TADAMUN: The Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative organized a training workshop as part of the “Planning [in] Justice” Project in collaboration with Minya’s Better Life Association for Comprehensive Development (BLACD) on December 16-17, 2015. The workshop’s goal was share Tadamun’s experiences and research methods about spatial inequality with interested members of civic organizations and activists concerned about development and poverty in several local communities in Minya Governorate. TADAMUN trained the participants in using measurement tools for evaluating spatial inequality and the distribution of public resources, and then mapping spatial inequality in several neighborhoods using publicly available data. They also encouraged participants to suggest future methods and ways to explore spatial injustice using development indicators that were relevant to conditions in Minya.
“Planning [in] Justice” is a research project that primarily aims to collect and analyze data about the unequal spatial distribution of public resources, develop tools to measure it, and study institutional factors that contribute to inequality and injustice in Egypt. It also aims to provide these tools to other groups in Egypt who are concerned about these issues. This training workshop (and similar workshops that have been held in Cairo) were conducted to raise awareness about how residents and civil society organizations can use these tools to understand urban governance better and advocate for better public services, and to promote a culture of accountability and transparency when dealing with local authorities.
The first day’s agenda was comprised of three lecture sessions followed by open discussions with the participants. The fourth session focused on training participants, by dividing them into groups to work on practical applications of the project’s methodology and research questions.
The first session introduced the “Planning [in] Justice” project and how to implement its methodology in other cities. Also, it encouraged participants to get to know each other and create a suitable atmosphere for fruitful discussion. This session covered several topics to achieve its goals; it started with introducing every participant by name, occupation, and their organizational affiliation. Then the project’s main concepts and its primary and secondary goals were introduced along with introductions of the Tadamun team, their technical backgrounds and experiences, and their roles during the project.
Following the project’s introduction, participants were shown the project’s analytic framework which uses the concept of the right to adequate housing to understand spatial equality . Characteristics of adequate housing as outlined in the document entitled, “CESCR General Comment No. 4: The Right to Adequate Housing (Art. 11 (1) of the Covenant),” were circulated. According to the document, adequate housing became a basic human right recognized by the United Nations (UN), and signatory countries—which includes Egypt—are obligated to guarantee it.1
The second session focused on explaining the concepts of poverty, equality, justice, and spatial dimensions as well as how to measure them. The lecture discussed multiple poverty measuring tools: the most common is measuring the actual number of households living under the “poverty line” based only on measuring levels of income. Yet, the most comprehensive tools that measure poverty as a multidimensional phenomenon take into account the state of housing, health, nutrition, and other living conditions. The lecture also discussed the variety of spatial levels that measurement tools address, such as national, regional, city-wide, village, or neighborhood scales. The session also examined the causes and challenges of urban poverty. The second concept–equality–introduced the well-known indicator to measure equality, “the Gini coefficient,” which relies on measuring inequality of income. The team explained the concept of spatial equality and its various aspects and then compared the concepts of spatial equality and spatial justice. Spatial justice is more than equal resource distribution, since the notion of justice suggests that additional resources should be channeled to poorer and more disadvantaged neighborhoods to close the development gap and address chronic poverty. At the end of this session, the team circulated research from the Planning [in] Justice project which mapped spatial injustice and different indicators of poverty in Greater Cairo, created using a geographic information system (GIS).
The third session was dedicated to understanding the administrative and institutional component of spatial injustice which explored the institutional dimensions and practices of the state’s financial planning and budgeting process. Organizations and local actors should seek to understand the composition of the government budget to further spatial justice so that the allocation of public expenditures is fair from a geographic lens and based on real needs at the local level. Investment plans and budgeting is quite complex and organizations can learn how budgets are composed, presented to the public, and how different parts of the state handle budget issues. For example, each budget item must appear in all three administrative, economic, and operational categorization systems for budget allocations. In short, there are three different ways of presenting the same budget, and they are all compiled in the same report.2 The session also discussed the relationship between financial planning and urban planning in the Egyptian government.
Finally, the team discussed how to measure the state’s commitment to rights (such as health, education, and housing) and the provision of public services, which begins with the state’s acknowledgment of these rights. The availability and accessibility of these services can also be measured. Finally, one must measure and explore the efficiency of these rights and services while also understanding accountability mechanisms to secure them.
As for the fourth session, the practical training taught participants how to extract spatial inequality data from national and local budgets and the participants were divided into several groups for this exercise. Each group worked on extracting expenditure information from one of the development items (education, health, housing) in three districts of Minya Governorate (Abu Qirqas, Minya, and Samalut), using the state’s budget data and a citizen’s guide to the investment plan available on the Ministry of Finance’s website. Then they answered this question: How can you distribute resources in the most just way?
The second day’s agenda was comprised of two sessions about theoretical issues, then a long session for practical training, and a final session to evaluate the workshop itself.
