Participatory local governance in Asian cities: invited, closed or claimed spaces for urban poor?

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In the past two decades, many Asian countries including India have mandated participatory local governance through national statutes. Emerging research on Asian cities shows that despite strong national mandates, the practice of participatory governance at local levels remains largely ineffective.
Our research in Ahmedabad, India, shows that while the state government’s policy mandate for invited spaces for participation in local governance is weak compared with the national government’s policy mandate, the practice of participatory governance by the local government is even weaker, leading to ineffective or closed participatory spaces. In the absence of invited spaces, the middle class successfully uses the executive wing at the ward and zonal levels and e-governance and
m-governance platforms to negotiate their needs, whereas the poor rely on the elected representatives, but with limited success, resonating the experience of many cities in Asia. While in other cities of India, the poor have successfully engaged with elected representatives through clientelism to negotiate their needs, in Ahmedabad, this platform is captured also by the elite middle class and offers little opportunity to the poor. In response to the denial of all invited spaces of engagement and the consequent implications on their lives, the poor mobilize to claim spaces for engagement with the state through judicial recourse. Although successful, claimed spaces of the poor are one-off mechanisms that close upon the end of the judicial process rather than culminate into permanent invited spaces for participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironment and urbanization Asia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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