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Assessing Urban Governance

The Case of Water Service Co-production in Venezuela

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Luisa Moretto

When examining the relationship between urban governance and improved service provision in the Global South, there is frequently a gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Informal, practice-based local governance processes that aim to produce better urban services often diverge from official governance prescriptions and mechanisms for service delivery within the institutional sphere. This book explores the complex area of urban governance assessment, focusing on the issue of sustainable water supplies for the urban poor.
Adapting the UN-Habitat Urban Governance Index, the author explores the dual nature of urban governance, analyzing its formal dimension at the municipal level but also taking account of informal and locally specific governance arrangements aimed at improving access to basic services. Water service co-production strategies involving both public institutions and organized groups of citizens in Venezuela provide an excellent case study of this phenomenon. The book illustrates the limitations of official governance assessment tools in appreciating the extent and vibrancy of local practices and agreements, as well as investigating the discrepancies between normative prescriptions and governance arrangements on the ground.
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Introduction

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This book presents an exploration of the complex and uncertain domain of urban governance and sustainable water supplies for the benefit of the urban poor, with a precise focus on developing countries. Ensuring and governing sustainable access to basic services, as well as the wider urban development in the cities of the South, is still an open and debated issue. Different policies and strategies have been proposed over time in order to guarantee basic services for the urban poor. Generally, they have rested on the public service model, on private interventions and management techniques, and on multiple kinds of public-private partnerships – up to the current focus on, and confidence in, various forms of governance systems, seen as a way to bridge the gaps between the wide variety of service provision models. Since the 1990s, the international community has increasingly seen governance as the most promising development mechanism to also ensure sustainable access to basic services at the city level, although, as has been recurrently noticed, “its versatility means that it continues to mean different things to different authors” (Hydén, 2011: 5). Most probably due to the vagueness of the concept, governance presents a gap between rhetoric and reality not only in its definition and operation: what (urban) governance is, how it really works in practice and how it could be measured, distinguishing formal procedures and prescriptions from local actions and practices, remain open questions.

Governance, good governance and urban governance

Despite some researchers...

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