How to Make Our Cities More Liveable

Above: the coastal city of Karachi, Pakistan, was voted among the ten least liveable cities in the world according to the Global Liveability Index 2019. 

Author: Gulmina Bilal
Director, Individualland

This is a guest article written by an SCN affiliate. If you have a topic you would like to feature in the Strong Cities Network website or newsletter, please email [email protected].

According to The Global Liveability Index 2019, Karachi is among the ten least liveable cities in the world and ranks at an overall 136th position on the list. The index takes into account factors such as living standards, crime, transport, access to education and health.

On the other hand, according to the Safe Cities Index 2019 Karachi was ranked at 57th position out of 60 with a score of 43.5 out of 100. This index in particular takes into account factors like digital, infrastructure, health and personal security. Both these indices paint a very grim picture of Karachi, a city known as the financial capital of Pakistan.

Karachi is a cosmopolitan city with representation from every nook and corner of Pakistan. There is a common belief among Pakistanis that everyone finds work in Karachi, which points towards the city’s inherent resilience. Similarly, it is also one of the cheapest cities to live in, according to the Worldwide Cost of Living 2019 report.

Karachi which was once called the city of lights has now lost its glorious past as a result of decades of gang warfare, political rivalries, terrorism and other factors. The city’s cultural, religious and ethnic diversity has never been considered as its strength. On the contrary, it has always been exploited by internal and external forces to create unrest in the city. The present state of affairs in Karachi has become so fragile that it has become difficult for city managers to even manage the garbage produced in the city on daily basis.

So how is it possible to improve Karachi’s ranking in the global indices? More importantly, how is it possible to make the city safer for its residents?

One solution is offered by the Strong Cities Network (SCN), which provides a platform for local government, municipal leaders and policy makers a chance to sit together and share ideas and resources to make their cities stronger and safer for its residents. The SCN offers a unique opportunity to city managers in Karachi to learn from the experience of others to improve the overall law and order situation in the city. Peshawar, Nowshera and Quetta are already members of the network with their administrators actively taking part in its activities.

Individualland, a research based consulting firm has recently concluded an initiative aimed at empowering the local/union council-level administrations in Karachi to develop Local Action Plans. These plans are designed to prevent violent extremism by addressing the drivers of radicalisation within each district, to be delivered via union council administrations. Through a series of different activities, the district stakeholders, including representatives from local government, youth and civil society organisations (CSOs), pool their efforts to develop PVE plans for each union council.

Each PVE plan describes a series of steps to identify, address, monitor and report the drivers of radicalisation which contributes to lawlessness and ultimately violent extremism. Drivers were wide-ranging, including hate speech, ethnic and religious conflict, discrimination in distribution of water, hindrances in girls’ education and more.

Above: Individualland Director Gulmina Bilal heads a meeting of Karachi representatives and the SCN.

Once the PVE plans were developed, Individualland took an extra step to organise a networking conference with the SCN to allow the local government representatives and other stakeholders from the targeted union councils to meet the SCN Deputy Head, Daniel Hooton, and learn from his experience of working with municipal leaders and policymakers from across the globe.

On a question relating to the smooth implementation of PVE plans, Daniel Hooton remarked that political interference and social reluctance are the leading reasons that hamper their implementation. While talking about the benefits of joining the network he said that:

“In practice, the tangible advantage of SCN membership is that cities develop a global connection, and are provided with opportunities and trainings, and acquire access to the online hub of resources. Moreover, cities are involved in the global discussion at the UN Summit, including cities from developed and developing countries.

In addition, private sectors and multi-national organisations are encouraged via their linkages to partner with local governments too. So, for Karachi, to consider membership of SCN anytime in the future opens opportunities for it to link with multinational corporations for means and support. The SCN assists in building and strengthening these partnerships”.

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