Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Themes for future issues

April and October 2020: Rethinking the roles of the state and communities in urban housing and land-use management.

Deadline for submissions: passed.

Housing seems to be in crisis in most urban centres around the world. In prosperous cities, house prices rise faster than incomes – forcing low-income (and even a proportion of middle-income) households into more cramped, poor-quality housing in more peripheral locations. In much of the global South, high proportions of city populations live in informal settlements because they cannot afford to buy, rent or build formal good-quality housing. The proportion of individuals who live in informal settlements – often 30–60 per cent of city populations – is a measure of the failure of formal systems. The irony is that this is marginalizing the workforce on which city prosperity depends – and on which its wealthier households depend for goods and services. We welcome papers that offer original analyses of the causes of the housing crisis.

We also welcome papers that give us insights into how low-income urban dwellers buy, build or rent (or otherwise acquire) accommodation and their priorities with respect to shelter. And how this can be supported by national and local government policies and programmes that increase the supply and reduce the costs of housing. This includes:

• Expanding supplies of serviced plots for housing with good access to employment and integrated into high-quality public transport

• Reducing costly, slow and often corrupt procedures for land purchase

• Changing inappropriate regulations – for instance unnecessarily large minimum plot sizes

• Housing finance systems that are inclusive and that support land purchase and incremental housing

We encourage papers that go beyond descriptions of the problems to offer conceptual and analytical insights into inclusive and scalable solutions – including examples of good practice. This includes housing initiatives that draw on resources from individuals/households and community organizations (including their savings and their capacities to contribute to upgrading) and private sector enterprises (for instance for building materials, small loans and rental housing), as well as drawing resources and support from ward, municipal and higher levels of government. We also welcome papers on housing initiatives, which include building resilience to the changes that climate change will or may bring and that contribute to low-carbon cities.

April 2021: Education and learning for inclusive development

Deadline for submissions: 15 August 2020. (Early submission is encouraged.)

Education is fundamental to the achievement of equitable and transformative urban development, a means of both fostering the urban advantage and deriving optimal benefit from everything this advantage implies. It is also, of course, the avenue to personal development, contributing as it does to the potential to exercise agency in the world and to what Appadurai termed the capacity to aspire. And yet too often problems with both access and quality make education, or its absence, yet another dimension of the disadvantage of poor urban citizens, denying them opportunity and reinforcing exclusion. Migrants and refugees may find it especially difficult to gain access to schooling. In some cities, poor urban children are actually less likely to attend school than their rural counterparts.

This issue of the journal will focus on a wide range of related topics as they pertain to education in urban areas. We welcome both broad policy discussions and detailed case studies, and analyses of the barriers to education as well as papers on interesting models and solutions. We encourage submissions on both formal school systems and informal alternatives, on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and its implications for families, on adult literacy and training for livelihoods, on health education and on the self-education of organized groups, working to advance their options and to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

October 2021: Citizen participation in planning: from the neighbourhood to the city

Deadline for submissions: 15 February 2021. (Early submission is encouraged.)

The need for citizen participation in local planning processes has long been recognized. Such involvement is essential both for equitable democratic citizenship and for effective interventions that recognize and respond to everyday lived realities. This is true of very localized efforts to replan and redevelop neighbourhoods, as well as larger-scale efforts such as Epworth, Zimbabwe (Chitekwe-Biti et al., 2012). While there have been multiple efforts across towns and cities of the global North and global South, there have been too few initiatives that have expanded or grown upwards and outwards to address the scale and depth of need of those at the city scale, be it through citizen-generated engagements (Boonyabancha et al., 2012) or participatory budgeting (Cabannes, 2014).

Participatory planning and development for informal settlements is particularly important. The significance of informal settlements as a home for many of the lowest-income and most disadvantaged urban citizens is already substantive and is expected to increase. The construction, upgrading and transformation of dwelling and infrastructural solutions in deprived and marginalized settlements is a critical challenge for government agencies.

Faced with considerable state neglect, neighbourhood organizations, social movements and NGOs are consolidating alliances and federations to reclaim the capacity to modify their living environments as a collective right.

The organization of these collectives has led – in at least some contexts – to the reconsideration of the ways in which both the state and residents engage in the production, arrangement and distribution of infrastructural networks and service provision (Watson, 2014). Beyond expansive forms of participation and decentralization strategies, emerging practices have captured the emergence of “deeper forms of democracy” (Appadurai, 2001), where urban alliances and federations mobilize their collective power to co-produce or co-construct infrastructural and dwelling solutions with greater degrees of autonomy (Mitlin, 2008). Through the dissemination of different technologies for self-enumeration and collective mappings, many organizations are democratizing access to technical knowledge and consolidating their bargaining position, while questioning the monopoly held by state agencies and private developers over the use of planning and regulatory frameworks (Patel, 2013). At the same time, the “bottom-up” co-production of informal settlement upgrading is problematizing the role of design and planning professionals (Frediani and Boano, 2012). New professional roles and practices have emerged through their active engagement – as equals – with organized communities, although this requires that new challenges are recognized (Mitlin et al., 2019).

However, considerable challenges remain. What do recent experiences add to our understanding about how and in what form participation can be scaling upwards and outwards? Specifically, what are the bottom-up processes that can be catalysed at the community level and grow in scale? What is the relationship of participation to democracy and political inclusion? What are the key challenges that remain in terms of participatory practices? How can both academics and professionals address past deficiencies and secure more accountable processes and knowledge democracy? What are the lessons from the experiences of the slum/shack dweller federations in widening the space for their participation? (An example is the importance of resident organizations, and of making local governments see them as valuable partners and of showing the viability of alternative approaches to bulldozing.)

This issue ofEnvironment and Urbanizationis looking for papers that address these and other relevant issues. For example, can we explore, through practical examinations, the relation between popular participation and the process of scaling. A second example is how we can understand the construction, provision and administration of infrastructures for informal settlements as a critical political terrain and a domain from where to explore new forms of popular participation.