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The illusion of community participation: experience in the irregular settlements of Bogotá

Hataya, Noriko; (2007) The illusion of community participation: experience in the irregular settlements of Bogotá. Doctoral thesis, University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

The study focuses on community participation among the poor of Bogotá, Colombia. It explores the changing relationships between poor communities, local politicians and the city government before and after the institutional reforms and changing approach to development that occurred during the 1990s. The case studies were conducted in six irregular settlements, all developed in contravention of the city’s planning regulations. Data were collected using a sample household survey and in-depth interviews with community leaders, local inhabitants and the representatives of outside organisations. In the 1990s, clientelistic practices became less effective to push the regularisation process. City programmes toward irregular settlements became more holistic and benefited from better coordination between the different public entities. As a result, the inhabitants became more discriminating in identifying the most effective strategies for obtaining the services and infrastructure that they required. Competent government intervention was ultimately the most important factor in furthering the regularisation process. However, regularisation could not be achieved without community participation. Community involvement was important both before and after a settlement was recognised. The community had to find the money to put down a deposit before the service agencies would install services. This required not only a minimum level of economic resources but also firm community leadership. The study also shows that apparently contradictory decisions made by the different communities were highly rational. Whether the inhabitants were willing to pay for services depended on the benefit they expected in return. Their criteria changed through the consolidation process because their most urgent needs changed. Today, after the pricing system of public services changed, access to services depends mostly on users’ purchasing power and not on the collective negotiation led by the JAC leaders. In the 1990s, under the new constitution with its laws protecting citizen’s rights, ‘participation’ of citizens in the political arena as well as their right to obtain basic services was clearly recognised. Under this legal framework, community participation gives the poor a voice with which they can present claims as well as criticise the negligence of public administration. However, the protests of the inhabitants against increased public service charges show that the community-based organisations sometimes still have reason, and the ability, to mobilise the local people as a final resort.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The illusion of community participation: experience in the irregular settlements of Bogotá
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Geography

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