Governance, Decentralisation and Poverty Eradication: the View from Orangi, Karachi

Orangi is a subdivision of the District West of Karachi. It is a working class township, the major part of which began as squatter settlements. Its poverty related issues have not been addressed by provincial or local government for a variety of institutional and structural issues. Models for addressing Orangi Township’s poverty related issues have been developed by the three Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) institutions, all of which are NGOs. The OPP has been working in Orangi Township since 1980 and its models have been replicated all over the Township, in other parts of Karachi and in seven cities of Pakistan.

The OPP models consist of understanding what people and the informal sector are doing themselves for improving their conditions and then supporting them with technical and managerial advice and credit in improving what they are already doing. Through the OPP programmes a number of activists have emerged in the Township and new local level CBOs have been created. These now negotiate with government agencies from a relative position of strength and offer an alternative leadership to the middlemen (who created Orangi Township through illegal subdivisions of state land), contractors, touts of political parties, and informers of a corrupt and repressive police system. Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan has evolved a “devolution plan” which seeks to strengthen local government institutions, make the bureaucracy and police subservient to them and transfer considerable political and fiscal powers to the grass root level. The Plan has been debated in the media, in public forums and within the Pakistan bureaucracy, over the last six months. On October 04, 2000 it is to be enacted.

This study tries to understand how the OPP models can be made relevant to the government’s devolution plan and the role that the OPP institutions can play in making the devolution plan effective and in the process help in poverty alleviation and in further empowering the Orangi CBOs. However, before one can do this, it is necessary to understand the context within which urban poverty exists in Pakistan; the nature of the existing local government institutions and the problems they have faced in the past; the manner in which Orangi Township is governed both formally and informally; and the work and relevance of the OPP institutions.

Download the full report here: Governance, Decentralisation and Poverty Eradication: the view from Orangi, Karachi [PDF, 3.2 MB]

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