Objectives of Meeting
Course of Events
Appraisal of Research Results
Assessment of the Network
Draft Agenda for Phase Two
Preparations for Phase Two
Disseminating Research Results
List of Participants
The UNESCO-MOST Programme approved the Cities,
Environment and Gender Relations project—submitted by the Swiss National
Commission for UNESCO— in June 1996. The following year, a network of seven
teams of researchers embarked upon three years of comparative research
that continued through to the end of 1999. Its findings, delivered in 2000,
have been collated and are due to be published shortly.
MOST proposed to arrange a network meeting in Cuba, where the head of
one of the research teams is based.
2. Objectives of Meeting
The meeting set out to:
Appraise the network’s first three years of research action;
Foster network-wide thinking on how the findings can be incorporated into
the defining of new public policies;
Prepare a follow-up phase of network research and action, with priority
areas defined according to phase one findings and the priorities of MOST
and DDC (the Swiss cooperation agency).
3. Course of Events
The meeting took place in Havana (Cuba) from 12 to 17 November 2000.
The list of participants (see Appendix) included
the Latin American and African research team managers, the project co-ordinator
at UNESCO-MOST in Paris, and the Swiss-based project co-ordinating team.
Also participating in the round table debate at UNESCO Havana Office were
a number of Cuban municipal managers and social scientists, members of
the UNESCO Havana Office staff, and a representative of the Swiss Federal
Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) who had been visiting Cuba at the
time to work on issues relating to participatory urban planning.
A brief round-up of progress since the São Paolo seminar (17-25
September 1999), and a general team-by-team appraisal of the research;
A brief introduction to the work/programmes of guest participants not belonging
to the network: women’s labour and globalization in Mexico, including recent
developments in the maquilas, etc.; gender mainstreaming and the
UNCHS/UNEP Sustainable Cities Programme; UNESCO’s Unit for the Promotion
of the Status of Women and Gender Equality;
Visits to districts of Havana where the Dominican Republic team manager
has been working for a number of years, and where a range of interesting
initiatives have sought to foster grass-roots participation in neighbourhood
A round table session at UNESCO Havana Office to present the main findings;
Critical analysis of the network’s functioning;
Discussions about the project’s future (DDC having accepted the principle
of a second phase just two days before this meeting was due to begin).
4. General Appraisal
The field visits—given Cuba’s unique socio-economic and political context—were
of great interest to all participants. They shed new light on questions
raised within the framework of the project’s research.
Conceptual exchanges were highly enriching. They showed how much thinking
had been done during the course of the research; the level of research
capacity-building that most teams had attained; the importance of a network
conducting research built on common conceptual foundations; the wide-ranging
experiences of local populations in the various survey fields.
In-depth, qualitative research conducted over a lengthy period of time
was clearly seen to provide a useful illustration of the work and thinking
that can be developed by operational programmes not adhering to the same
perspectives. And the way those programmes perceive social transformations
can, in turn, serve as interesting inputs for our research.
The co-ordinating team regards such meetings—between researchers conducting
in-depth studies of transformation processes and managers of rather more
"condensed" programmes—as having much to gain from broad-based group discussions.
Original plans to bring municipal managers (in charge of technical and
policy-related matters) together with representatives from the grass-roots
organizations studied, however, proved unfeasible. This was unfortunate,
as an exchange of ideas between those actors seems to be a prerequisite
for debating the construction of new public policies. That said, we were
able to count on the extremely useful presence of new participants belonging
to international development agencies.
5. Appraisal of the Research
Each team gave an account of its research of the previous three years,
presenting, inter alia, the questions it had set out to investigate,
and its main conclusions. Appraisals of the network’s functioning were
reserved for discussion later in the week.
To set an agenda that will guide us through phase two of our research,
we must extract the findings that the various team reports had in common,
and highlight the new questions raised through the comparison of ideas,
survey fields and issues that has been made possible by working as a network.
