German Habitat Forum, Berlin – Designing Sustainable Solutions for Cities In The Future, 1st June, 2016
Theme- People, Politics and Practice
Sheela Patel spoke at the conference as a representative of communities who live and work informally in cities, and who in her estimation represent a majority of people in the cities. This is a transcript of her speech.
“The city development, as you see it today, excludes with or without purpose the challenges that poor people who live in cities either recently or over the last eight decades have been facing, they remain invisible, and their participation I believe is a very important ingredient in discussions about People, Politics and Practice.
If we don’t start exploring solutions that will make us feel good 50 years from now, we will never begin; because in today’s cities there is inequality, there are huge differences in incomes, in opportunities that have political and many other reasons for not being explored but which will only exaggerate in the future, but we don’t want to wait any more to solve those problems because we can’t solve those problems if we don’t solve them today.
This is a decade of aggregators and organizations like ours, Shack Dwellers International, ACHR; we are all aggregators of urban informality, of men and women living and working in very difficult conditions to reach out to the other players in the city, to find scalable citywide solutions that both picks from what’s outside and take the unique characteristics of the city that is there. So it requires a new disruptive partnership strategy in order for this transformation to occur. Business as usual is not going to work, so do we have the courage, do we have the guts and do we have the capacity to explore these unusual and disruptive solutions?.
In the end a lot of what happens in cities is around land. The politics of who owns land, what its used for, what mechanisms produce inclusion or exclusion forms the basis of how cities evolve and grow and whether they have a chance for sustainable equitable options or not. Politics is at the centre of this, there’s no shortage of technical solutions. Do we have the courage to do that, do we have the capacity to explore new solutions? Because in the end, the sustainability that we are challenged with today (which we start with the meetings we will have for Habitat III, that we’ve come with all our challenges of climate) of our sustainable growth will happen in the geography of cities which will have to deal with a multiplication of challenges and we are far away from that. We should be extremely dissatisfied with what is happening because we don’t have the courage to explore unusual relationships and partnerships.
As the representatives of the networks of the urban poor, we want to explore possible relationships and partnerships, new ways of doing business with whoever has the courage to come and work with us. We are looking for ways by which we transform the future that we prepare for the youth of tomorrow into one which is safe, which turns that into the advantage rather than the violence that we predict that will take place if their aspirations and expectations are not fulfilled by our generation. If we have the courage to explore change, we explore new ways of doing business and of sharing and supporting each other through this process; I think we can see a glimmer of success.”