In Cairo’s rapidly growing informal areas, links between local inhabitants and public authorities are traditionally weak and the capacities of the public sector to respond to peoples’ needs and expectations remain limited. Informal area dwellers often feel neglected by local decision-makers and this has eroded their trust into elected officials.
Bottom-up pressure for change is often absent, as civil society remains unorganised and capacities for participation are low. The absence of functioning youth groups, women associations or local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) deprives these neighborhoods of civil society actors that could communicate peoples’ needs to local decision-makers. Existing associations usually limit their activities to purely charitable work, such as handing out free meals to orphans and widows, and do not enter into dialogue with public authorities.
“Community focus”, “local ownership” and “empowerment” are guiding principles of the Participatory Development Programme in Urban Areas (PDP). The programme considers broad stakeholder participation a key prerequisite for sustainable outcomes in urban development. Supporting civil society involvement and local stakeholder dialogue therefore constitute an essential pillar of PDP’s approach to informal area upgrading.
Participation empowers people and thus not only helps to achieve better results in urban upgrading, but also has a direct positive impact on local communities.
The overall objective of the fund for upgrading of informal areas is to sustainably improve the living conditions of the urban poor in the target areas. Specific objectives of different elements within the programme include:
Communication between informal area inhabitants, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and local decision-makers will be improved
Through new platforms of dialogue, better service delivery, higher levels of trust and more stakeholder collaboration will be achieved
Capacities of public authorities, CSOs and local communities will be developed, e.g. through training sessions, grant schemes and participation in Local Area Dialogue Committees (LADCS)
Youth and women will be empowered through active participation in various upgrading measures
Participatory mechanisms will help to raise peoples’ awareness of environmental and socio-economic challenges in their neighbourhood and will encourage them to think of potential solutions
The participatory urban upgrading will be realised through the implementation of concrete measures by civil society and local authorities. All of these measures will be based on a Participatory Needs Assessment (PNA) and will therefore correspond to the priorities of the local population. Local Area Dialogue Committees (LADCs), which bring together elected community representatives, play an active part in urban upgrading and ensure community inclusion throughout the process.
A grant scheme will be designed for the funds provided by the European Union. Following several calls for proposals, various small-scale upgrading initiatives will be selected for each target area. Successful fund management not only implies monitoring of project implementation and thorough evaluation procedures, it also requires information and training sessions to be provided for potential grant applicants before the implementation phase. Also user manuals and online support will be provided for grant scheme applicants in order to improve project design and produce potentially successful applications.
In order to ensure the active participation of local inhabitants, civil society and the private sector, capacity building and the establishment of new communication channels between local stakeholders have utmost priority.
A Participatory Needs Assessment (PNA) and a local capacity assessment have been conducted in the four target areas and the results have helped to identify the communities’ priorities for urban upgrading. LADCs have been formed through elections in all four informal areas and play now a key advisory role in the urban upgrading process, acting as a community voice.
Each future call for proposals will be accompanied by a series of information and training sessions for applicants. After the evaluation of proposals and the award of the first round of grants, implementation of small-scale projects for informal area development can begin in early 2014. To begin with, socio-economic measures that create employment and improve service provision will be on top of the agenda. Subsequent calls for proposals will then address social and physical infrastructure, focusing on health, education and environmental issues.
The expected long-term result is the improvement of livelihoods of the urban poor in the four selected informal areas through socio-economic and environmental upgrading measures. Participatory mechanisms will enhance the role of the private sector and civil society in urban development and will particularly aim to strengthen the participation of women and youth in local initiatives. The LADCs ensure improved local dialogue between public authorities and local communities and can improve the quality of services delivered by CSOs and the public administration.