Notwithstanding their role in defining and implementing environmental or
neighbourhood management initiatives, and despite their desire for a say
in decision-making, women find themselves prevented from playing a full
and active part in public life alongside the men by all manner of obstacles
and resistance: identity-related, cultural, social, economic, political.
When women are found to be engaging in policy-related activities, it tends
to be a "covert" involvement that never earns them recognition or legitimacy.
It makes those activities—major openings though they may be—hard to institutionalize
When politics is shown not to be restricted to either the formal or exclusively
public arena, changes in—or the upkeep of—traditional gender relations
within the private sphere are seen to impact on the public and vice versa.
This tallies with our theory that for the emergence and confirmation of
changes in development paradigms to occur, there must be changes in gender
relations as well, and vice versa.
Changes in gender relations and environmental changes are closely related
and must be compounded with the question of greater gender equality in
decision-making (especially environment-related).
Aspects such as bolstering women’s economic or organizational capacities
(women’s groups, associations, networks, etc.) have, in combination with
other factors, a decisive influence in efforts to redress gender-biased
access to decision-making.
Training, in combination with other factors, remains essential to help
remove the obstacles.
A political will on the part of the authorities, in combination with other
factors, serves to further the necessary changes in gender relations for
more gender-balanced participation in public life. There generally tends
to be some reluctance to allow a significant transfer of jurisdiction and
power to other governing bodies. This prompts us to consider the issue
of urban governance through the prism of gender and the environment.
6. Assessment of the Network
This being a critical assessment, greater attention was paid to network
dysfunctions and shortcomings than to positive aspects. Since results,
on the whole, were satisfactory, we begin with a brief look at the latter:
Problems, however, have arisen in the following areas:
Working together as a network has proved conducive to innovative thinking;
Network seminars (four global and two regional to date) have given the
various research teams an opportunity to exchange thoughts, ideas, points
of view, methodology notes etc., and to visit the other teams’ survey fields.
It has provided them with food for thought, opened their minds to different
approaches, and allowed them to engage in ever-enriching and beneficial
Links—both working relations and bonds of friendship—have been forged across
the network, and have withstood the inevitable outbreaks of dissension
caused, in the main, by inter-cultural communication difficulties. These
links have assured the continuity of the network’s research in all its
varied yet interrelated forms. This is seen in the constant interest shown
in these privileged spells of network exchange, and the positive appraisals
made of them at the end.
A wide range of suggestions have been made to enhance the network’s efficiency
and usefulness: e.g. increase the number and frequency of regional and
global seminars, and ensure that both network members and outside speakers
are given a chance to deliver formal presentations; encourage participation
in other seminars tackling similar themes to our own; encourage network
members to exchange interesting articles, website addresses, etc.; set
aside time for more—and more varied—field visits, which are unanimously
agreed to be most useful and enriching; link up with other networks, and
encourage everyone to contribute.
The confusion of roles played by the co-ordinating team—running a network,
directing the research at a scientific level, managing project administration,
etc.—has been detrimental. Inspecting research expense accounts has been
the most difficult area of all, creating unease in some quarters and making
teams feel that the co-ordinators do not fully trust them;
The smooth running of the network has been beset by a number of technical
problems: a weak command of computer-based tools; floods of incoming e-mail
messages; difficulties with written French; remoteness of certain survey
fields from the researchers’ homes; some teams having trouble at times
with the intense pace of the work; budgets in some places failing to account
for the cost of living;
Separate objectives exist for DDC and for MOST. Both seek to make substantial
contributions to the network’s themes, the main aim being to produce knowledge.
