Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Development Planning Unit


Urban equality refers to the possibility of attaining an even distribution of access to resources, services and opportunities, as well as recognition of social diversity and inclusion in decisions that affects urban citizens' lives. Increasing rates of urban inequality since the 1990s affect directly prosperity and resilience outcomes in urban areas. Increasing rates of urban inequality hold back economic, social and political progress and can contribute to conflicts and extreme poverty. In the age of urbanisation, with more than half of the World's population living in urban areas, achieving urban equality is a major global challenge. Three quarters of the World's urban areas are more unequal today than they were 20 years ago. Close to 1 billion people worldwide live in informal settlements, deprived of basic services and livelihood opportunities. The challenge of urban inequality has inspired a new global discourse on the future of cities and urban areas. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, the 'urban' goal, emphasise the need to deliver inclusive cities. The New Urban Agenda (NUA) adopted by national governments in Quito, October 2016, asks for urban policies for a city that leave 'no one behind'.
The project 'Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality' (henceforth KNOW) seeks to develop research capacities in developing countries and in UK institutions that deliver ODA research, to deliver on the SDG11 and the NUA. KNOW focuses on the major knowledge gap in global policy agendas: delivering urban equality for inclusive cities of opportunities for all. The work programme focuses on three key challenges: achieving prosperity; building resilience to disasters and a changing climate; and addressing the persistent problem of extreme poverty.
The work programme is divided in six work packages. Three work packages focus on learning-by-doing, that is, doing research as a means to build capacity. Work Package 1 will deliver city-relevant research in several countries including Perú, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Tanzania, Uganda, Sierra Leona, India, and Sri Lanka. In each case, KNOW will support the formation of a network of overseas and local academics, and stakeholders who will work together to identify the specific challenges associated with urban inequality that emerge in each city. Work Package 2 will use different case-based experiences to develop a comparative programme of research across cities, exploring the challenges of prosperity, resilience, and extreme poverty. Work Package 3 will focus on develop an 'Ethics of Practice' for urban research, within the framework of the Global Challenges Research Fund.
Three work packages will focus on delivering capacities to maximise the impact of research. Work Package 4 will focus on how to translate research into practice, working with key policy makers, intermediaries, and activists to explore the development of urban policy following the programme of research in each city. Work Package 5 will focus on how to maximise the impact of research in education, particularly focusing on the education of planners in the Global South. Finally, Work Package 6 will examine the UK-based capacities to deliver ODA-research for urban equality, seeking to strength current areas of work and develop a new transdisciplinary field of research practice.
KNOW will be coordinated by the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, a recognised institution with a track record of 60+ years of applied research to deliver socially and environmentally just cities in the global south. KNOW also build on a consolidated network of partners in urban areas, capable to deliver an ambitions, international, and interdisciplinary urban research. These partners constitute the locus for a worldwide network of Urban Hubs that, strengthen by the experience in KNOW, will deliver a long-term agenda of research for urban equality.

Planned Impact

The project focuses on delivering a multi-level programme of impact. The case studies will deliver impact at local and national levels. Within the city, the main benefits will be to local governments and communities. For local governments, the project will help to develop and assess policy and strategies to deliver urban equality. For communities, the project will support processes to improve recognition and participation in urban governance, and deliver context-specific projects whose outcomes will benefit directly. In the long term, the reduction of inequality in urban areas will have an overall impact on the prosperity and well-being of all citizens in each city. Beneficiaries in each city include:
Tanzania: Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI); Tanzanian Federation for the Urban Poor (TFUP)
Freetown: Freetown City Council; YMCA SL; Centre of Dialogue on Human Settlements and Poverty Alleviation
Kampala: Community Groups: KCCA, ACTogether, KALOCODE, TWESUNDA
Lima: CENCA, CIDAP and Foro Ciudades para la Vida
Havana: Neighbourhoods of Los Sitios; and the City Planning Office and the Municipality of Havana
Colombo: Women's Co-op; Sevanatha

The project will help to increase national government capacity to report on the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda, which will benefit in-country reporting offices. Partner organisations such as FLACSO, ACHR and the Indian Institute of Human Settlements have a track record of influencing national governments on urban-related matters.
At the international level the project will benefit international organisations with a focus on urban areas, and transnational civil society organisations which seek to deliver just transformations in urban areas.
UN-Habitat led the conference Habitat III and will play an important role in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. Following previous engagement of this team with UN-Habitat, this project will contribute priorities for implementation of urban policies that leave no one behind. The United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) represents local and regional leaders worldwide, and organised the influential World Summit of Local Leaders which shaped the World Mayors Assembly at Habitat III. UCLG has a strong interest in forms of local governance that improve urban prosperity, and have highlighted urban inequality as a priority. KNOW will similarly benefit organisations that led the campaign for the adoption of the 'urban SDG', including achieving urban equality goals. These include, for example, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the World Urban Campaign, the Cities Alliance, the World Association of the Major Metropolises, the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development, the Communitas Coalition, and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI).
Findings will benefit organisations that work directly with the urban poor, for which urban inequality is an obstacle both to win representation in local governments and to deliver outcomes that improve poor people's wellbeing and livelihood opportunities. Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI), for example, will benefit directly from initiatives putting into practice their principles. The Habitat International Coalition (HIC) will benefit from thinking on urban equality that contributes directly to their ongoing debate on the right to the city. The association WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing) will benefit from the delivery of gender-sensitive strategies to achieve urban resilience and prosperity.
Contributions to the three challenges of prosperity, resilience and extreme poverty will help delivering a research programme of direct relevance for ODA programmes in the UK. DFID, particularly, can play a key role through urban interventions. The project will also benefit ODA research and implementation agencies, such as the Overseas Development Institute, the International Institute for Environment and Development, and Practical Action.


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