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Service Delivery To Informal Settlements In South Asia's Mega Cities: the Role Of State and Non-State Actors

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posted on 11.06.2021, 18:15 by Faisal Haq Shaheen
This interdisciplinary research project compares service delivery outcomes to informal settlements in South Asia’s largest urban centres: Dhaka, Karachi and Mumbai. These mega cities have been overwhelmed by increasing demands on limited service delivery capacity as growing clusters of informal settlements, home to significant numbers of informal sector workers, struggle to obtain basic services. In the absence of state supports, some informal settlements engage non‐state actors to obtain services. In order to compare service delivery outcomes through these actors, I used a layered, mixed methods approach guided by an interdisciplinary literature review and policy examination. I drew on semi‐ structured interviews as well as pairs of case studies to measure successful and unsuccessful service delivery outcomes in each of the three mega cities.   Key findings are that chronic disconnections exists in all three countries, where upper tiers of the state persistently fail to create an enabling environment for lower tier state actors and municipal service delivery machinery. The cause of these disconnections is the persistent colonial impression on the bureaucracy, Neoliberal policies and the appropriation of public resources by organized crime and their backers, urban elites. Non‐state actors have facilitated service delivery to informal settlements, resulting in isolated success and improved levels of human development. However, the case studies demonstrate that the success of non‐state actors is attributed to support from lower tier state actors. A complex political economy of upper and lower tier actors, rooted in unresolved land ownership and elite interests is disabling the capabilities of lower tier state actors to extend services to the urban poor. The study informs our understanding of the role played by technical non‐governmental organizations (NGOs) in facilitating representative community‐based organizations (CBOs) engagement of state service delivery providers. The study illustrates the differential attitudes between upper and lower tier state actors towards informal settlements. The study also separates the ‘development industry’ from grass root representatives of informal settlements. The study also affirms the ability of informal settlements to organize, mobilize and engage municipal service delivery providers. The study emphasizes the need to remove constraints that upper tiers of state and society place on informal settlements in order for equitable development and sustainable levels of service delivery to be realized



Doctor of Philosophy


Policy Studies

LAC Thesis Type


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