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Non-state actors in the urbanization process in cities of the Global South



Non-state actors are actively shaping the urbanization process in cities across the world, while centralized modes of governance are experiencing a reduced role. These non-state actors, ranging from institutions, corporations, international and local NGOs, to civil society actors, are playing conflicting roles in the urbanization processes in the Global South, each having a distinctive relationship with the state and with each other. This chapter presents three such distinct roles: that of provision, protest, and profit-making, as adopted by non-state actors in the production of urban space in Beirut, Lebanon, and Gurugram, India. Both contexts critically raise the point of public sector accountability in light of its shrinking role and the increasing role of the non-state actors. The first section of the chapter investigates how in Lebanon civil society groups and grassroots initiatives either resist undesirable urban development projects initiated by the state, or offer support to local communities, particularly in the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion of August 4, 2020. The case of Beirut examines how civil society actors can act as guardians of the public interest against a predatory state or fill the vacuum created by the public sector to support and provide for the local community. The second section of the chapter analyzes the role of another type of non-state actors – private developers and real estate companies – in the process of designing and implementing the master plan of Gurugram, a city in Haryana, India. The case study shows how profit-oriented projects led by non-state actors result in the marginalization of underprivileged groups.
AESOP Young Academics Booklet Project
Conversations in Planning
Please cite as:
Mukhopadhyay, C., C. Belingardi, G. Papparaldo, and M. Hendawy. (2021). Special issue: Plan-
ning Practices and Theories from the Global South. Dortmund, Germany: Association of European
School of Planning-Young Academic Network.
Internal And Cover Design:
Shaimaa Refaat, Piece Of Art Egypt
AESOP YA Booklet Project
Editors of the Special issue:
Chandrima Mukhopadhyay
Ahmedabad University, Summer Winter School, CEPT University, India
Chiara Belingardi
Senior Research Fellow (Post Doctoral)
DIITET – CNR (National Research Council) - Italy
Giusy Papparaldo
University of Catania, Catania, Italy
Mennatullah Hendawy
Technical University Berlin, Berlin, Germany;
Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt;
Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Erkner, Germany.
Sina Shahab
Lecturer in the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University, UK
Lead of the Spatial Planning and City Environments (SPACE) Research Group
Lena Greinke
Researcher and Lecturer at the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University Hannover, Institute of
Environmental Planning, Germany
We would like to thank reviewers of the booklet:
Benjamin Davy, School of Spatial Planning, University of Dortmund, Germany.
Eduardo Alberto Cuscé Nobre, Faculdade de Arquitetura and Urbanismo, Universidade de Sao
We are thankful to Bertie Dockerill, University of Liverpool, UK for proof reading the document.
AESOP YA Booklet Project
Published by Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP)
The image in the cover page shows street life in Ghana, Uganda.
Anandit Sachdev is a young academic tutor and research fellow at
the Jindal School of Art and Architecture, O.P. Jindal University, India.
Anandit’s teaching and research interests include climate resilience
in peri-urban areas, processes of urbanization in the Global South,
sustainability in urban design, cartography and urban regeneration.
Besides teaching and researching, Anandit is a prolic information de-
signer specializing in the eld of data visualization and cartography. In
his spare time, Anandit likes to read urban narratives and anthologies.
Dana Mazraani is an urban planner and architect. She holds a
Bachelor’s of Architecture from the American University of Beirut
(AUB) and a double master’s degree in International Cooperation
in Urban Planning from TU Darmstadt and Université Grenoble
Alpes. She currently works as a research coordinator at the AUB
Beirut Urban Lab where she focuses on Beirut’s post-blast recovery
and on public spaces and vacant properties in the city. Her pre-
vious research covers inclusive design, urban informality, and the
transformation of Beirut’s relationship to street and outdoor life.
Ali Madanipour has studied (MArch, PhD), practised, researched,
and taught architecture, urban design and planning, winning design
and research awards, and working with academic and municipal
partners from around the world. He is a Professor of Urban De-
sign at School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle
University, UK. His work has been translated into French, German,
Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Persian and Spanish. His visiting po-
sitions include the City of Vienna Senior Visiting Professor at the
Technical University of Vienna (2010), the Wits-Claude Leon Distin-
guished Scholar at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
(2011), and Visiting Professor at the Polytechnic of Milan (2015).
