Cities are the product of economic social relations and conscious decision-making and therefore its design is never neutral. Questions on how cities are built and who are they built for are extremely relevant, showing past and present relations of power that also affect the future of cities. These dynamics have produced cities with great inequalities fostering social exclusion.
“Women and men, the elderly, children, teenagers, disabled people, racial, ethnic or religious minorities, refugees and newcomers, migrant workers, the wealthy, people in poverty” (Beall, 1997:3) – all have contrasting needs and make different contributions to the city. They engage and participate in different ways, and therefore, there should be structures and patterns of urban governance to accommodate all this diversity (ibid, 1997:3). In this claim it is clear the need to further justice and people empowerment.
According to Gerometta, Haussermann and Longo (2005), providing space, structures and policies to promote social coherence is as essential as sharing some specific values of non-violent co-operation and social cohesion. Links should be established between excluded and integrated segments of the local society, creating new relations at the local level.
Thinking about analyzing local social inclusive policies, the Inclusive Cities Observatory was created in 2000. It studies innovative policies for community development, gender equality, poverty reduction, access to basic services, among others. One of its case study is the city of London, which implemented many policies towards on the one hand fighting racism and prejudice, and on the other promoting equality.
London is a ‘global city’ in which the most diverse ethnicities and faiths live in. Nevertheless, London is also a city with great inequalities and social exclusion. According to data revealed by the Greater London Authority (GLA), poverty and social exclusion affects ethnic minorities the most. Therefore, equality policies in most diverse areas were implemented targeting those ethnic and religious minorities, gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, disabled people, the elderly, the youth, among other groups.
This case study focus on policies implemented towards the LGBT community. In this case not just policies, which involved participation of the main stakeholders like the civil society organizations representing the target groups, were approved but also many festivals and events were promoted by the GLA in order to valorize them.
As a result, London saw increase the acceptance to diversity with the drop of 11,9% of racist crimes and the increase of women employment during the years of 2005/06 and 2006/07. Nevertheless, not all problems were solved, and there is still the need of further investments.
Beall, J. (ed.) (1997) A city for all: valuing difference and working with diversity. Zed Books Ltd: London and New Jersey.
Gerometta, J., Haussermann, H. and Longo, G. (2005) Social innovation and civil society in urban governance: strategies for an inclusive city. Urban Studies, Oct 1st
Link to the “Inclusive Cities Observatory”, whichanalyze and reflect on local social inclusion policies:
Goltsman, S. and Iacofano, D. (ed) (2008) The inclusive city: design solutions for buildings, neighborhoods and urban spaces. Journal of the American Planning Association, Autumn 2008, Vol. 74.