The Urban Guru Website

Two decades of Urban Management Programme

01/12/2005 00:00

The UMP was initiated in 1986 at Istanbul, 10 years after the first Habitat

conference, and a decade before Habitat II. Its launch marked an important step in the evolution of international thinking on urban development. In 1976, at Vancouver, the world discovered slums and squatter settlements, the problems of rapid urbanization in the South, as well as the serious limitations of urban planning. The international community also discovered the first urban projects, sites and services and settlements upgrading schemes. This project-approach,

based on the implementation of well-defined physical projects, prevailed from

1976 to 1986, while master planning disappeared progressively from the priorities of developing countries.  Between 1982 and 1986, a new concept

of urban management emerged. The idea was to replace long-term physical planning, which had no real impact on city development, with daily action-oriented urban management, integrating both physical and financial parameters. The other goal was to insert discrete projects within a framework of overall city management. However, the approach remained sectoral, and UMP-Phase 1 addressed three areas, revealing still a technical understanding of urban challenges – finance, land and infrastructure – as key components of the urban development process. In addition, UMP-Phase 1 tried to influence central governments more than local authorities. Urban management was replacing master planning, but municipal development was not yet on the agenda. One of the discoveries of this first phase was precisely to highlight the potential role of local governments in urban management. The second phase of UMP went further, by directly supporting decentralization processes in various developing

countries. The UMP-thematic focus evolved in parallel, as Phase 2 incorporated two multisectoral objectives of urban policy: environmental management and poverty reduction. These two objectives became also top priorities of multilateral and bilateral support agencies, as well as of the Habitat Agenda adopted in Istanbul in June 1996. From the thematic point of view, UMP Phase 2 has combined the sectoral  approach of the 1980s with the integrated approach of the 1990s.  This transition led to a structuring of Phase 3 around three objectives: protecting the environment, reducing poverty and improving governance, which are all multisectoral.  The importance given to urban governance reflects a major step towards a better understanding of urban problems and also offers a direction for their resolution.  The concept of good or sound governance – defined as a system of government that is participatory, transparent, equitable and effective – refers to the political dimension of urban management. Sound governance requires the combination of urban management and local democracy. It emerged in the early 1990s as the new paradigm in

the urban development arena. This is where we stood in 1996. From

planning to management, from management to governance, from central government to local authorities, from technocracy to partnerships, from large infrastructure to sustainable development, UMP was at the heart of many debates on urban development during the 1986-1996 decade.  During its third phase (1997-2001), the UMP tried to build adequate regional capacities to implement these new policies in developing cities. Having established four regional offices, the UMP developed an institutional anchoring strategy through which it built the capacities of a number of national and regional institutes which became centres of excellence in urban management (see articles). This was a difficult process as it was going against the well-established approach whereby expertise comes systematically from the North. In fact this exercise had to be extended into a fourth phase (2002-2005). A most interesting dimension of the last decade was the promotion of city consultations as a means to translate good urban governance into reality. Invented by the UMP and its twin sister, the Sustainable Cities Programme, city consultations are a practical way to involve stakeholders in urban planning and management, i.e. to define common priorities, agree on responsibilities and initiate concrete actions. More than 100 cities, helped by UMP, adopted this approach which has become an international standard.  While city consultations are essential at the planning stage, they have to be complemented by follow-up mechanisms at the implementation stage. This may have been the weakness of UMP, connected to

the persistent weakness of municipal finance systems in many developing countries.  The programme has identified some promising options such as city community challenge funds and participatory budgeting, but a lot remains to be done in this area. In fact, after 20 years, we are back to this crucial issue of urban finance, the stumbling block of urban management that the World Bank has not been able to fix in spite of billions of US dollars of capital assistance (see article page 5 by Michael Cohen). Finally, we should emphasize an important result of the UMP, which is to have introduced urban poverty and urban governance into the mainstream of UN-HABITAT activities. The Global Campaign on Urban Governance, launched during UMP-Phase 3, has been derived directly from the UMP experience. And the UMP has worked closely with UN-HABITAT Regional Offices to promote City Development Strategies and Regional networks of urban experts. The UMP has been a useful think-tank and a broad network of experts. It has renewed urban planning approaches and built new capacities in the developing world.  Three global coordinators played an important role to ensure its success: Emiel Wegelin (1994-1996), Paul Taylor (1997-1999) and Dinesh Mehta (2000-2005) managed the programme in a highly professional and efficient way. Their contributions must be publicly recognized.