While MOST pays particular attention to the processes aimed at building
scientific networks likely to support decision-making, as well as to exchanging
research data and findings, however, DDC’s interest lies in networks producing
knowledge that can enhance its development cooperation practices and support
its thinking. These two objectives need to be even more clearly expressed
for the sake of harmonious progress. Capacity-building is another shared
objective that is conducive to network research;
Inter-personal relations have also been known to impede the smooth running
of the network. As this is a fairly young network (none of the teams had
ever worked together prior to joining the project, or had personal contacts
with anyone other than the co-ordinating team), it is going to take time
for it to reach maturity, and for the group to begin operating as a bona
fide network. Inter-team relations, and the composition of some of the
teams, have made it difficult at times to assure regular exchanges within
the network. And network relations have occasionally been soured by traditional
North-South divisions and gender-insensitive attitudes, which can stimulate
feelings of inequality—even within the framework of the research—and cause
a breakdown in communication;
Differences between teams are not recognized. And yet the network’s teams
must advance at the same pace because if any fall behind, it will jeopardize
the progress of the whole project. Avoiding such an outcome has been another
of the co-ordinating team’s roles, and some teams have had trouble accepting
being made to keep up with "outsiders". The teams’ differing working conditions
have been the source of further difficulty. Most of the researchers do
not belong to an institution that supplies them with a steady income, meaning
that they are forced to take on other paid work in order to secure enough
money to keep themselves—or even the research—alive. They then end up seriously
overworked, which is detrimental to the smooth running of the project;
The network has been functioning in a centripetal manner, with too little
exchange developing between the teams themselves. The co-ordinating team’s
attention has been focused above all on keeping the research on track:
scientifically and with respect to bureaucratic requirements. It has circulated
team reports and documents for discussion, but these have rarely been read
from start to finish, and feedback (comments, analysis, etc.) has been
scarce. Lack of time may well be part of the reason, but the root cause
most probably lies in a general lack of full commitment to the network.
Its goal, though, is to create a new form of knowledge production and exchange,
a new style of research work. Members must therefore begin asking themselves
some serious questions about the attitude of dependence that has appeared
within the network;
Individuals on the network have not been kept well enough informed of the
mass of tasks and duties performed by the co-ordinating team, rendering
them prone to misunderstand its demands. Network members recognize the
need to retain a centralized co-ordinating unit and a degree of verticality
in certain areas, so that the project as a whole can remain on course,
maintain its scientific rigour, sort the information to disseminate, keep
track of the work, and marshal its relations with financial backers. Meanwhile,
the co-ordinating team must encourage the teams to engage in constructive
mutual criticism that is ongoing, and not just confined to annual seminars.
The meeting proposed a draft "network charter" geared to remedying its
observed shortcomings and improving its usefulness.
Makings of a "Network Charter"
Network members must feel that the Network is theirs. It belongs to each
and every constituent team and co-ordinator. It demands pro-active involvement,
and must not be looked upon as a source of assistance. In other words,
members must, inter alia, strive to exchange information and documentation,
find funding for their activities, and help organize seminars (both regional
Network performance will gain by linking up with other networks. Information-sharing
will serve to make it all the richer. Each and every researcher will need
to play his or her part in this.
Network members must take note of the critical observations made during
collective discussions in Havana, so that the Network can remedy its technical,
managerial, scientific and methodological shortcomings.
The future performance and strength of the Network depends on its ability
to foster an atmosphere of mutual trust and to manage and resolve conflicts.
Network members must strive, collectively and individually, to enhance
the Network’s assets for the good of one and all (on the Network and beyond).
A common conceptual framework is the precondition for progress. It must
be designed by consensus and sustained by the collective pooling of knowledge.
The Network will interact within it, focusing on a common set of questions,
and sharing a common expectation: that it will enable its members to gain
the influence, legitimacy and institutional weight of recognized researchers.
Knowledge produced and exchanged within this framework will serve to bolster
the position of actors on the ground (researchers included) when faced
with the task of having to negotiate with decision-makers.
