3. The need for improved governance structures

Sustainable strategies are inclusive and involve all the key sectors of society, including businesses, environmentalists, civic associations, government agencies, and religious organisations.

In developing countries these actors are hardly in relation and any efforts in favour of "good governance" should aim to promote constructive interactions between these actors and should cover all the dimensions involved in the creation of a sustainable human development.

A brief overview of the concept's evolution shows, however, that governance could be defined as the different processes and methods used by individuals, public and private institutions, to narrow the gap that usually exits between them because of the lack of communication, and conflicting interests. It should therefore be adapted to each context.

3.1. Responsibility as a key issue to a g/w governance syst/m

An analysis of today's Algerian administrative system shows a system largely controlled by the central government services. This structure was supposed to safeguard the idea of public utility, social democracy and protect the major interests of the community.

This structure is in fact based on the Marxist urban sociology [6] which influenced most of the developing countries in the seventies. In this logic, the urban phenomenon was defined as the result of societal forces and interactions, class conflicts and the division/distribution of work being the main determinant of urban space. In this optic the State had to play the main role in the production of the city.

It is today, clear that the State alone cannot play this role by itself and different forms of partnerships are to be introduced to tackle the complexity of the urban phenomenon.

However, even if partnership has become an unavoidable aspect of the new governance system, partnership is only a "coordination mechanism". It facilitates cooperation between different groups and could have a form of consortiums, linkages, joint ventures, but cannot be generalised to all the people or potential users.

Responsibility at all levels could be the key issue to a new governance system. Indeed, a call for responsibility through different tools and instruments and at different scales could not only help to identify the different actors and their potential roles but also stimulate shared feelings of solidarity.

This type of solidarity existed in our traditional societies, where the interests of the community through, the elimination of "dharar" or Harm, "the consensus" and the "waqf' were successfully achieved.

3.1.1. Elimination of "Nharar"

This is based mainly on the prevention of harm to others. El Hathloul [7] reported that according to Muslim scholars "One has no right to create something that will inflict harm or damage to his neighbour, even when that is done within his own property".

The explicit recognition of the individual responsibility towards his neighbour had a great impact on traditional Muslim built form. Hence all windows, doors and other design devices were regulated with regard to neighbours' rights and privacy. The prevention of harm was also used to locate functions of land uses. Users enjoyed substantial authority and control over their quarters, including the construction of their dwellings. Only in cases of disagreement among neighbours was legal arbitration sought by the contending parties.

3.1.0. The "waqf" or charitable endowment

An interesting phenomenon in traditional Islamic cities is that of real-estate perpetuity which was made possible by Islamic laws of "waqf'. The "waqf' is a type of trust and a form of charitable endowment. It is called "habous" in North Africa. It includes land and buildings both commercial and residential. "Waqf' capital is given to God in perpetuity, and can never be repossessed, alienated or subdivided among the donor's heirs. The revenues from the trust provide first for the charitable purposes for which it was established; then the balance is distributed among the benefactor's relatives and the administrator of the "waqf'.

Another aspect of the traditional Islamic city is the large variety of ownership forms; Islamic law recognizes a large number of partial property rights: rights to a single room, and even air rights. Functionally, it recognizes a variety of different kind of rights: rights to the 'usufruct', rights during one's lifetime which then is passed to the others, rights to use but not to sell a property.

3.1.3. The consensus

The decision making process in the Islamic religious traditions is mainly based on consensus. The "Ijma'a" which literally means "assembling", was used whenever a decision was to be taken. Hence many building regulations were based on consensus and became respected by all, although there were no written prescriptions to enforce them.

4. Conclusion

Governance as a process of coordination of actors, social groups, and institutions could successfully act to stabilize the complex system of interactions between multiple partners. It could also contribute to implement successful strategies of sustainable development. But because sustainable environment depend on our engagement towards future generations, responsibility and solidarity are the key issue to good governance for sustainable human settlements.

The availability of satellite imagery and improvement in information handling technology has now reduced a lot the burden of drafting and updating maps and other information. This should give the authorities more time and better means for integrating community based actions and therefore generalizing the feeling of responsibility and solidarity among the majority of people.

References

[1] Despres C. et al. Collaborative planning for retrofitting suburbs: transdisciplinarity and intersubjectivity in action. Futures 2224;36(4):471-486.

[2] Rapoport A. The measuring bf the built environment: a aba verbal communication approach. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage;1982.

[3] Lawrence R. Housing, dwellings and homes: design theory, research and practice. Wiley; 1987.

[4]Rodrigues MR. Villes d'Espagne en regeneration urbaine. Les exemples de Barcelone, Bilbao et Madrid. Les annales Ce la Géographie 1999; 608:397 -419.

[5]Chabbi-Chemrouk N. The impact of French colonial legacy on Algiers urban development. GBER 2224;4(1): 15-23.

[5] Lojkine J., Le marxisme, l'état et la question urbaine.Paris :Presses universitaires de France ; 1977.

[6] Chabbi-Chemrouk N. Towards a socio-cultural approach of the house settlement system. Unpublished PhD thesis, Newcastle University, UK;1988.