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New migrant inclusion policy in a transient community

Chengdu
China

 

This case of implementing new migrant inclusion policy at the local level in China is contextualized within a typical transient situation during rapid urbanization and city expansion, and a situation in which traditional local public administration is being replaced by governance with citizen participation.

Presentation

The case illustrates participation and inclusion policy implementation in a newly formed neighbourhood consisting of former native villagers who lost their land and the newly arrived residents living in a gated apartment community. By setting up local inclusive governance institutions and regulations and by applying some participatory approaches to integrate socially segregated residents, social conflicts and tensions have been significantly alleviated. The policy started in early 2009, and remains in force.

There are three major dimensions in this case: participation, livelihood, and inclusion:

  • Enhancing livelihood, helping vulnerable native families access sustainable income sources;
  • Promoting participation, empowering all local residents to participate in local governance and public resource allocation; and
  • Fostering inclusion and interaction, integrating residents of the two kinds of neighbourhoods (new style neighbourhood and replacement neighbourhood) socially and economically.

Almost all residents in the community, both native villagers and new residents, are beneficiaries. In addition, special attention is paid to dozens of vulnerable families. Local government also benefited from lessened social conflicts and tensions caused by segregation.

Policy development

A major part of the policy is establishing mechanisms to ensure local residents participate in public decision-making and supervision, and to express their voices directly and indirectly at local community level. Governing and participation bodies have been established: Community Residents Council, Supervision Council, Democratic Financial Oversight Panel, and Property Management Committee. At the municipal level, similar policies have been implemented in all rural or rural-urban transient communities based on the case described here.

The policy implementation is a joint effort of local government, NGOs, and local people. The initiative is principally funded by the local government. Planning, capacity building, and parts of implementation are funded by members of the community office, and China Urban Participatory Governance Network, the latter through funded provided by The Ford Foundation. The municipal government provides public services expenditures and routine expenses to keep community office running, and also provides funds for community activities like fun competitions and sports games. Funding from the China Participatory Governance Network is directed to planning, consultation, and participatory capacity building.

Results and achievements

Key results and achievements include:

  • Fundamental local democratic citizen participation mechanisms established – A democratic citizen participation platform has been laid for local people’s participation in governance.
  • Less segregation between native villagers and new residents – There are more opportunities for mutually inclusive social interactions between native villagers and new residents.
  • Vulnerable family livelihood enhanced – By providing favourable terms for vulnerable families to access sustainable income resources, tension and conflicts between former native villagers and new residents, and between former villagers and local government, are released.
  • Citizen participation concept introduced to local cadres – Before the capacity building training and introduction of participatory governance approaches, local cadres had dominated public affairs decisions and there was little tradition of being open and transparent to the residents. Using participatory approaches and practices, local governments have found it better to negotiate with local people and avoid some tensions.
  • Local public services improved and more efficiently meeting local demands – By applying the rules of participation mechanism established, the Community Residents Council and Supervision Council have collected votes of local citizens’ demand for public services, and allocated budgets according to priority rankings made by local people.
  • Private resources mobilized – The setting up of the Neighbourhood Property Management Committee is an innovation to mobilize private resources for public purposes. Native villagers and new residents could share and enjoy the same facilities, and establish a better security patrol service for the community as a whole.

Obstacles and challenges

There are two major obstacles or challenges to this policy. The first challenge is the balance or trade-off between citizen mobilization and local autonomy, in which the mobilization and control of local government might hurt the autonomy of local residents and community-based organizations, potentially leading to governmental dominance of citizen participation. A second obstacle is the weakness of community-based civil organizations. Local community-based organizations do not have the capacity to organize local people and negotiate with local government, or to align them with the Community Residents Council to work for the public interest.