Cities for people is a coalition formed on the basis of dialogues which started last year among various organizations on coming together to think, share and build an understanding of how one can contribute collectively to make our human settlements more inclusive, just and environmentally sustainable. The last year was a particularly productive time with civil society actors engaged in different dialogues and collective processes in a number of events. Many organisations came together in 4 major consultations-

  1. Meeting organized in TISS Mumbai
  2. Cities for People and Not for Profit (organised by CiRiC, June 2016)
  3. India’s Urban Future – Matter of Choice, not Chance (organised by TRCSS,JNU in October 2016).
  4. Cities for People – Engaging with the New Urban Agenda (organised by Citizens Rights Collective (CiRiC) and ActionAid India in April 2017, in New Delhi).

These consultations were mainly stimulated by international events such as the announcement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015, and the Habitat III conference at Quito in December 2016 and its process of coming up with the New Urban Agenda (NUA).

The October 2016 meeting in Delhi came out with “The Delhi Declaration” which was the collective response to the draft NUA by the large number of Education Institutes, NGOs and CBOs that formed part of the journey during the year. More important, the Delhi Declaration was also the resolve to take the dialogue further and beyond the NUA to build a strong civil society voice on urban issues in the country.

The first steps towards continuing collective engagement were taken in the April 2017 Delhi meeting, when it was proposed that to begin with, we should examine how the new initiatives of the Government of India – Smart Cities, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, AMRUT, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan etc.- are contributing towards making Indian cities more inclusive; more environmentally sustainable. Are they actually making things better for a majority of citizens? Are they not making a difference, or worse, are they reinforcing the present inequalities or worsening them? We talked of access to housing, jobs and services, security of tenure, public spaces and healthy living environments.

Moving forward, we would need to examine the Government of India’s schemes themselves to see what they have set out to accomplish and how. Along with this we would need to see what is happening in cities. Are these schemes delivering what they should? How are they making a difference to people in cities, especially the poor? Are there better alternatives? We can examine these initiatives from the point of view of inclusion and environmental sustainability as over-arching concerns. All this could go with an advocacy agenda in which we would include government, communities, local businesses, private sector; and an internet based information campaign. It would also go with a networking agenda to build up and expand civil society voice for influencing policy and practice towards inclusive and sustainable human settlements. These are only some initial ideas.

Environics Trust is the working secretariat office of the coalition. Kirtee Shah and R. Sreedhar are the Conveners and the co-conveners for the same.

A social media movement we call “Zindabad Shahar” has been started as a platform to share what is happening in the name of the developments in the country. You can like, post, share and follow the page on this link: