Urban Governance and Citizenship- JCCD


Governance and Citizenship are two fundamental elements that enable a democratic system to function efficiently and effectively, and promote sustainable development of urban areas, in a manner that enhances livability for all citizens. Good governance achieves public goals through mutual and systematic interaction between government and citizens. Governance and Citizenship will be discussed in the context of government structure, empowerment of (local) governments, government cycles (tenure of politicians), communication and engagement with citizens, performance measurement and accountability, and ensuring the effective participation of citizens in the political and policy processes.

The theme of ‘Urban Governance and Citizenship’ at the IUC 2011 will outline the importance of governance structures and the involvement of citizens in the political and planning process, focusing on the following topics:

  • Urban Electoral Reforms
  • Urban Inclusion and Governance
  • Governance in Mega Cities
  • Formal Structure of Citizen Participation in Urban Governance
  • Role of Civil Society in Urban Governance
  • Role of ICT in Urban Governance
  • The State of Citizenship in Urban India

Effective policy, and therefore development outcomes, requires strategic guidance from governments as well as input from citizens.

The value of the interaction between the governance process and citizens depends on two factors. One is the nature of the governance that is initiated from the top, and secondly, the quality of citizenship, which is determined by the extent and the way in which citizens interact with the government and other public institutions, and participate in the political and planning process.

The challenge of the ‘crisis of the governability’ in India, which is aggravated by increasing instances of corruption, inefficiencies of public institutions, increasing inequalities and under-representation of  citizens in the governance process, becomes more intense in urban areas. The large scale of urban India puts immense pressure on public services, welfare and human development and infrastructure development, which creates challenges in managing urban affairs effectively. A key challenge is the overall size of cities – e.g. Bangalore transitioning to a megacity (over 10 million) Governance needs innovative mechanisms to ensure residents have a say.

One of the important tools in negating the complexity of urban governance is active citizenship. The concept of citizenship, including the legal status of an individual established by the Constitution, is also understood as the active participation from an individual in the polity. Citizenship derives from a set of core considerations of rights to which the citizen is entitled, and some moral obligations that the citizen considers fundamental to it. The citizen considers himself the agent of his political destiny, and that of the political collectivity of which he is a part (Mitra: 2010, p. 46). Citizenship brings a value to being a citizen and also entitles a person to participate in the process of governance.

Though it may be challenging to increase citizenship and participation in a traditional Indian society where society is diverse and discriminatory (Beteille: 1999, p. 2588) empowered and enabled public participation in a complex urban setting can bring value to society by ensuring a better quality of life. Active citizens in public affairs can provide a legal and value-driven identity to ensure not only transparent and accountable governance but also a dignified life for urban residents. Experiences reveal that the participation of citizens in the governance process in urban areas has not happened in a meaningful way and is affected by various systematic and functional issues that emerge from both government and communities.

Please refer to the attached paper which looks at these issues in more detail.


Plenary 1: Urban Electoral Reforms

Elections are essential processes in a democracy, especially in a competitive democratic political system, which provides a platform for citizens to express their aspirations, beliefs, attitudes and judgements with respect to the political environment of that country. However, in India, it has been observed that citizen participation in elections, especially in urban areas, has not been impressive. There is a mounting apathy among urban residents towards the electoral system.

Public apathy towards elections may be attributed to one of two reasons: First, urban citizens’ dissatisfaction with the functioning and performance of the political system (and therefore finding less value in their participation in voting) and second, the existing electoral system not being conducive to fulfilling the needs and aspirations of urban citizens. This session would focus on the second aspect of the problem.


Jayaprakash Narayan Abstract (file size:87 kb)

Rajeev Gowda Abstract (file size:37 kb)

Sandeep Shastri Abstract (file size:523 kb)

Plenary 2: Urban Inclusion and Governance

The challenge of urban poverty is unique and complex and therefore the solutions should be carefully designed and implemented as well. There is an increasing realisation amongst policy makers and practitioners in the urban space that there needs to be a paradigm shift from a “delivery” approach to an “empowerment” approach , i.e, a shift in viewing urban poor as recipients, to considering them as important stakeholders in the entire process. Community-oriented initiatives become important in ensuring urban inclusion. The following are some of the key questions that this theme aims to address: What is the policy response to address urban poverty and inclusion? To what extent do policy initiatives adopt the shift from a ‘delivery’ approach to an ‘empowerment approach’? How do community initiatives become relevant in addressing the issues related to urban inclusion and governance?


Plenary 3: Governance in Mega Cities

Megacities in India are emerging as a consequence of unprecedented urbanization associated with accelerating economic liberalization and growth. Of the six major cities in the world, with populations exceeding 10 million, two cities are Indian - Mumbai and Delhi. The transition of cities to megacities raises a variety of issues such as effective local governance, access to basic social services, infrastructure, environment, economic equity, etc.

In particular, this session offers to discuss and debate on the following questions to explore the issue of governance and megacities:

  • What are the most pressing issues and challenges of governance in megacities?
  • How are such issues understood and framed by policymakers?
  • How are unsustainability, risk, or disaster imagined, and how are those concerns reflected in policy approaches?

Governance in Megacities (file size:1.20 mb)

Deep Dive 1: Formal Structure of Citizen Participation in Urban Governance

This session focuses on the experiences of the functioning and effectiveness of formal structures of urban governance. Through the examination of primary data and evidence, the session discusses the need, relevance and effectiveness of formal structures of citizen participation by focusing on the experiences of individuals who have expended efforts to put such structures in place recently.


Deep Dive 2: Role of Civil Society in Urban Governance

There are four major areas in which civil society has potential to contribute to urban governance: access to information and dissemination of the same; negotiation with local, state and central governments for common needs and aspirations; ensuring transparency and accountability of public agencies by entering into closed administrative processes; and facilitating citizen participation in the process of governance. This session will explore the state of civil society’s involvement in urban governance, and various issues and concerns in this realm. The discussion will be based on primary data/ evidences and experiences.


Empowering Street Vendor (file size:3.50 mb)

Praja Dialogue (file size:1.50 mb)

Urban Governance and Citizenship in Comparative Perspective (file size:800 kb)

Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan (file size:500 kb)

Deep Dive 3: Role of ICT in Urban Governance

The process of urban change is closely connected with the proliferation of technology. Technology has the potential to bring ease into the complex process of governance. Municipalities can use ICT to reach out to the maximum number of people. However, critics of e-governance claim that it diminishes direct contact of citizens with the administration as well as public representatives. The lack of direct interface between citizens and governance poses the threat of public representatives becoming unaccountable. Another argument put forth by the critics is that access to e-governance services requires a certain amount of literacy and technical knowledge, which rules out a segment of the population unaware of using technology.

In this context, this session aims to discuss the prospects of deployment of ICT in urban governance and solutions of those limitations which pose hurdles to the proliferation of e-governance in urban India.


Deep Dive 4: State of Citizenship in Urban India

An established hypothesis is that social and political problems of urban India deepened due to the lack of active citizenry. Citizens in urban setups, more often, do not relate themselves to existing issues or problems, which results in a lack of public actions. Problems of housing, overcrowded transportation, waste spread on the roads, crackdown on drainage systems, etc. require active attention from citizens to participate in the management of these problems. Similarly, on the other side, profound actions are needed from the government to enable citizens to engage with urban governance. Through the examination of primary data/ evidence, the session discusses the state of citizenship in urban India, outlines its prospects and limitations, and highlights its implications for urban governance.