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Panel 30. Urban resilience through land value capture? Global perspectives on the politics of urban development in a climate emergency


  • Rosina Essien (University of Ghana, Legon)
  • Sabatho Nyamsenda (University of Dar es Salaam)
  • Jennifer Robinson (University College London)


Many large cities in poorer countries are found in coastal locations as a result of past and present externally oriented extractive economies. The potentially catastrophic effects of changing rainfall patterns and sea level rise are predicted to impact many marginal communities in precarious and informal coastal settlements. However, such impacts are already evident, and can often be closely related to elite actors who use influence and informal networks to develop informal high-end housing, commercial and tourist facilities in hazardous locations. Flood damage in many contexts disproportionately affects settlements of the very poor in the most vulnerable locations, but is also a result of extensive illegal and informal (often high-end) developments across river basins and in ecologically sensitive coastal locations. Both flow from contexts characterised by a generalised need for urban infrastructure investment (road networks, solid waste disposal, storm water management) and the absence of effective formal spatial planning. Although flood events may be symptoms of informal planning networks, resource constraints or corrupt practices, in the name of climate change international development bodies seek to support urban resilience by elaborating plans to enable poor communities to protect themselves against flood damage, compensate for displacement of vulnerable residents and fund targeted infrastructure investments. In some such interventions, associated large-scale developments are also being envisaged which open opportunities for land value capture partly to fund the investments by creating new urban areas characterised by enhanced amenities, high end housing and commercial or tourist-focused land development.

Papers are invited to explore whether and how investments promoting urban resilience are providing a platform for new rounds of urban development, and to understand the nature of urban development politics associated with such interventions. This provides an opening to contribute to more global theorisations of the politics of urban development, starting in poor country contexts. Comparative papers including wealthier country contexts are also welcome.

Questions to explore include:

  • To what extent are resilient urban development investments reflective of international “green structural adjustment” or embedded in longer term pathways of planning, economic development, the politics of displacement and resistance to resettlement?
  • Are concerns about climate change initiating a new round of urban development and displacement?
  • What are the political and institutional dynamics which support the implementation of projects seeking to secure resilience and sustainable settlements in coastal areas?
  • How do national and/or urban based actors shape international strategies for urban resilience?
  • Is land value capture as a technology of financing investments for urban resilience exacerbating displacement and stimulating elite-centred direct extraction of rents and/or providing new opportunities for urban and economic development?
  • Who is benefitting from efforts to promote urban resilience?
  • What impacts are initiatives to promote urban resilience in coastal cities having on urban inequality, social and spatial justice?

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