By Loraine Kennedy, Glen Robbins, Dianne Scott, Cathy Sutherland, Eric Denis, Julia Andrade, Liliana Miranda, Aurélie Varrel, Véronique Dupont, Bérénice Bon


Literature Review No 3 – March 2011


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Policy-makers in developing countries increasingly place their large cities at the centre of their economic growth strategies. Such city-centric policies usually involve interventions designed to establish either competitive production platforms (e.g., enterprise parks) for engaging with global markets or specialized infrastructure (e.g., urban transport, airport, malls, gated residential communities) for buttressing economic development. Large-scale economic and infrastructure projects in developing countries, aimed at leveraging the potential of cities as growth engines, throw up particular challenges for urban sustainability by fuelling land speculation, exacerbating urban sprawl, reorienting employment patterns, displacing local populations and livelihoods, and increasing environmental health risks. These specialised spaces strive for maximum global connectivity without necessarily favouring linkages with the local economy, thereby creating risks for urban spatial fragmentation and social exclusion. Moreover, they may contain a built-in social bias, i.e., affluent and middle class groups benefit more directly to the extent that these policies promote primarily commercial and service activities requiring skilled labour.

The study of the politics of large-scale economic and infrastructure projects is the central theme of WP2 of the C2S project. This paper will outline a set of questions and hypotheses for this workpackage with reference to existing literature, the objective being to conduct a review through the analytical lenses of the C2S project, that is, with attention to participatory knowledge management systems and inclusive governance. The main assumption of the overall project is that in order to promote more resilient patterns of development, cities need to incorporate different types of knowledge into their strategic planning activities with the active participation of various types of actors (Hordijk, Baud 2010: 2). This means for instance that economic growth strategies would need to integrate environmental and social dimensions and that local governance would need to involve various social actors including socially marginalized groups in order to produce more deliberative and democratic decision-making (Sao Paulo WP5, p2). It is also assumed that participatory spatialised knowledge contributes to a better understanding of urban development processes, including the social, spatial and environmental impacts on the urban local economy of particular city marketing strategies, notably the promotion of large-scale economic and infrastructure projects, compared to alternative strategies (Sao Paulo WP5, p2).


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