The international symposium ‘Rethinking informal settlements’ took place in Paris on 8th – 9thJune 2015. The French Development Agency (AFD) supports projects to rehabilitate informal settlements in several developing countries, and this symposium provided an opportunity to learn more about current theories, practices and related issues through discussions with the academic world. It provided a historical perspective, an overview of the current situation, looked at ground-breaking work on the constitution and significance of these settlements and considered new trends in research on their development, with a particular focus on land tenure and security issues.
GRET drew on its expertise and experience with two projects in Haiti and Guyana during contributions to a round table on ‘Informal settlements: social constructs, paradigms and a critical review’. GRET’s expert in urban social development, Renaud Colombier, highlighted the need to generate, disseminate and debate knowledge about these settlements, their inhabitants and their socio-economic dynamics in order to change the negative way in which they are viewed. To give residents a voice so that they have some power over their surroundings, dedicated spaces should be developed and decision-makers encouraged to give residents a role in urban operations at the very start of the process. Incorporating these settlements into the urban dynamic also involves recognising and strengthening social and popular production systems, as Gret is doing by supporting the introduction of neighbourhood water management committees as delegated public service providers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
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