Theater of Cruelty

The periphery is being urbanised

Eric Berg
Erik Berg
Erik Berg worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs / NORAD from 1978 to 2013. He now heads Habitat Norway.
THE APPENDIX / The articles in this appendix of ORIENTERING shows which problems are linked to cities and poverty, pandemic, war, conflict, energy, food, flight, floods and fear.


We are facing a situation with a planet of cities where the periphery is being urbanised. The system is relatively uniform, complex and coherent. We can forget the city-country dichotomy and concentrate on exploiting the synergy in, among other things, our urban rivers. With a universal definition of a city as 5000 inhabitants, the EU and the World Bank have concluded that far more people live in urban areas – approx. 80 per cent – ​​than the 55 per cent the UN estimates based on the member states' indicators. The estimate must have consequences for how we organize global development work and follow up the sustainability goals.

The articles in this issue of ORIENTERING shows a world in crisis. Problems related to poverty, pandemics, war, conflict, energy, food, flight, floods and fear affect people. The problems are developing simultaneously on all continents, but they meet and play out in the cities. The question that needs to be discussed is how we can develop cities, streets and neighborhoods in the safest and most secure way with regard to the challenges. The common feature in an urban, climate and poverty perspective presented by the UN climate panel is that large multilateral programs do not reach the extremely poor who live outside the city's borders. 

Informal sector

Norwegian development cooperation cannot continue to pretend that this megatrend of urbanization does not exist. In one of our articles, however, the alleged "urban blindness" is nuanced. For fifty years, Norway has been part of an international discourse, particularly in the UN. But one has not seen the challenges and opportunities in an informal sector where extreme poverty abounds. Knowledge and analysis are lacking. One of the World Bank's poverty researchers reflects on important approaches in five points. One is to strengthen the local governance system to ensure all residents' right to the city. This perspective is consistent in several of the articles.

It is about power. It is in cities that those without power meet. When researchers in Women in Informal Economy: Globalizing and Organizing succeed in assisting workers in the informal sector with recognition in the ILO, it is an example of organizing being useful. "Gigs" – unregulated working and environmental conditions – are also spreading in Norwegian cities. Polish workers organize the interest battle for housing – in collaboration with the Norwegian trade union movement. That it is useful is the BZ "occupation movement". Copenhagen is an example. Activists who have sought power now hold important positions in politics and academia. Result: a new law that limits housing speculation to transnational companies such as Blackstone, in which the Oil Fund is a shareholder.

«Special Development Area»

Housing construction plays a crucial role in reducing poverty. However, the dynamism of the sector is hampered by outdated legislation, corruption, abuse of power and property speculators. MODERN TIMES' supplement presents the challenges from different points of view: new legislation making old practices illegal (Argentina), migration and population growth that burst the city's framework (Karachi, "Five Urbanists...") and demolish informal settlements, green areas and villages. Or Nigeria's cities, which are worst in the world for forced evictions and slum razing. Mechanisms in the UN which could notify, monitor and intervene has unfortunately closed down.

There are points of light in it Nairobi's slums among "slumlords" and gangs that inhibit people's initiative but ensure a minimum of predictability. The hope is reflected in the "Special Development Area" planning model and its collaboration between state and local authorities, global researchers, business and public organisations. Oslo with Greenland and Tøyen also uses integrated area approaches. The need for structures for mutual learning between global actors is called for.  

"World Urban Forum"

Safety and security for women is a city problem. In India (Safetipin), computer technology is helping to increase women's protection against abuse. This happens through apps for safe "sites" and "travels" based on ongoing updates via mobile. The recent "World Urban Forum" in Katowice was an inspiration for the work on the appendix. For Norwegian municipalities that did not participate, a summary of ideas relating to women's safety and security is offered. Both during the day and at night. People the world over shy away from open spaces and gatherings of people. They suffer from agoraphobia. THE the survey it is told about the development of virtual tools in the treatment of this.

Several articles have been written by doctoral and master's students. Some are winners of Habitat Norway's grant. Exciting, new perspectives are presented on monocities Kola, migrant workers' struggle for home in Trondheim, reuse instead of demolition in Oslo and structural abuses in a favela in Rio. It is asked when sustainable is actually sustainable, where two Britons, an urban planner and an architect, believes the term is outdated and presents five principles for "regenerative" design. The conclusion is that "quick fixes" with the help of technology do not imply real development.

As pointed out at the beginning of the appendix, it is challenging to relate to the connection between city and country. Few have activated the perspective more than the way the Farmers' Party set the tone already in the first "red-green" government in 1935. That should also be done by our development policy SP leadership.

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