‘Been There, Done That’: On Best Practices in Urban Policy-Making
6 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 11, 2017
Urban areas in the Global South have been the subject of extensive study as settings for group conflict and as sites for related governance efforts. Experts have studied the dynamics of violent conflict, peace-keeping, and state-building in this context as well as the conflict management strategies of authorities in particular areas.
Based on these comparative studies, policy initiatives have been proposed to meet challenges of urban transformation in developing countries. It is argued that local government according to fundamental principles of subsidiarity and democracy is the most effective in mitigating tensions, and calls are commonly made to follow ‘best practices’ of political decentralization and popular participation.
My paper questions the value of this research when (re-)forming urban governance. How insightful and useful are such recommendations actually? I consider epistemologically the New Urban Agenda of Habitat III and then empirically experiences in India and China, as each concerns urban government.
I find that the extent to which national and international policy-makers can – and should – ‘learn from each other’ is significantly less than typically presumed. What seems more promising than the best-practices approach is for policy-makers to engage in individual experimentation in coping with challenges of urban transformation: these would recognise the singularities of their urban areas and strive for their own, possibly unique, government arrangements.
Keywords: Best Practices, Urban Government, Global South, Conflict Management
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