HSRC forms partnership to improve cities

News Roundup

Prof Ivan Turok

South Africa, through the HSRC, is a founding member of a recently formed global knowledge partnership on the dynamics of cities. It is called the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC).

This major new research programme is funded by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund and administered by the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

In November, Prof. Ivan Turok, the executive director of the HSRC’s Economic Performance and Development programme, attended and spoke at the SHLC’s inaugural meeting in Glasgow.

Turok said the emphasis on international collaboration was particularly important in this new era of rising global tensions, when there is a tendency for countries to become more insular.

The new world order is also characterised by a preoccupation with national interests. This risks demoting sub-national agendas, including the development of regions, cities and neighbourhoods, where people live their everyday lives. Many of these are disabling, hazardous environments that limit people’s chances in life and undermine their well-being.

An important feature of the research programme is the emphasis on useful knowledge for the public good. We need to identify ways of improving urban conditions through concerted efforts by government and communities themselves.

The SHLC aims to strengthen research skills among urban researchers, government officials and policy makers in developing countries and the UK to assess best practice in building inclusive cities. It will conduct comparative studies of urban neighbourhoods to address the challenges caused by large-scale rural to urban migration.

China, Tanzania, Rwanda, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines are other partners of the SHLC. The project will start by studying urban transformation in large and small cities in these countries, including Cape Town and Johannesburg. The HSRC and the University of the Witwatersrand are the consortium partners in South Africa.

Turok stressed that this is a partnership of equals, characterised by mutual respect and reciprocity among members, rather than an old-style imbalanced relationship between researchers in the North and South.

The commitment to capacity strengthening is also extremely important to develop the next generation of urban researchers in the social sciences.

Prof. Ivan Turok
Link to the SHLC