7. Draft Agenda for Phase Two
Based on the findings presented in section 5, the meeting proceeded
to outline a draft agenda for the next phase of research:
Analyse, on the basis of the research carried out on gender relations
and the urban environment, how women and men access and participate in
decision-making processes in cities, particularly at grass-roots level
and with respect to the environment.
Identify the mechanisms that can support women in their efforts to
gain access to—and a recognized place in—decision-making.
To that end, pinpoint the obstacles and resistance, and the innovative
strategies inherent to the social practices that play a part in the reformulation
of urban policies, and that help foster urban governance conducive to fair-minded,
participatory and sustainable urban development.
A great deal of importance is attached to pinning down the various forms
of resistance. For the problem with cities tends to be one of management
rather than means. The authorities need to act as "facilitators" rather
than the mere "suppliers" of means: efforts to bolster the negotiating
skills of people—especially women—currently excluded from the decision-making
table could, for example, hinge on encouraging them to cease being dependent,
find new sources of finance for their activities and obtain the necessary
Research centring on the notion of gender must also seek to restore
as much room as necessary to the value of conceptions and dreams inherent
to that notion, and to approach questions in a manner that is holistic
and attuned to the realities experienced by the women.
The environment is a good analysis means which—with the notion of gender—serves
to further a cross-disciplinary approach to social practices revolving
around everyday problems, conflict management and, ultimately, prohibitive
access to decision- and policy-making processes.
This calls for a more systematic crossing of the three variables—urban
issues, environment, gender relations—and an effort to explore such specific
Meanwhile, on the action front, the project will continue to support women’s
empowerment and changes in gender relations (not to mention in the construction
of masculinity), and pave the way towards urban governance based on new
development paradigms. The actions in question will be geared to making
headway in three key areas: economic capacity-building, organizational
capacity-building, and training.
"upscaling": how to secure the bottom-up spread of innovative urban environmental
policy-related strategies with a gender perspective;
mainstreaming: how to promote widespread integration of a gender perspective
into urban environmental policy-related decision-making;
indicators: singling out and/or building indicators capable of gauging
gender equality in decision-making.
8. Preparations for Phase
A fresh programme of research action is being prepared; it will be based
on the draft agenda outlined above (section 6).
On returning from Cuba, DDC confirmed that funding would be made available
to support the project’s work in three main areas:
Phase two of the project will run for four years, and enjoy a similar amount
of financial backing as phase one (which ran for three). Some survey fields
will be altered in order to address the questions raised by conclusions
reached at the end of phase one more effectively. Survey fields must also
try to coincide, as far as possible, with the countries that DDC classifies
as "pays de concentration", or particularly interesting in terms
of their potential to serve as a "model".
More in-depth research on a set of priority issues aimed at fathoming the
obstacles and resistance to gender-balanced participation in urban environmental
policy-related decision-making. Thinking will continue to centre on the
themes of empowerment and governance.
Support for the actions of local populations, in line with project recommendations.
Collective thinking on recommendations for new, gender-sensitive, urban
Cuba definitely will figure among the new survey fields. Not only does
it offer a particularly interesting context, with its grass-roots participatory
neighbourhood development initiatives and special pressures on the urban
environment; but it is also already "in sync" with the other existing fields,
thanks to the fact that the team working on the Dominican Republic has
carried out a research-action project in a district of Havana. Experience
gained in Santo Domingo, and some of the field’s findings, will serve to
build a strong and competent new team in Havana (partly staffed by some
of the same members).
Among the other new survey fields under consideration is Gaza (Palestine)—a
choice approved by DDC—where a research group with whom we are in contact
could usefully benefit from our support, and where the singular context
could shed new light on our areas of interest.
Modifications may need to be made to the Eastern European fields, to
enable them to adapt to the new research-action priorities, and to contribute
to the project’s thinking on empowerment and governance. This point is
still under discussion.
The other fields (Argentina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Senegal) will see
a number of minor changes in such areas as their scope of research and
action, for example, or the teams’ line-up.