Authors Bio
Anandit Sachdev and Dana Mazraani in conversation with Ali Madanipour
2.1 Introduction
Non-state actors are actively shaping urbanisation processes in cities across the world, while cen-
tralized modes of governance are experiencing a reduced role. These non-state actors, ranging from
institutions, corporations, international and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to civil so-
ciety actors, are playing conicting roles in urbanization processes in the Global South; they each
have distinctive relationships with the state and with one another. This chapter presents three such
distinct roles: that of provision, protest, and prot-making, as adopted by non-state actors in the pro-
duction of urban space in Beirut, Lebanon, and Gurugram, India. Both case studies critically raise the
point of public sector accountability in light of its shrinking role, while examining the increasing role of
non-state actors in the production of urban space.
The rst section of this chapter investigates how, in Lebanon, civil society groups and grassroots
initiatives have resisted undesirable urban development projects initiated by the state, or offered sup-
port to local communities, with a focus on the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion of August 4, 2020.
It examines how civil society actors can act as guardians of the public interest against a predatory
state or ll the vacuum created by the public sector in supporting the local community. The second
section of the chapter analyses the role of another type of non-state actors – private developers and
real estate companies – in the process of designing and implementing the master plan of Gurugram,
a city in Haryana, India. The case study shows how prot-oriented projects led by non-state actors
resulted in the marginalization of underprivileged groups.
2.2 The roles played by civil society groups in relation to the state: the Lebanese context
While the state in Lebanon has played an active role in supporting a boom in the real estate sector
that has increasingly benetted private actors and corporations (Fawaz, 2017; Krinjen and Fawaz,
2010), it has done so at the expense of the natural environment, public and social spaces, and peo-
ple’s livelihoods (Saksouk-Sasso and Bekdache, 2015). Indeed, Lebanon’s neoliberal approach to ur-
ban planning has increasingly inuenced its building law and regulatory frameworks prioritizing private
interests over public ones. The state has actively facilitated the circulation of capital at the service of
corporate actors closely enmeshed in an ‘oligarchic political system’ (Harb, 2018; Krinjen and Fawaz,
2010). Conversely, the state has been neglecting its role in providing reliable basic services, infra-
structure, public spaces, transportation networks, and affordable housing policies. This has given rise
to a myriad of collective reactions by civil society members that have crystalized into urban contesta-
tions, mobilizations, and initiatives of varying forms and scales, all converging around similar ideals
and demands for a more liveable city (Harb, 2018). In this context of a fragmented state, non-state
actors have challenged the status-quo by engaging in counter-campaigns protesting against projects
initiated by the state, or by launching initiatives that offer community support – lling a vacuum created
by the state’s passive role.
Anandit Sachdev and Dana Mazraani in conversation with Ali Madanipour
To understand why these mobilizations are taking place and in what context, one must rst look at
the status of urban planning frameworks in Lebanon. Planning has been primarily limited to land use
and zoning and has placed less focus on strategies for the future development of the different urban
and rural areas of the country. Indeed, the legal systems, planning tools, and institutions have not
been revamped since the end of the French mandate in 1943 (UN-Habitat, 2013). In 1977, the Min-
istry of Planning, which had become inefcient and highly bureaucratic, was dissolved and replaced
by an entity known as the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), which advanced more
exible planning and implementation mandates. Over the years, the CDR’s position and practices
have proven to be highly controversial. Today, urban planning in Lebanon remains limited, centralized,
and in dire need of reform.
In the aftermath of the explosion that rocked Beirut on August 4, 2020, which caused hundreds
of death, as well as the destruction of livelihoods and property, the intervention of the state is – yet
again – very limited and is primarily led by the Lebanese Army. The recovery sector is in the hands of
international and local NGOs and local political parties, with no clear coordination, accountability, or
long-term vision, let alone a people-centred recovery approach. These circumstances have led multi-
ple grassroots groups to step into the role of relief provision and community support. ‘Nation Station’
is one of such examples; it relates to a group of youth who squatted an abandoned gas station in the
Geitaoui neighbourhood of Beirut to serve as a donation redistribution centre. As of December 2020,
the centre has grown to include several relief services, such as a food kitchen and reconstruction
services, which employ idle or out of work members of the community. The group also initiated a da-
tabase of the community’s needs that helps to direct NGOs’ aid. Furthermore, because of the unre-
liable and short-term nature of aid, the group’s approach has shifted to help the community become
self-sustaining, with a motto of ‘empowerment over charity’ (Nation Station, 2020, slide 13). ‘Nation
Station’ is relying on community relations, partnerships, co-produced knowledge, and squatting pri-
vate properties, all of which lean towards the radicalization of the urban environment. It is yet to be
seen, however, if and how it will institutionalize, whether its approach will be truly inclusive, and what
its reach and impact will be.
