The rapid expansion of Indian cities has exacerbated socio-economic inequality, hindered social cohesion, and accelerated climate change. India’s economic growth over the next few decades will be determined by its response to these challenges. There is growing awareness, however, that the government alone does not possess the human and financial capital required to resolve these issues.

Carnegie India and Janaagraha hosted Andrew Boraine, chief executive officer of the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership (WCEDP), for a discussion on forging multi-stakeholder partnerships to solve problems created by rapid urbanization. The discussion drew on the WCEDP’s experience of serving as a collaborative intermediary organization to address urban governance issues in Cape Town, South Africa. Participants focused on the potential for creating a similar organization within India’s urban ecosystem.

DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Role and Structure of the WCEDP: The WCEDP, the speaker noted, has been critical to solving problems related to urban governance and economic development in Cape Town, South Africa. Its structure as a collaborative intermediary organization that brings together stakeholders—across businesses, academia, civil society, philanthropy, and the government—has facilitated this, he added. Further, the speaker highlighted that, though WCEDP draws its funds from the public sector, it retains complete control over their allocation, which has enabled it to work as an autonomous intermediary body. 
  • New Approach to Urban Governance: The participants noted the inability of Indian public institutions to keep pace with rapid urbanization, thereby resulting in rising levels of inequity, unemployment, crime, and environmental destruction. The speaker emphasized the need to look at governance through a systems approach as the state possesses limited financial and human capital. Participants added that through this approach, multiple stakeholders come together to solve the problems caused by rapid urbanization. Doing so allows various stakeholders to present unique perspectives that enable comprehensive economic development, the speaker noted.
  • Local Governance in India and South Africa: Participants explored the difference between the models of local governance in India and South Africa. First, participants underscored that since the formation of the South African state, there has been a strong constitutional backing for local governance. In contrast, although the 74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution provides for the devolution of powers to the municipalities, its implementation leaves much to be desired. Second, the participants highlighted that, unlike South Africa, the relationship among the three tiers of the government in India—center, state, and local—has remained hierarchical. Third, they noted that South Africa on the one hand has a participatory model for urban local governance, which guarantees citizen engagement during the decision-making process. As an example, participants discussed how South African urban local bodies are legally required to consult citizens while finalizing the municipal budget. On the other hand, participants highlighted the lack of similar mechanisms in India that enable citizen engagement with urban local bodies.
  • Way Forward: The speaker noted that a multi-stakeholder partnership could improve the relationship between the ‘top-down’ authorizing environment (comprising of regulations, electoral cycles, and political mandates) and the ‘bottom-up’ mobilizing environment (consisting of activists, nongovernmental organizations, researchers, and so on). Within India, participants identified four key challenges that need to be overcome to achieve this. First, they underscored the need to develop a political consensus on the utility of such partnerships to ensure their continuity under different governments. Second, they emphasized a need for greater accountability and transparency in the public sector. Third, they noted a need for greater trust among stakeholders across different sectors. Fourth, they highlighted that ensuring the autonomy of an intermediary—such as the WCEDP—in India would require an incentive structure that places the onus of funding on the partnering organizations.

This event summary was prepared by Aakansha Jaimini and Nikhila Eda, research interns at Carnegie India.