World Urban Forum 6: Inclusive Cities = Sustainable and Vibrant Cities

Heliodora, a Street Vendor from New York City, was a delegate at this year's World Urban ForumWIEGO and Inclusive Cities delegates attended the World Urban Forum 6 in Naples, Italy 1-7 September 2012, to deliver an important message to urban officials and planners: including informal workers in municipal plans will offer social, economic and environmental benefits.

The delegation staffed an exhibition booth, distributed materials and hosted events, all aimed at raising awareness of the importance of informal workers to cities around the globe.

waste workers in India

In many cities, a majority of workers are employed in the informal economy – and they make a significant contribution to alleviating poverty and to growing local economies. These workers cannot be ignored or expunged from our cities. They are too great in number, they have too few livelihood alternatives, and they are too essential to the fabric of our cities. For example:

  • Informal waste pickers supply most or all of the solid waste collection in many cities in developing countries, a 2010 UN Habitat publication revealed – and they do so at no cost to the city budget. Learn more about waste pickers.
  • Street vendors have existed for centuries as a cornerstone of many cities’ historical and cultural heritages. They enliven city spaces, making each a unique destination rather than a sterile, homogenized urban setting. Learn more about street vendors.
  • Over 100 million people – the majority of whom are women – work from their homes in countries both rich and poor. Home-based workers are vital players in global and domestic value chains, and their needs should be considered in urban planning and zoning. Learn more about home-based workers.
  • The informal economy provides low-cost labour, inputs, goods, and services to municipalities, to formal and informal enterprises, and to the public, especially the poorer sections. Read more about the Impact of Informal Economy on Economic Growth.
  • Informal workers are also often “green workers,” using less space and fewer resources, leaving a smaller carbon footprint than their formal counterparts. Learn about Urban Informal Workers & The Green Economy.

The Inclusive Cities delegation encouraged urban decision-makers to consider how better to integrate informal workers and their needs into urban planning and policies. One key issue stressed is that the homes of urban informal workers are productive assets that are often used for work. The Inclusive Cities team also emphasized that increased representation of urban informal workers at the table during policymaking and rule-setting is the most important way to build successful, inclusive cities.

Ultimately, including informal workers in municipal plans is not just possible – it’s a better way to create sustainable, prosperous, inclusive, and vibrant cities!

Where to Find More Information

WIEGO’s Publication Series contains Working Papers and Briefs on advocacy, policy and research in the informal economy. All publications are available to download for free. 

Inclusive Cities Events at WUF6

Inclusive Cities delegates included informal workers

In addition to its exhibition stand at WUF6, Inclusive Cities hosted or participated in several events. These included:

“The Role of the Informal Economy in Cities: Current Realities and Future Prospects”

In this event, urban worker leaders from the Brazilian National Movement of Waste Pickers (MNCR), the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) (an Indian union with over a million members) and the international alliance of street vendor organizations (StreetNet International) shared the realities of their livelihoods, their experiences of collective action and local authorities. The global network WIEGO presented the latest statistics on the urban informal economy, as well as policy trends affecting inclusion of informal workers.  For more details, please read this blog post.

“Rethinking Approaches to Urban Planning: Reflections from MBOs of the Working Poor”

This event drew on the wealth of experience of membership-based organizations of the working poor and their support agencies in the Inclusive Cities project. Representatives from Asiye eTafuleni (a South African based non-profit providing technical support to the informal economy), Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), StreetNet International, and WIEGO's waste sector specialist detailed their experiences of inclusive approaches to the provision of infrastructure for informal workers and reflect on good practice legislation.

Other Relevant World Urban Forum Events

“Urban Labour Network”
This ILO event brought together those with an interest in urban labour to define key issues for research and practice, and exploring ways to work together.

“Prosperous Cities for All: Designing Physical and Legal Space for the Working Poor”
Practitioners from three continents debated how informal work can contribute to vibrant well-managed city space. Two new initiatives and a practical toolkit on urban regulations was launched.