The first session of day two was concerned with training participants how to collect data about a community’s needs from various sources, and how to handle and analyze the data. It primarily focused on data sources in Egypt and more specifically, from Minya Governorate. It also presented a guide to sources of data used in measuring adequate housing, its characteristics and spatial justice, more generally. For example, data pertaining to the percentage and numbers of residents living under the poverty line can be obtained from the “2013 Poverty Map of Egypt,” which was issued by the Social Fund for Development and the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. Data on the population, rates of unemployment, distribution of workers in various professions, children at school-age, women, and other data at the shiyakha (urban neighborhood) and the village—the lowest of local levels—can be obtained through the “General Census of the Population and Housing Conditions 2006 at the Qism, District, Shiyakha, and Village Levels—Minya Governorate,” which is one of the censuses of population, housing, and facilities issued every 10 years by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). The adequate housing indicators are also based on data available through the census, i.e. type of occupancy. Data is also provided for service delivery indicators, such as the rate of households and individuals who are connected to the water supply system and have a faucet in the house or are connected to the sewage system and have a private bathroom in the house. Data is collected on the presence of safety measures for storing food and the state of housing, providing for example, data about the floors, roof, walls, and sources of light in a home. Some data on public services is also available through the ministry responsible for that particular sector. Numbers and addresses of schools are available on the website “A Guide to Egyptian Schools.” Numbers and addresses for development projects are available through “The Citizen’s Guide to Minya Governorate’s Investment Plan for the 2014-2015 Fiscal Year” issued by the Ministry of Planning. Project data for the districts are available on the Minya Governorate’s website.
The second session focused on introducing and explaining a mapping tool: geographic information system (GIS) and how to use it to analyze spatial justice in Egypt. The participants received a training guide explaining the detailed steps involved in handling data in order to produce maps using GIS systems.
A practical training followed these sessions and applied the project’s research methodology to the three districts in the governorate: Abu Qirqas, Minya, and Samalut. The participants were divided up into groups and each of them received maps printed with the borders of the districts and the villages, cities, and shiyakhas within them. Then, the participants produced and drew by hand spatial injustice maps using data tables from the population census, investment plan, and other sources to measure various relevant indicators. Then, the groups sorted the data into specific levels represented by different colors and the data was illustrated on the map by shading each area according to the appropriate classification of its data. During the training, the participants did exercises on all the phases of data preparation and collection that did not require special software.
The first part of the training was aimed at teaching them how to draw maps of poverty indicators—based on simple indicators from one piece of information, at the village (rural) and shiyakha (urban) levels. With these results, the participants compared the areas to each other so they could understand the way poverty is distributed and how our understanding of poverty can change by looking at different indicators.
Then the participants moved to a more complex level: compiling more than one indicator to fully and effectively reflect the needs of Minya residents. They compared these composite indicators to measure the record and efficacy of state-allocated development projects from the recent past. For example, to determine which villages are most in need of better sanitation services, the group in question worked on the sewage issue in the district of Abu Qirqas by compiling several indicators: the rate of those connected to the sewage system in the village, the rate of those who had a toilet inside the house, and the number of individuals who were over the age of 60. Measuring these three indicators and projecting them on the map, the group was able to determine the villages most in need of sewage projects (the lowest sewage connection rate + lowest rate of private toilets + largest number of elderly residents). Then, they compared the villages with the highest needs to the actual record of state-allocated investments in sewage facilities from the recent past.
The Lessons Learned
The most important thing participants learned in this training is that data is available to analyze these important issues. Many civil society organizations and citizens are unaware of this rich data and how it can be used for relevant studies and more effective advocacy. During this workshop, the participants learned how to read important documents like the state budget and the Ministry of Finance’s investment plan, and how to conduct evidence-based research to prove the mismatch between state expenditures and the needs of local communities, while at the same time recognizing the institutional factors that contribute to spatial injustice.
Participants also learned the importance of analyzing space and locality when studying a particular issue, because drawing spatial injustice maps helped them to understand development issues differently. They learned that by looking at specific types of data they might think that the poverty rate in Minya’s villages was the most predominant indicator for understanding poverty. However, when looking at the numbers of poor people, participants discovered that in some villages, poor people represented a small proportion of the population and so that village could not really be considered poor. In fact, these villages have a large number of poor people because their general population is large, even if the proportion of poor people. The participants also learned the importance of connecting development issues to each other, and always looking at the bigger picture. For example, if an organization was concerned about connecting to a public sewage facility in villages east of the Nile in Minya District, it would be very beneficial for them to compare these villages to their counterparts in other places; raise questions about these development gaps and look more critically at the governorate’s development plans and financial allocations. It would also be beneficial to compare the amount of investment in the sanitation sector to that of other sectors, and to evaluate how feasible this distribution of resources would be within the scope of other priorities and needs.
It was very interesting that, during training itself, some participants discovered local cases and issues proving the utility of this methodology for questions of social accountability and spatial equality. One of the participants who lives in Balansurah in Abu Qirqas District, discovered when he was reviewing the budget allocations for education with his group that the investment plan the previous year included a loan to build a school in his town. Yet, no steps had been taken to build the school, which raised many questions about the follow-up mechanisms for the implementation of development plans and how citizens can hold the state or local government accountable if they track government budgets.
These type of insights were the primary goals of the Planning [in] Justice workshop. The data was compared without using a computer, and the maps were hand-drawn in lieu of using GIS. Although the participants in the workshop did not have technological tools that could help them analyze more complex issues, in the end, they could compile indicators and draw basic maps to an extent that allowed them understand these issues in new and revealing ways. Such workshops and training not only contribute to raising the awareness and skills of the participants, but they offer tools to civil society to raise questions based on evidentiary research in order to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.
1. Dimension of the right to adequate housing include safe occupancy, the availability of services, a sound structure, ability to bear the cost of housing, a safe and sound housing unit, ease in obtaining housing, suitable site for housing, and compatibility with the society’s culture. For more: read the TADAMUN article entitled “The Right to Adequate Housing in the Egyptian Constitution”.
2. “A Guide to the Egyptian Budget” issued by the International Budget Partnership provides an accessible and accurate explanation of the drafting process of the Egyptian budget and how the budget is implemented.
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