With new modi operandi in place, the Cities, Environment and Gender
Relations project will strive to foster collective commitment to the network,
a shared sense of responsibility.
9. Disseminating Research
Part of the action agenda of our research-action project is devoted
to disseminating the researchers’ fieldwork and analysis findings, above
all to development actors and decision-makers. This is in keeping with
the directives of the MOST Programme, which prioritizes the transfer of
such findings in order to contribute to the formulation of new public policies.
The Havana meeting agreed to a number of proposals for disseminating
the results of the project’s first phase of research, emphasising the need
to promote shared responsibility. These proposals were then used to outline
Our priority is to address:
the scientific community, networks
grass-roots organizations and local populations
development workers, students, experts and members of the general public
aware of development problems.
A range of different media have been suggested, each suited to specific
a. a book summarizing the main findings (150 pages): for development
workers, the general public;
b. a book containing all of the findings in full (300 pages): for the
c. an illustrated brochure (50 pages): for decision-makers, international
d. general or field-specific articles: for the various readerships
of the journals/reviews in which they are published (through opportunities
open to each individual team);
e. videos: for decision-makers and grass-roots organizations (with
a different style of presentation for each);
f. publications containing training material/information: for grass-roots
g. a leaflet presenting the project and network: for general distribution.
One of the singular features of this project has been its use of the
French language for communication. In view of how little research on gender
relations has been produced in French, we shall attach great importance
to disseminating information in that language.
Since a number of our survey fields are located in Latin America, a
region where the circulation of findings on this subject has been equally
scarce, research results will be translated into Spanish. And we shall
also be publishing in English in order to reach the wider scientific community
as a whole.
Christine Verschuur and François Hainard will be co-ordinating
efforts to ensure that all the various members of the network are made
aware of these proposals.
HAVANA (CUBA) MEETING
12 - 17 November 2000
Argentina: Alvaro San Sebastian
Gral. Enrique Martinez 542, 1426 Buenos Aires
phone/fax: 54-1-553 12 37
Brazil: Sonia Alves Calio
address (home): rua Dr. Cicero de Alencar 96 , 05580 080 São
phone (home): 55-11-210 90 67
fax: 55 - 11 818 43 08
; firstname.lastname@example.org ; SoniaCalio@aol.com
Burkina Faso: Kadidia Tall
03 BP 7170, Ouagadougou 03
phone: 226 -36 21 58
fax: 226-36 30 32
Cuba: Isabel Rauber
calle 15 n° 6809 entre 68 y 70, Playa, Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba
phone: 537 - 23 57 29
fax: 537 - 24 51 98
Senegal: Karim Dahou
Programme Prospective Urbaine, ENDA, B.P. 3370, Dakar
phone: 221 - 822 59 83 / 24 96
fax: 221- 822 26 95
fax: 33 - 1 - 45 68 57 28
Cities, Environment and Gender Relations:
Université de Neuchâtel
Pierre-à-Mazel 7, 2000 Neuchâtel, Suisse
phone: 41 – 32 – 718 14 25
5 chemin des Vergers, 01210 Ferney Voltaire, France
phone: 33 – (0)4 50 40 10 17
e-mail : email@example.com
UNCHS, Sustainable Cities Programme
P.O.Box 30030, Nairobi, Kenya
phone: 254 – 2 – 62 32 28
fax: 254 – 2 – 62 37 15
BUCO (Bureau de Coopération
COSUDE co-ordinator in Havana
calle 18, entre 1a y 3a, Miramar, edificio PNUD, La Habana
phone: 24 15 12, ext 57.
Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social
Av. España 1359, Col. Moderna, 44190 Guadalajara, Jal. Mexico
phone: 3 - 810 79 42
fax: 3 - 810 83 26
Bureau de programmation stratégique, Division genre, jeunesse
et groupes prioritaires
UNESCO, 1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris Cedex 15, France
phone: 33 – 1 – 45 68 13 42