Takeaways Author: Denia Syam Comments
India: New Delhi

ACCCRN has shared findings from the latest research on the role of evidence based research in supporting a policy making process at the Regional Conference on “Peri-Urban Ecosystems for Enhancing Urban Resilience”. The conference was organized by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), Gorakhpur and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, South Asia, in collaboration with ACCCRN.NET, UNICEF India, and School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, on 18th and 19th September 2017 in New Delhi.

ACCCRN’s study is largely based on findings and experiences gathered from the countries in the ACCCRN network. Those participating were Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam where land use change issue is always a major problem.

Land use change and expansion underpins urbanization, peri-urban growth, and degradation of surrounding ecosystem. Land conversion is worsening climate risks and causing displacement shocks. When this happens, the burden of the exposure, due to the increasing frequency and intensity of the climate change impact, in many cases, is unfairly distributed with undue costs being placed on those with low socioeconomic status or any other social disaggregation, such as the elderly and people with disability. Meanwhile, land use change and expansion is increasing the value of the land. Privatization of public assets strengthens the bargaining position of private interests and, in some cases, there is evidence that this drives the decision making process of government. Future research is also needed to examine linkages between food security, water, and livelihoods, in the context of connectivity issues across areas.

During the forum, participants also agreed that building a resilience planning process is not merely a technical problem; it is a governance challenge instead. Development support and technical advice focuses on planning as a technical, capacity-dependent exercise, while also acknowledging that it is closely related to the legitimacy and authority of the state. In the relation to ecosystem services, the non-existence or weakness of transboundary government coordination adds another layer to the challenge. A further point of concern regarding governance is that urbanization is driven by short-term political-economic interests. Thus, research that makes the case for long-term, inclusive planning is often in conflict with these interests.

To making evidence-based research have an inpact on the decision-making process has never been more important. The key is to align the existing and/or potential work so that that it leads to the desired change. This can be, but not limited to, an innovative local government, which has the political will to the implement the agenda, to build a network and/or alliance with non-state actors working on both advocacy and the political process. It was also agreed that to work in the area of advocacy, one has to be extremely cautious with regard to the sensitivity of land legitimacy issues in each context.

With the different nature of each stakeholder, it is crucial to be able to tailor the research findings and how they are delivered to the specific audiences with their identified needs. This should be followed up by presenting information in accessible formats that are concise, solution-based, and easily understood, and that align with development planning processes. Another emerging consideration is to present the importance of ecosystem services in terms of monetary values. Even though this might have economic flaws in it, it is a possible way to present the services in a more understandable and relevant format for urban development practitioners.