The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.
The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Economic Recovery in Post-Conflict Cities: the Role of the Urban Informal Economy

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Principal Investigator: Alison Brown. Lead Organisation: Cardiff University

Co-investigator: Peter Mackie

The research explores the role of the urban informal economy (IE) in poverty-reduction and peace-building in post-conflict cities, and its scope to provide livelihoods for the extreme poor and a platform for economic recovery. With a focus on urban areas in post-civil war settings, and on cities affected by protest or on-going turf wars, the research explores the complex drivers of conflict and links to the IE, the structural and individual factors that support/inhibit growth of the IE, and the role of local government (LG) in post-conflict economic recovery. Political upheaval or violent conflict is often characterised by a fundamental failure of governance and economic collapse.

An immediate impact of crisis may be the destruction of livelihoods and local economies, leading to insecurity, poverty, and hunger, which in turn exacerbates insecurity and rights violations. A further problem is the failure of local governance and the provision of basic services in conflict-affected settings. Working in the IE is an important coping strategy in such contexts.

Worldwide, the contribution of urban informal enterprises to GDP and jobs is substantial. Even when political stability is assured informality remains a structural characteristic of low-income economies, yet local and international policies see the IE only as a temporary solution. Post-conflict strategies should thus foster the IE, rather than dismiss its potential. The research focuses on Question 3) of the Research Call, to assess how measures that support the urban IE may reduce the "impact of violence and instability on the poorest, and increase the effectiveness of peace-building, state-building and wider development interventions in fragile and conflict-affected situations". The research also addresses Question 1), examining conflict as a factor that shapes "pathways into and out of poverty and people's experience of this". The hypothesis of the research is that in fragile and conflict-affected situations, the urban informal economy (IE) plays a pivotal role as a source of livelihoods and a platform for medium-term poverty-reduction, peace-building, and economic recovery, and that effective recognition of the IE by emergent local government and the international relief community is essential for this role to be realised.

The Objectives are explored through three broad questions:

1. How might measures supporting the urban IE increase the effectiveness of peace-building and reconciliation?

2. How can support for the IE create sustained routes out of extreme poverty and contribute to poverty reduction and economic growth?

3. How can local governments in fragile urban contexts support IE livelihoods and contribute to state-building?

Post-conflict recovery is a long and cyclical process and the research is based on case studies of cities with different drivers of conflict, those facing current unrest and those which have made a transition from conflict. The five case study cities have different experiences of conflict, including 'institutional' struggles for state control (Cairo and Kathmandu), 'economic' conflict over control of resources (Monrovia), 'social/political' control (Karachi) and 'emergent governance' (Hargeisa). The research is important because it will bring an understanding of the dynamic and economic potential of the IE into post-conflict debates. The findings will be taken forward by all the research partners: UN-Habitat in livelihoods and reconstruction policy, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum in strategies to strengthen post-conflict local government, Responding to Conflict in reconciliation, training, and peace-building, and communities in developing agency and voice. The research thus has significant potential to influence development assistance in practice.

Further Resources:

1. IMPACT INTEGRAL TO THE RESEARCH DESIGN The concept of 'impact' is at the core of the research design. Over 100 people will be involved in running the fieldwork, and helping to develop shared knowledge, strengthen voice, and reduce vulnerability for informal economy workers in fragile states. 2. WHO WILL BENEFIT AND HOW? The main target beneficiaries will be vulnerable informal economy (IE) workers in violent cities, who will benefit through developing stronger advocacy skills, and use of community-led metrics to promote longer-lasting peace, improved basic services, and security for the IE. In order to reach IE workers the research will seek to reach four constituencies: i) Local government officials in the case study cities and elsewhere, to strengthen their understanding of the needs of the IE and its potential in support local economic development. CLGF will facilitate access to a global practitioner community of local government. ii) Development practitioners: the research will strengthen understanding of the structures, needs and potential of the urban IE as a platform for poverty reduction, economic growth and peacebuilding which, despite extensive analysis and critique of post-conflict development interventions, is not widely recognised. iii) Multilateral agencies: through continuing partnership with UN-Habitat the project will disseminate knowledge to the global humanitarian relief community on the role of the IE in medium to long-term state-building and reconstruction. iv) Local academics: there is considerable benefit to local academics of this research, providing new opportunities for publication, research and networking. This will feed through into teaching and help develop local capacity for high quality research and publications. 3. ENSURING OPPORTUNITIES TO BENEFIT A total of 17% of the research budget is allocated to impact activities (excluding PI/CI time). Target constituencies will be reached through the following outputs: - Country seminars with community mapping participants and Local NGO Partners - 5 country reports, addressing the main research Objectives - Feedback meetings with key in-country local government associations - Presentations to CLGF biennial conference - 3 conference presentations, on development and conflict - 3 academic papers to journals reaching practitioners - academic teaching by all partners - Phase 1 Inception Workshop, held at UN-Habitat - Phase 3 Impact Seminar, held at UN-Habitat during a larger event - Joint publication with UN-Habitat

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Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
Cardiff School of Planning and Geography
Fund Start Date: 
January 1st, 2016
Fund End Date: 
January 31st, 2019
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