‘Nation Station’ is not the rst initiative of its kind. Rather, it is part of a series of successful initiatives
that have taken place over the past decade, some of which are punctual, but equally impactful. For in-
stance, ‘Stop the Highway’ (2012-2015) and ‘Save the Bisri Valley’ (2018-2020) are two counter-cam-
paigns that opposed infrastructural projects initiated by the state – a highway and a mega-dam project
respectively – based on obsolete plans from the 1950s and with the CDR as their custodian. Engaged
experts and community members led both campaigns successfully, proving the detrimental effects
that the respective projects would have on their localities, and their inability to serve as solutions for
problems they were claiming to solve (Nassour, 2019). Moreover, ‘Horsh Beirut for All’ is a campaign
launched by local NGO Nahnoo that successfully challenged the Municipality of Beirut to reopen
the largest park and pine forest in the city, after it had been closed off for decades for ‘unconvincing
reasons’ (Harb, 2018). After ve years of campaigning and lobbying, the park was nally reopened in
2015 establishing itself as one of the main public spaces in the city.
These examples are some of many; cumulatively, they highlight the wide array of responses that
civil society groups have advanced in relation to the state’s action or inaction and the roles they take
on in either protest or support. Their effectiveness owes it to the adoption of new modalities of action
and strategies of work, which rely on legal knowledge, the generation of solid data to support their
positions, the instrumentalisation of the media, and the reliance on networks (Harb, 2018).
Even though these mobilizations may have had brief or limited success, they can be viewed as
negotiations that exert pressure on the system without addressing the structural issues at hand. This
section of the chapter argues that with enough aggregation of information and capacity building, local
groups can mobilize resources, bring reforms, and hold the people in power accountable. It also high-
lights how some groups are seeking an alternative to the current system, carving out spaces of their
own despite having no counterpart in public institutions. Furthermore, these mobilizations have been
accompanied by a rise in the discourse and practice of the “right to the city”. The initiatives mentioned
above are enabling a new imaginary of the city, one where the social value of land can be recovered,
where solidarities and shared space are considered important (Saksouk-Sasso and Bekdache, 2015).
2.3 The case of master plan implementation in Gurugram: the Indian context
Urban development across regions in India is marked by a lack of infrastructure, an unequal dis-
tribution of resources leading to inequity, and exhibiting socio-economic disparity as a result of that.
These disparities arise due to diminishing public sector accountability in safeguarding public interests,
especially those of under-privileged groups. Ahluwalia (2014) observes that the lack of planned de-
velopment of Indian cities is a result of spatial planning not being central to socioeconomic planning.
Such disparities are evident in the preparation and implementation processes of master plans in
India – a process through which the state favours city development for richer segments of society. The
Delhi Government’s own estimates stipulate that Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the authority
in charge of the creation of the city’s master plan, has ‘overbuilt middle- and higher-income housing
while underbuilding housing for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS)’ (Bhan, 2013; Panwar, 2018).
This shows a bias of DDA towards richer sections of society.
While such socioeconomic disparities cannot be neglected, the prioritization of the ow of capital
by the state, and the non-participatory nature of the master planning process play signicant roles in
shaping this lopsided model of urban development. Even though traditional development guidelines
place decision-making in the hands of state actors, these groups do not represent the views of many
of the city’s stakeholders. In addition to this, the lack of public sector accountability stems from the
dependence of the state on real estate development to facilitate capital accumulation (Harvey, 2001;
Brenner, Marcuse, and Mayer, 2012; Pellissery et al., 2016). An increasing shift in the role of the
state from providing welfare to its citizens to supporting private investments has fuelled the lack of
public sector accountability, which creates marginalized groups. As the state facilitates a pattern of
investments in the city by using urban planning and real estate development as tools for economic
development, the prioritization of economic development over civic benets empowers prot oriented
non-state actors to spearhead development projects in the city, while promising little accountability
on behalf of state actors themselves. Consequently, private developers and real estate companies
end up playing larger roles in urban development processes. Since these groups are prot-oriented,
developments led by them are fragmented, and focused on projects that promise a higher return on
investment rather than facilitating collective public benets. Such practices form the very basis of de-
velopment witnessed in the city of Gurugram (previously Gurgaon), Haryana. Haryana is one of the
richest states in India with an estimated GDP growth rate of 7.7% in 2019-20 (Economic Survey of
Haryana, 2020). This, along with Gurugram’s proximity to Delhi, the capital city, has played majorly to
its advantage.
State actors in Gurugram have been involved in the planning processes without much accounta-
bility with regards to planning implementation. Goldstein (2015) notes that the establishment of the
city’s Municipal Corporation (MC) was in 2008 and held its rst elections in 2011. The roots of urban
development in Gurugram can be traced back to early 1990s, and are largely attributed to private
developers developing suburban land driven by economic interests. This over 20-year gap between
regulation and development led by economic gains has resulted in fragmented urban development,
and has left a huge gap in infrastructure provision for many stakeholders.
Involvement of these non-state actors is not a new phenomenon. Gurugram’s urban development
model can be traced back to a response to macro level economic reforms that India went through
during the early 1990s (Goldstein, 2015). These new economic conditions deregulated the real estate
market, and paved the way for private sector-led urbanization in Gurugram. One of the rst private
development companies responsible for initiating urban development processes in Gurugram was
Delhi Land and Finance Corporation (DLF). The company chairman, K.P. Singh, largely used his inu-
ence and political networks to get necessary permissions to push through DLF’s projects in the area
and initiate the development process (Goldstein, 2015). In the years that followed, economic growth
coupled with the construction boom of Gurugram validated the state’s shift in policies to favour private
developers. Consequently, large real estate companies built up huge areas in Gurugram, starting a
wave of development. These took the form of high-end residential and commercial projects, which
favoured the wealthy while sidelining the interests of other stakeholders (Rajagopalan and Tabarrok,
2014). The absence of a municipal corporation until 2008, further facilitated this private developer-led
model of development over guaranteeing public services (Chatterji, 2013; Rajagopalan and Tabarrok,
2014). This contributed majorly towards inequality in the city while raising questions about public sec-
tor accountability.
Other non-state actors such as landowners and farmers also played a large part in Gurugram’s
fragmented development. These actors supported private developer-led models for their own gain by
selling their lands to private developers. These deals resulted in a fragmented assimilation of land in
the hands of a plethora of private developers, which later resulted in a pixelated development of gated
residential neighbourhoods, urban villages, and urban infrastructure (Goldstein, 2015). Additionally,
the delivery of urban services and infrastructure has increasingly become privatized and high-priced,
leaving some stakeholders to struggle with access to basic services, which would usually be provided
by state agencies (Rajagopalan and Tabarrok, 2014).
This model of urban development has become the norm over the last two decades. Fragmented
development has occurred in the city with little public sector accountability towards safeguarding the
rights of marginalized groups. This model of urban development renders master planning a rigid plan-
ning tool that selectively favours the capital-driven role of non-state actors while ignoring the needs of
non-elite stakeholders.
2.4 Conclusion
Cities and urban spaces are sites of contradiction. They are “places where power resides” as well
as “settings of struggle” (Lefebvre, 2003, p. 386). This chapter focuses on the contradicting roles of
provision, protest, and prot-making, as adopted by non-state actors in the production of urban space
in the Global South. In the case of Gurugram, we observed that the actors were prot-driven and fur-
ther noted that their actions resulted in the creation of a lopsided model of development, which exerts
or exacerbates negative externalities such as urban poverty, environmental issues, lack of urban in-
frastructure, and privatized public spaces. Such practices have been challenged by alternative groups
of non-state actors as seen in the case of Lebanon, where civil society groups have sought to ll the
vacuum created by the state and have also opposed and resisted undesirable urban development
through debate and negotiations with the public sector.
Such contradictions in the roles played by a plethora of state and non-state actors have further
shaped the production of urban space, giving rise to new vocabularies in planning practices in the
Global South and questions about the role of planning today. What is the role of planners amid dispar-
ity between state priorities and community interests? And how does one envision a future in a context
marred with deeply entrenched structural issues, untrustworthy public institutions, and economic cri-
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ish, P. (June 21, 2016). Regulation in Crony Capitalist State: The Case of Planning Laws in Bangalore.
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Full-text available
The city of Bangalore came up with a draft structural plan 2031 to accommodate the emerging challenges of urban growth, congestion and environmental concerns through planning and regulation. In the decade 2000-2010, when the city opened itself to the booming IT industry, its developmental response to the pressures of growth has been through policy measures like airport relocation, introduction of metro rail, satellite township development, traffic improvement projects and revenue layout development. This paper focuses on regulatory evolution in the period 2000-2015 and the way the city regulations changed to accommodate this process. The study attempts to understand what drives planning regulations in Bangalore. The literature on the changes in planning laws in capitalist contexts such as European cities informs us that demands for changes in planning were made by creative class and the political class responded to the same in the interest of the city. In this backdrop, we examine the impact of private sector participation in the city planning and regulation in Bangalore city. Through an analysis of recent changes in the planning laws and the infrastructural regulations, we argue that rent-seeking interests engineered through the nexus of politician-realtor class have driven the regulatory changes in Bangalore.
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This paper presents the first findings of ongoing research documenting the changing modalities of governing and organizing the built environment in the past two decades in Lebanon, a phase widely associated with the advent of neoliberalism in the country. Taking building permits as the entry point for an investigation of these modalities, our research shows that in line with trends documented elsewhere, the neoliberal turn has materialized in public interventions deployed at several levels in order to facilitate the circulation of capital to this sector and foster more intensive construction practices. These include changing regulations, delegating planning to private actors, and changing the institutional environment in ways that accommodate the needs of capital. We further argue that additional flexibility is provided to capital through the informalization of public decision-making with regard to planning decisions, meaning more decisions taken by mutual agreement, on an ad hoc basis, at multiple levels of the public hierarchies. Our findings are based on a thorough investigation of the public regulations issued over the past two decades as well as interviews with public sector officials, with developers, and with real estate experts.
Lebanese youth are constructed through fragmented lenses, and are recipients of partial, unresponsive, and often irrelevant policies. Despite these constraints, many youth have become actively engaged in political life, especially since 2005. Three types of youth engagement can be identified: i) the ‘conformists’, who privilege their sectarian belonging, ii) the ‘alternative groups’, who engage in professional NGOs, and iii) the new ‘activists’, who prefer loose organising centred on progressive and radical issues. New forms of youth activism in the contested city of Beirut have been able to exploit interstitial openings for seeds to grow into potentially “disruptive mobilizations”. While these resistances may have been limited up to now in time and space, youth activist groups still embarrass, hold accountable and constrain hegemonic politics. They may be generating seeds of collective action that still have to be further structured and organised.
Taking the provision of building permits as an entry point to its analysis, the paper documents the widespread practice of issuing ‘exceptions’ on which planning agencies in Beirut (Lebanon) frequently rely in their management of urban developments. The paper analyses ‘exceptions’ as a variable set of policy departures that take numerous forms (e.g. tolerance, concession, incentive), temporalities (before/after building), justifications (e.g. for political/social or developmental reasons), and materialise in different legal statuses (e.g. within the framework of the law/as temporary, extra-legal measures). It furthermore unravels a grammar that structures the allocation of specific forms of exceptions to particular social groups and urban spaces. The paper argues that although they are typically described as aberrations, exceptions cannot amount to the lack of the planning. Exceptions are rather a planning strategy that introduces a margin of manoeuver for planning authorities, without conceding radical changes in the structure organising access to the city. Furthermore, like other planning interventions, exceptions to building permit procedures perform to define, and consolidate, and/or reconfigure the entitlement of various social groups to dwell in the city but also to take part in its government, materialising hence in the reorganisation of urban territories and sovereignty arrangements. Ultimately, an invisible zoning dictated by these exceptions restructures the city in the variegated geography of centre, periphery, slum, camp, political territory, and others, and classifies urban dwellers into tolerated populations, political constituencies, outsiders, etc. The paper is based on the analysis of over 200 building permits in five areas of the city and more than 1000 decisions taken by public planning agencies.
Since India’s economic liberalization, rising costs in urban centers have pushed growth to the peripheries of cities. The territory on which new towns emerge often bears a long history of village life and land tenure, even as the political-economy of real estate asserts alternative identities on such places. This paper explores the phenomenon of place-making, using the case of Gurgaon, Delhi’s burgeoning satellite. Gurgaon’s growth has taken place largely in the absence of municipal city planning. Its boosters have branded it the “millennium city.” Gurgaon is the sum of hundreds of private land deals, with a pixelated built environment of affluent gated enclaves, villages, and pockets of underdevelopment. Many former farmers have become landlords, enriched and active in the real estate game, while others have been less fortunate, yet little scholarship has focused on the interactions between residents of different communities, and the process of social and cultural capital formation that under girds place-making and attempts to resolve planning issues. What possibilities exist in the post-liberalization Indian city for residents to forge a coherent sense of place or plan within the piecemeal? Drawing on interviews with residents, urban villagers, domestic staff, planners and developers, the paper argues that place-making in Gurgaon constitutes a form of planning in its own right, as actors at various levels of agency attempt to solidify claims of residency and take up many of the responsibilities of planning.
Challenges of Urbanisation in India
  • I J Ahluwalia
Ahluwalia, I. J. (2014). Challenges of Urbanisation in India. Sage India.